RFK Jr. Taps Soft-on-Crime Donor for VP

Nicole Shanahan (Ian Tuttle/Getty Images), Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)
March 26, 2024

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Tuesday named one of his donors, Bay Area attorney Nicole Shanahan, as his running mate. Shanahan helped bankroll progressive Los Angeles district attorney George Gascón's (D.) campaign and backed some of California's major soft-on-crime policies.

Shanahan, the 38-year-old ex-wife of billionaire Google cofounder Sergey Brin, gave $25,000 to Gascón's 2020 campaign—joining the list of wealthy progressive backers that includes billionaire George Soros and Bay Area millionaires' wives who propelled Gascón into office. That same year, she gave $150,000 to "Reform L.A. Jails," a project financed by California liberal dark money group Tides and chaired by Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors. In 2020, Reform L.A. Jails pushed a Los Angeles ballot initiative to defund police and jails in favor of "alternatives to incarceration."

In 2016, Shanahan spent $85,000 on a successful California voter initiative to allow early release of felons and make it harder to prosecute juvenile offenders as adults. Criminals released under the law have gone on to commit violent crimes, including murder, and critics have noted that deceptive language might have "tricked" voters into supporting the measure.

Shanahan's record could hurt Kennedy with Republicans and conservative-leaning independents who are entertaining a vote for the independent candidate in November as an alternative to former president Donald Trump. Polls already show that Kennedy's third-party presidential bid will likely hurt President Joe Biden more than Trump, and a Washington Post analyst accused Republicans of trying to "elevate" Kennedy to hurt Biden.

Shanahan's support for Kennedy first drew attention last month after she told the New York Times that she invested $4 million in a $7 million Super Bowl ad that likened Kennedy to his uncle, former president John F. Kennedy. Since last year, she has maxed out her contributions to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s campaign committee.

The attorney has been a Democratic megadonor for years, backing Hillary Clinton in 2016 and giving more than $30,000 to Biden in 2020 after donating to Marianne Williamson. She is also a frequent donor to Silicon Valley Democratic congressman Ro Khanna, federal campaign records show.

Shanahan first snagged headlines after a Wall Street Journal report that her marriage to Brin ended in 2022 because she had allegedly an affair with Tesla founder Elon Musk—a report that both Shanahan and Musk denied.