RFK Jr. intends to name attorney Nicole Shanahan as his VP pick

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. intends to announce Tuesday that Nicole Shanahan, a wealthy attorney and entrepreneur in the San Francisco Bay Area, will be joining his campaign as his vice presidential selection, according to two sources familiar with the Kennedy campaign’s plans.

Shanahan, who like Kennedy has never run for elected office, has contributed to his campaign and his super PAC.

The Kennedy campaign has an announcement event scheduled later Tuesday in Oakland, California.

Nicole Shanahan in Los Angeles in 2021.
Nicole Shanahan.Jordan Strauss / Invision/AP file

Kennedy’s pick comes at a key inflection point for his campaign. Independent presidential candidates have to navigate different rules for getting on the ballot state by state, mostly involving gathering thousands of petition signatures. But in more than half of states, independents are required to file their nominating papers with a named running mate, and some of those deadlines are approaching quickly.

Kennedy considered a number of potential running mates during his vice presidential search, including New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and TV host Mike Rowe. Rowe described his interview to NBC News, saying Kennedy ran through key policy positions and defended his anti-vaccine advocacy.

But ultimately, the sources said Kennedy homed in on Shanahan, who previously was involved in the production of an attention-grabbing Super Bowl ad supporting Kennedy in February.

Shanahan told The New York Times that she helped make the ad and gave $4 million to the super PAC American Values 2024 last month to air it. Federal campaign finance records show a $4 million contribution to the super PAC on Jan. 31 from Planeta Management LLC, which bears a similar name to her venture fund, Planeta Ventures.

But joining Kennedy’s ticket appears to open a pathway for Shanahan to inject her own wealth directly into the campaign instead of into an outside group, which would allow Kennedy to use the funds for key projects like gathering petition signatures for ballot access.

Federal Election Commission rules suggest that vice presidential hopefuls are free to contribute their own money to their campaign with no limitations — just like a presidential candidate, as long as the ticket is not seeking public funding.

A tech lawyer and entrepreneur turned philanthropist, Shanahan’s life in California has been intertwined with some of tech’s biggest players.

She founded ClearAccessIP, a company that, according to its website uses AI technology to help patent holders manage their intellectual property. The company was acquired by IPwe in 2020.

She married Google co-founder Sergey Brin in 2018 and divorced him in 2022. The Wall Street Journal reported that she had an affair with billionaire Elon Musk, but both Shanahan and Musk have denied the accusation. The Journal has stood by its reporting.

The WSJ’s narrative that an affair with Elon Musk led to the end of my marriage was about as accurate as claiming that the body heat of polar bears is responsible for the melting of the Arctic ice caps,” Shanahan wrote in a 2023 essay for People magazine. “It felt senseless and cruel.”

Shanahan’s foundation, the Bia-Echo Foundation, says its mission is to “create a multiplying effect” on issues Shanahan cares about, including “reproductive longevity & equality, criminal justice reform and a healthy & livable planet.”

Shanahan has an autistic daughter and has recently funded research into the disorder’s causes, and she told the New York Times in February that she had been motivated to support Kennedy in part because of concerns about children’s health and the environment, including vaccines.

The latter item has been one of Kennedy’s professional causes as the head of the country’s best-funded anti-vaccine organization, Children’s Health Defense. He took a leave from the organization to run for president, but has filled his campaign with anti-vaccine activists

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