R.F.K. Jr. Draws Another $8 Million From His Running Mate, Nicole Shanahan


Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s running mate, the Silicon Valley investor Nicole Shanahan, said on Wednesday night that she had given another $8 million to their independent presidential campaign as it carries out the expensive endeavor of gaining ballot access across the country and tries to propel Mr. Kennedy onto debate stages.

Ms. Shanahan’s new donation, which she announced at a comedy fund-raiser in Nashville, brings her total contribution to the campaign to $10 million, not including the $4 million she gave to a super PAC backing Mr. Kennedy to help pay for a Super Bowl advertisement early this year. Ms. Shanahan, a lawyer who was formerly married to the Google co-founder Sergey Brin, gave the campaign $2 million shortly after Mr. Kennedy named her as his running mate in March.

After a nod to the media, Ms. Shanahan said, “I think I know what they’re going to say — they’re going to say Bobby only picked me for my money,” a remark that drew laughter from the crowd.

Ms. Shanahan’s comments came near the end of a four-hour event at the storied Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. She followed performances by comedians including Russell Brand, Rob Schneider and Jim Breuer, a former “Saturday Night Live” cast member. Many of the performers praised Mr. Kennedy, but they also used their time onstage to rail against Covid vaccinations, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the mainstream news media and President Biden.

Ms. Shanahan’s personal wealth has been a significant asset for Mr. Kennedy. While campaign finance laws constrain individuals from donating more than $6,600 to a campaign, the candidates themselves can give unlimited sums of their own money.

Her cash has provided a financial lifeline as their campaign undertakes a costly effort to get on the ballot in all 50 states — which would be a challenging and expensive undertaking under any circumstances, even more so because the Democratic Party and its allies have pledged to mount legal challenges to the effort.

Ms. Shanahan made her announcement the same day that Mr. Biden and former President Donald J. Trump agreed to two debates, one on June 27 on CNN and another on Sept. 10 on ABC News. In doing so, they rejected the traditional Commission on Presidential Debates, which had hosted the events for decades.

Both candidates were seeking to keep Mr. Kennedy off the stage, with Mr. Biden’s campaign chair, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, writing explicitly in a letter to the commission, “President Biden made his terms clear for two one-on-one debates, and Donald Trump accepted those terms.”

But Mr. Kennedy could potentially qualify for the CNN debate, and the effort could actually be easier under the network’s polling rules than it would have been under the guidelines set by the debates commission. Mr. Kennedy needs to show at least 15 percent support in four approved national polls between March 13 and June 20. He already has at least two polls that show him above that threshold, one from CNN and one from Quinnipiac University. He has another five weeks to earn more qualifying polls.

To qualify for the CNN debate, Mr. Kennedy must also get on the ballot in enough states so that he could potentially win the 270 Electoral College votes needed to be elected president. He is currently on the ballot in five states, which in total have 84 electoral votes, but his campaign has another five weeks to place him on the ballot in other states before the deadline to qualify for the debate.

Mr. Kennedy criticized both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump after news of their planned debates became public on Wednesday.

“They are trying to exclude me from their debate because they are afraid I would win,” he wrote on social media. “Keeping viable candidates off the debate stage undermines democracy.”





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