Meet the Woman Who Helped Pay for That R.F.Okay. Super Bowl Ad

Meet the Woman Who Helped Pay for That R.F.Okay. Super Bowl Ad

Super Bowl advertisements break the bank. So when a gaggle backing the presidential bid of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. ran a 30-second advert for him throughout Sunday night time’s sport, the political world took discover.

How had the tremendous PAC of a long-shot unbiased candidate paid for such a pricey spot, and whose thought was it to adapt a classic John F. Kennedy advert for his nephew’s marketing campaign?

A serious supply of the funding — and the inventive steerage — it seems, was Nicole Shanahan, a lawyer, entrepreneur and Democratic donor who was as soon as married to the Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

In an interview on Monday, Ms. Shanahan mentioned she had given $4 million to the tremendous PAC, American Values 2024, a few week earlier than the sport, for the categorical function of serving to pay for a Super Bowl advert. She additionally helped coordinate the advert’s manufacturing, she mentioned, together with navigating issues from CBS Sports and Paramount, which broadcast the Super Bowl.

“It looks like a fantastic alternative to focus on that he’s working for president,” Ms. Shanahan mentioned. She mentioned a part of her motivation was concern concerning the setting, vaccines and kids’s well being, and her perception that Mr. Kennedy was keen to problem the scientific institution.

“I do surprise about vaccine accidents,” she mentioned, though she clarified that she is “not an anti-vaxxer,” however needed extra screening of dangers for vaccinations. “I feel there must be an area to have these conversations.”

Mr. Kennedy, an environmental lawyer, has grow to be broadly identified in recent times for his work with the so-called medical freedom motion, which has promoted discredited claims concerning the dangers of sure childhood vaccinations.

“I do suppose we have now an environmental well being disaster on this nation,” Ms. Shanahan mentioned. “I do consider Americans deserve clear water. And we will’t obtain that within the present local weather of politics.”

Tony Lyons, a co-chairman of American Values 2024, confirmed Ms. Shanahan’s position and the timeline she sketched out of the advert’s manufacturing. He mentioned a number of different donors had chipped in to pay for the advert, which value $7 million. (The contributions, like Ms. Shanahan’s, won’t seem in public filings till the tremendous PAC information its subsequent report, due later this month.)

A consultant for Paramount Global declined to remark.

The advert, which tailored footage from a well-known 1960 Kennedy marketing campaign advert, drew criticism from some members of the Kennedy household, lots of whom have criticized him for spreading conspiracy theories about vaccines and selling different misinformation.

In a publish on the social media web site X on Sunday night time, Mr. Kennedy distanced himself from the spot, noting that the tremendous PAC is legally barred from consulting with the marketing campaign, and saying he was “so sorry if the Super Bowl commercial brought on anybody in my household ache.”

As of Monday afternoon, the advert was nonetheless pinned to his profile, though it was later taken down. Stefanie Spear, the press secretary for the Kennedy marketing campaign, didn’t reply to a request for touch upon Monday. On Sunday, she mentioned the marketing campaign had been “pleasantly shocked and grateful” for the advert.

Ms. Shanahan, 38, is a lawyer and tech entrepreneur within the Bay Area who has invested in scientific analysis, significantly within the areas of well being and the setting. She was married to Mr. Brin in 2018; their divorce was finalized final summer season.

Ms. Shanahan, who has a document of giving to Democrats — together with to President Biden’s marketing campaign in 2020 — and described herself on Monday as a “progressive by means of and thru,” gave the utmost $6,600 contribution to Mr. Kennedy’s presidential marketing campaign in May, when he was nonetheless looking for the Democratic nomination, data present.

But when Mr. Kennedy introduced in October that he would as a substitute run as an unbiased — a transfer he mentioned was obligatory as a result of Democrats had been blocking him from difficult Mr. Biden — Ms. Shanahan mentioned she was “extremely disillusioned” and determined to not again him.

In current weeks, she mentioned, she has reconsidered, as she met individuals who had been “actually revved up” about Mr. Kennedy. “There are pockets of silent help in every single place,” she mentioned.

On Feb. 2, she mentioned, she spoke for the primary time with Mr. Lyons, who advised her that he needed to run a Super Bowl advert however didn’t have the cash.

American Values has mentioned it raised greater than $28 million final 12 months, however that determine included $10 million in contributions from Gavin de Becker, a well known safety marketing consultant — $9.7 million of which was refunded, data present.

The tremendous PAC has mentioned that the funds from Mr. de Becker, whose agency has supplied safety for Mr. Kennedy’s marketing campaign, had been “necessary bridge funding donations,” and that the cash was returned to him when it wasn’t wanted. “He continues to supply bridge funding, for instance, $4 million he’s donating in February,” Mr. Lyons mentioned in an announcement.

The tremendous PAC additionally acquired $15 million final 12 months from Timothy Mellon, a banking inheritor and businessman who additionally gave $10 million in 2023 to a brilliant PAC supporting former President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Mellon’s position has raised eyebrows amongst some Democrats, with fears widespread within the party that Mr. Kennedy may siphon votes away from Mr. Biden.

After the advert ran on Sunday night time, the Democratic National Committee accused Mr. Kennedy of serving as a “Trump stalking horse” looking for to undermine Mr. Biden. In response, the tremendous PAC mentioned the D.N.C. was “utilizing each political trick it could actually consider” to maintain Mr. Kennedy off the poll. (Mr. Biden’s allies have certainly been attempting to stave off potential third-party presidential candidates.)

American Values 2024 had $14.8 million readily available on the finish of December, in accordance with its year-end report filed on Jan. 31. The tremendous PAC has mentioned it deliberate to spend upward of $15 million to help the Kennedy marketing campaign’s efforts to put his title on the poll in 12 states — an effort that’s being challenged by the D.N.C., which final week filed a criticism with the Federal Election Commission accusing the teams of improper coordination.

Ms. Shanahan mentioned that after her Feb. 2 cellphone name with Mr. Lyons, she despatched the tremendous PAC $4 million to assist pay for a Super Bowl advert.

But the following day, a Saturday, Mr. Lyons advised her that the advert they’d been engaged on couldn’t run due to issues about legal guidelines that bar tremendous PACs from coordinating with candidates. The advert included clips of Mr. Kennedy chatting with the digicam, she mentioned.

“Neither of us had been keen to surrender on the thought of the Super Bowl advert,” Mr. Lyons mentioned. “He was being censored in so many various methods, such that many individuals within the United States didn’t know he was working, though he’s been crisscrossing the nation and dealing across the clock to get his message out.”

That night time, Ms. Shanahan referred to as a pal who had household connections to an advert company, and obtained a advice for an editor in New York, who agreed on Sunday morning to tackle the mission. Another pal of Ms. Shanahan’s recommended “one thing retro,” she mentioned.

Working with a small crew, she mentioned, “We spent the following 10 hours taking a look at each single retro advert we may discover,” she mentioned. “The Kennedy jingle obtained caught in our head.” She had by no means seen the unique commercial, she mentioned.

Mr. Lyons mentioned he was introduced into the advert manufacturing course of as soon as a tough reduce had been put collectively, he mentioned, and introduced it to Paramount. “She was the driving pressure behind the choice to do that advert. When I heard about it, I liked the thought.”

Mr. Lyons mentioned the community pushed again with issues about whether or not the tremendous PAC may use the unique advert with out authorized worries. The group conferred with a lawyer, who mentioned the 1960 advert was within the public area.

Ms. Shanahan mentioned there had been some concern that the Kennedy household may not approve of the advert. “They is perhaps upset, however some is perhaps thrilled,” she speculated. “What a wonderful homage to this excellent household.”

Jim Rutenberg contributed reporting.

Audio produced by Adrienne Hurst.



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