This post was originally published in Important Context, OptOut's original reporting outfit.

Last month, anti-vaccine activist and independent presidential candidate Robert Kennedy Jr. posted an ad on YouTube targeting young voters, declaring himself “the most feared and hated candidate among the elites in Washington, D.C. because I'm not bought and I'm not buyable by corporate interests or by the big lobbyists.”

Kennedy has long sought to position himself as a political outsider and thorn in the side of elites even while leaning into his family’s rich political history and offering incentives to donors like a chance to win “an afternoon sailing on the Pacific” with him. When Kennedy announced his run as an independent back in April 2023, campaign manager Dennis Kucinich declared “A Kennedy Democrat is unbought and unbossed,” referencing Shirley Chisholm’s famous autobiography. His campaign slogan even reads, “Declare your independence.”

But as he addressed supporters in Oakland, CA, on Tuesday, the environmental attorney named in the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s “Disinformation Dozen” report as one of the most prolific spreaders of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media, announced as his running mate a major financial backer from Silicon Valley.

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Nicole Shanahan, ex-wife of former Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who she divorced amid rumors of an affair with far right billionaire conspiracy theorist Elon Musk, has a limited resume for someone looking to be second-in-line for the nation’s top job. New to the national political scene, the tech entrepreneur and intellectual property attorney runs a foundation that directs money to popular causes among Silicon Valley tech elites, including extending women’s fertility window, and the environment.

But what she lacks in political experience and name recognition, the 38-year-old Shanahan more than makes up for in money. She has been Democratic donor for years, having given to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Marianne Williamson and Joe Biden during the 2020 cycle, as well as a handful of congressional campaigns.

More recently, Shanahan has been a major backer of Kennedy’s. She gave the maximum $6,000 to his Democratic presidential primary campaign. After he dropped out and opted to run as an independent, she continued her support. Shanahan was behind the 30-second pro-Kennedy Super Bowl ad that drew backlash from the candidate’s family for immitating an ad from former President John F. Kennedy. Shanahan gave the super PAC American Values 2024 $4 million for the ad and reportedly helped with production.

In an interview earlier this month with NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo, Kennedy vowed he “would never choose a vice presidential candidate based on how much money they have.” There is no denying, however, the benefit Shanahan’s wealth brings to the campaign, which is currently facing a costly battle to get on the ballot in all 50 states. As Kennedy’s running mate, she can spend her vast resources on the effort.

Shanahan does have a story seemingly tailor-made for politics. Having grown up on welfare in a single-parent home, she became a successful patent attorney and entrepreneur before marrying into the nation’s economic elite. In a email to supporters, Kennedy’s campaign described her as “an accomplished attorney, philanthropist, and entrepreneur who has shattered glass ceilings in the tech industry.”

“Her extraordinary accomplishments include founding philanthropic organizations dedicated to reproductive health for older parents and programs to help end poverty,” it read. “But most of all, Nicole is a real person–not a professional politician. She understands the fight we face as Americans is BIGGER than Politics!”

But Shanahan’s views on matters like vaccines are bound to raise questions. She has a daughter with Brin who is autistic. Although she denies being an anti-vaxxer—a label she also rejects for Kennedy—she has said “I do wonder about vaccine injuries.”

The speaker list for Tuesday’s VP announcement included prolific Stanford University professor and Hoover Institution fellow Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who has made a number of dubious claims related to COVID-19 mitigation measures including lockdowns and mRNA vaccines, as well as anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree.

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