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 evening’s recreation, the political world took discover.
How had the tremendous PAC of a long-shot impartial 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 significant supply of the funding — and the artistic 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 stated she had given $4 million to the tremendous PAC, American Values 2024, a few week earlier than the sport, for the specific function of serving to pay for a Super Bowl advert. She additionally helped coordinate the advert’s manufacturing, she stated, together with navigating issues from CBS Sports and Paramount, which broadcast the Super Bowl.
“It seems like a great opportunity to highlight that he’s running for president,” Ms. Shanahan stated. She stated a part of her motivation was concern concerning the surroundings, vaccines and youngsters’s well being, and her perception that Mr. Kennedy was keen to problem the scientific institution.
“I do wonder about vaccine injuries,” she stated, though she clarified that she is “not an anti-vaxxer,” however wished extra screening of dangers for vaccinations. “I think there needs to be a space to have these conversations.”
Mr. Kennedy, an environmental lawyer, has turn out to be broadly recognized lately for his work with the so-called medical freedom motion, which has promoted discredited claims concerning the dangers of sure childhood vaccinations.
“I do think we have an environmental health crisis in this country,” Ms. Shanahan stated. “I do believe Americans deserve clean water. And we can’t achieve that in the current climate 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 stated a number of different donors had chipped in to pay for the advert, which price $7 million. (The contributions, like Ms. Shanahan’s, is not going to 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, a lot of whom have criticized him for spreading conspiracy theories about vaccines and selling different misinformation.
In a publish on the social media website X on Sunday evening, 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 advertisement caused anyone in my family pain.”
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 stated the marketing campaign had been “pleasantly surprised and grateful” for the advert.
Ms. Shanahan, 38, is a lawyer and tech entrepreneur within the Bay Area who has invested in scientific analysis, notably within the areas of well being and the surroundings. She was married to Mr. Brin in 2018; their divorce was finalized final summer season.
Ms. Shanahan, who has a report of giving to Democrats — together with to President Biden’s marketing campaign in 2020 — and described herself on Monday as a “progressive through and through,” gave the utmost $6,600 contribution to Mr. Kennedy’s presidential marketing campaign in May, when he was nonetheless in search of the Democratic nomination, data present.
But when Mr. Kennedy introduced in October that he would as an alternative run as an impartial — a transfer he stated was obligatory as a result of Democrats have been blocking him from difficult Mr. Biden — Ms. Shanahan stated she was “incredibly disappointed” and determined to not again him.
In current weeks, she stated, she has reconsidered, as she met individuals who have been “really revved up” about Mr. Kennedy. “There are pockets of silent support all over the place,” she stated.
On Feb. 2, she stated, she spoke for the primary time with Mr. Lyons, who advised her that he wished to run a Super Bowl advert however didn’t have the cash.
American Values has stated 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 advisor — $9.7 million of which was refunded, data present.
The tremendous PAC has stated that the funds from Mr. de Becker, whose agency has supplied safety for Mr. Kennedy’s marketing campaign, have been “important bridge funding donations,” and that the cash was returned to him when it wasn’t wanted. “He continues to provide bridge funding, for example, $4 million he is donating in February,” Mr. Lyons stated in a press release.
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 occasion that Mr. Kennedy might siphon votes away from Mr. Biden.
After the advert ran on Sunday evening, the Democratic National Committee accused Mr. Kennedy of serving as a “Trump stalking horse” in search of to undermine Mr. Biden. In response, the tremendous PAC stated the D.N.C. was “using every political trick it can think of” to maintain Mr. Kennedy off the poll. (Mr. Biden’s allies have certainly been making an attempt to stave off potential third-party presidential candidates.)
American Values 2024 had $14.8 million available on the finish of December, in line with its year-end report filed on Jan. 31. The tremendous PAC has stated it deliberate to spend upward of $15 million to assist the Kennedy marketing campaign’s efforts to position his identify on the poll in 12 states — an effort that’s being challenged by the D.N.C., which final week filed a grievance with the Federal Election Commission accusing the teams of improper coordination.
Ms. Shanahan stated 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 that they had 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 talking to the digicam, she stated.
“Neither of us were willing to give up on the idea of the Super Bowl ad,” Mr. Lyons stated. “He was being censored in so many different ways, such that many people in the United States did not know he was running, even though he’s been crisscrossing the country and working around the clock to get his message out.”
That evening, Ms. Shanahan referred to as a buddy who had household connections to an advert company, and obtained a suggestion for an editor in New York, who agreed on Sunday morning to tackle the mission. Another buddy of Ms. Shanahan’s steered “something retro,” she stated.
Working with a small group, she stated, “We spent the next 10 hours looking at every single retro ad we could find,” she stated. “The Kennedy jingle got stuck in our head.” She had by no means seen the unique commercial, she stated.
Mr. Lyons stated he was introduced into the advert manufacturing course of as soon as a tough minimize had been put collectively, he stated, and offered it to Paramount. “She was the driving force behind the decision to do this ad. When I heard about it, I loved the idea.”
Mr. Lyons stated the community pushed again with issues about whether or not the tremendous PAC might use the unique advert with out authorized worries. The group conferred with a lawyer, who stated the 1960 advert was within the public area.
Ms. Shanahan stated there had been some concern that the Kennedy household may not approve of the advert. “They might be upset, but some might be thrilled,” she speculated. “What a beautiful homage to this wonderful family.”
Jim Rutenberg contributed reporting.