Who is Nicole Shanahan? Meet RFK Jr.'s running mate, an attorney who used to be married to a Google cofounder

  • Independent presidential candidate RFK Jr. named Nicole Shanahan as his running mate.

  • A California-based attorney, Shanahan founded a patent tech company before focusing on more philanthropic ventures.

  • She was previously married to Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has named attorney Nicole Shanahan his pick for VP.

Shanahan has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates since 2018, including Pete Buttigieg, Marianne Williamson, Ro Khanna, and AOC's 2020 primary challenger. This year, however, she was the primary funder of a controversial Super Bowl ad promoting RFK Jr.

Shanahan — who made headlines after the Wall Street Journal reported in 2022 that she had an affair with Tesla CEO Elon Musk while she was married to Google cofounder Sergey Brin, which she denied — is a California-based attorney and founder of patent technology company ClearAccessIP and the Bia-Echo Foundation.

She launched the foundation in 2019, and gave $100 million to social programs focused on efforts like improving the criminal justice system and climate change. The funding also supports fertility later in life, a topic she has firsthand experience with after struggling to become pregnant in her 30s, the Chronicle of Philanthropy previously reported.

The Bia-Echo Foundation says its mission is to "invest in changemakers at the forefront of innovation" in the core areas of criminal justice reform, the health of the planet, and reproductive longevity and equality.

Shanahan, 38, is also an academic fellow of CodeX, the Stanford Center of Legal Informatics, where she works on a project that applies data science to the prosecutorial process, according to the Stanford Law directory.

She grew up in California and attended Santa Clara University School of Law.

Before Shanahan and Brin met at a yoga retreat in 2015, Shanahan was married to a finance executive, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Nicole Shanahan (left) and Sergey Brin.
Nicole Shanahan and Sergey Brin.Ian Tuttle/Getty Images

Shanahan and Brin were first spotted together at a dating app CEO's island wedding, Business Insider previously reported.

Despite her reported initial struggles to become pregnant, the couple welcomed a daughter in 2018. Shanahan spoke about her fertility struggles at the launch of the Center for Female Reproductive Longevity and Equality in 2019, Page Six reported.

"Like many women who are not quite ready to start a family in their early 30s, I decided, or so I thought at the time, to take matters into my own hands and freeze embryos," she said. "However, after three failed attempts at embryo-making and three dozen visits to in vitro fertilization clinics around the Bay Area, I learned that I was not nearly as unshakable as I thought I was."

In January 2022, Brin filed for divorce after learning about the alleged affair between Shanahan and Musk, the Journal reported. Shanahan and Musk have both denied the Journal's reports of an affair. Shanahan and Brin's divorce was finalized in May 2023.

"I hope for Sergey and I to move forward with dignity, honesty and harmony for the sake of our child," Shanahan told Puck News in July 2022 with regards to the divorce. "And we are both working towards that."

Sergey Brin Elon Musk Larry Page
Sergey Brin (left) and Elon Musk (right).Mike Blake/Reuters; Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters; Ruben Sprich/Reuters

Musk said in July 2022 that the Journal's article was "total bs" and that he and Brin remained friends.

"I've only seen Nicole twice in three years, both times with many other people around. Nothing romantic," Musk wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Shanahan has said the scandal was "utterly debilitating" and "humiliating."

"Did Elon and I have sex, like it was a moment of passion, and then it was over? No," she told People in 2023. "Did we have a romantic relationship? No. We didn't have an affair."

RFK Jr. says Shanahan 'will look out for young people' and 'understands social media'

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at the New York State Capitol, May 14, 2019, in Albany, New York.Hans Pennink/AP Photo

Kennedy discussed his decision to pick Shanahan as his vice presidential running mate in an interview with Newsweek.

"I want somebody who will look out for young people and not treat them as if they're invisible," he told Newsweek. "She's just 38 years old; she comes from technology and understands social media."

Well before his pick, Shanahan said she initially dismissed Kennedy's presidential campaign.

After a friend encouraged her to listen to one of his interviews, she said she found there was "definitely a misalignment between what I thought and who he really is," she told the publication.

She also said previously she views Kennedy — who has repeatedly spread misinformation about vaccines, as Business Insider previously reported — as "not an anti-vaxxer; he's just someone who takes vaccine injuries seriously."

Shanahan told the New York Times in an interview earlier this year that she is "not an anti-vaxxer" but wonders "about vaccine injuries" and is for more screening for vaccination risks.

As for her previous donations to Democratic candidates, Shanahan told Newsweek she plans to "leave the party." She told the outlet she backed Kennedy when he was running for the Democratic nomination but withdrew her support after he became an independent, before throwing her support behind him again.

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