Timothy Mellon image by USA TODAYTimothy Mellon IMAGE BY USA TODAY

Over nine months, Timothy Mellon gave $5 million donations that alternate between super PACs supporting Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Donald Trump.

Timothy Mellon, an ultra-wealthy political donor bankrolling Donald Trump’s Super PAC, is also giving millions for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the third-party candidate who has been blamed as a potential spoiler in the 2024 presidential race.

It’s an unusual arrangement that Democrats have highlighted as they seek to paint RFK Jr. as someone far more closely aligned with the Republican ex-president’s Make America Great Again movement than with causes on the left.

Many Democrats say that Kennedy, the son of a former Democratic senator and nephew to a former Democratic president, could help elect Trump if some voters cast ballots for him as an alternative to President Joe Biden. Trump has also suggested Kennedy helps him.Kennedy’s platform includes defunding the war in Ukraine, a position popular on the far-right, and re-investing that money into public childcare, something more popular on the left. He advocates to “seal the border,” a key talking point on the right, but frames the situation as a humanitarian crisis.

Mellon is heir to the family fortune of banking and industrial magnate Andrew Mellon. He has donated to many anti-immigration measures, and was a major contributor to a Texas-led fund to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico.

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Since 2023, the donor has given $20 million to the super PAC that supports Kennedy and $15 million to the super PAC that supports Trump. He backed Trump in 2020.

But Mellon doesn’t appear to have switched his allegiance. Instead, over the course of nine months, he gave $5 million donations that alternate between American Values 2024, which supports Kennedy, and Make America Great Again Inc., which backs Trump.

For example, Mellon donated to American Values on April 10, 2023, followed by MAGA Inc. on July 10, records from the Federal Election Commission show. He donated again to American Values on July 20, and then to MAGA Inc. on Aug. 16. The donations continued through January.

Stefanie Spear, press secretary for the Kennedy campaign, said the campaign does not communicate with American Values or keep track of its donors. “However, Mr. Kennedy is pleased that donors from diverse positions on the political spectrum are supporting his candidacy,” Spear said.

Prior to his run for president, Kennedy was prominent in advocacy against vaccinations, including the coronavirus vaccine. That position lines up more with Republicans, who are significantly less likely to get the vaccine, according to the Brookings Institution.

His platform includes a proposal to put federal funding into studying the health effects of “pharmaceutical products,” policies to expand homeownership and invest in Black businesses. He also describes his ties to prominent Democrats like his uncle, John F. Kennedy Jr., and Hispanic labor activist César Chavez.

Trump’s campaign declined to comment. Efforts to reach Mellon through a nonprofit organization were unsuccessful.

“Is it unusual? Yes. Is it shocking? No. Not at all,” said Daniel Weiner, the director of elections and government at the Brennan Center for Justice, an advocacy group on democracy law based at New York University.

‘Idealogical overlap between Trump and Kennedy’

Kennedy trails far behind both Biden and Trump. Members of the Kennedy family rejected his campaign and formally endorsed Biden in April. But polls from FiveThirtyEight show Kennedy with the support of around 10% of eligible voters.

While Democrats say he could siphon votes from Biden, survey results give mixed indications on the degree to which he might also take some votes away from Trump. A poll in March showed Biden beating Trump in a head-to-head race, but losing to Trump when Kennedy was on the ballot. An April poll showed Trump beating Biden in a three-man race with Kennedy.

Weiner said donors backing third-party candidates is an old pattern. He said if those backing Trump perceive Kennedy’s candidacy as taking more votes from Biden than from Trump, then they are likely to believe boosting Kennedy’s campaign might give them “more bang for their buck” than giving more money to Trump. 

“Of course, there is also some ideological overlap between Trump and Kennedy, so it’s possible that is the reason, though typically in those cases major donors just pick the person they prefer,” Weiner said.

Matt Corridoni, spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee spokesperson called Kennedy a spoiler in the race and said it was “not a coincidence” that he and Trump share a donor.

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