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Why Mark Gorton Built the Super PAC Behind the RFK Jr. Ad

by California Digital News

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan last week.
Photo: Emily Elconin/Getty Images

The commercial just before the Super Bowl halftime show urging millions of Americans to vote for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as an independent was a clever re-creation of his uncle John F. Kennedy’s presidential ad from 1960. But the comparison between the two politicians frustrated some family members whose name was sung repeatedly in the 30-second spot. Kennedy’s cousin Bobby Shriver wrote that his mother, whose image appears in the ad, would be “appalled” by the “deadly health care views” held by RFK Jr., who has spent decades promoting debunked claims about vaccines.

Kennedy apologized, explaining that he was not aware of the ad’s contents as federal laws prohibit him from coordinating with the super-PAC that paid $7 million for the commercial. But Mark Gorton, the co-founder and co-chair of the PAC, American Values 2024, was not afraid to hit the Kennedy clan harder. “It’s really a shame that a bunch of them are caught so deeply in the Democratic censorship bubble that they don’t understand the real righteousness of the work that RFK Jr. has been doing,” Gorton says. “They are still following the big-pharma party line.”

For almost three years, Gorton, a hedge-fund multimillionaire, has been one of the great boosters of Kennedy, the exiled member of an American royal family who’s crusading against the pharmaceutical industry and government-funded health programs. Since 2021, Gorton has reportedly donated over $1 million to Children’s Health Fund, the nonprofit chaired by Kennedy that has been accused of promoting disproven anti-vaxx ideas. In 2022, after a private dinner, Kennedy told his inner circle he was considering a presidential run. Gorton vowed to help in any way he could: “I was one of the early people that found out, and I said, ‘If you’re running for president, I’m all in.’”

Kennedy, 70, has other wealthy backers from high society. Banking heir Timothy Mellon — the largest donor to Donald Trump’s super-PAC last year — has given $15 million to American Values 2024. Abby Rockefeller, the daughter of former Chase CEO David Rockefeller, has given $100,000. But few other donors have been as critical to the campaign as Gorton, who co-founded the PAC and pitched in $500,000 to support the campaign in its nascent days. (The other co-founder, Tony Lyons, is the publisher of the conservative book imprint Skyhorse Publishing, which has put out Kennedy’s most recent books.) Gorton says he was the de facto manager of the working group that got the campaign moving before its formal launch last year.

Insurgent presidential campaigns are rarely smooth operations, and this one is no exception. Kennedy first ran for the Democratic nomination against Joe Biden, but after getting little traction in polls, he announced he would run as an independent. (He has also flirted with running for the Libertarian nomination to ensure that he got ballot access, which is considerably more difficult without a party.) Gaffes ensued. Epstein connections were revisited. Still, though, he has Super Bowl–level name recognition and is performing well enough in national polls to threaten Biden’s or Trump’s chances at retaking the White House. But Democrats seem more worried about Kennedy and are striking at him hard. Last week, the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that American Values 2024 was illegally coordinating with the Kennedy campaign by spending $15 million to get him on the ballot in battleground states such as Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan.

“They have hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal and they’re willing to play dirty and they consider RFK Jr. to be a very significant threat and they’re desperate,” Gorton says of the DNC.

He is also ready to defend Kennedy on more controversial matters, such as when the candidate was caught on tape at a private dinner last July saying that COVID was “targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people” and that the “people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.”

“I think there is some dream among the mad scientists inside the biowarfare Establishment to be able to develop targeted diseases that would only kill certain groups of people,” Gorton says, backing up the thrust of Kennedy’s claim. “And we know that that’s their dream. And we also know that the COVID disease was developed in a biowarfare lab in China. And so he was just making the observation that COVID seemed to target certain groups more than others.”

For Gorton, the response to Kennedy’s COVID comment was a telling look inside the news business. “Here’s all sorts of people who are functionally paid operatives of the DNC who are seeded throughout the media, and they’re just happy to take any sort of story like that, whether it’s true or not, and blow it out of proportion,” he says. “There’s a giant political hit machine out there, and the Democrats are not staying in power by putting forward a superior candidate and doing a good job representing the American people. They’re staying in power by running a giant propaganda hit machine and trying to subvert the mechanisms of democracy and keep RFK Jr. off the ballot.”

Gorton, who says he is involved in big-picture “strategic guidance” at the PAC, says it is committed to getting Kennedy on the ballot. That may involve spending more of his money. Gorton said in an interview last year that he did not plan on donating again to Kennedy, but he may have changed his mind on that front. “I think I might very well,” he says.

Gorton is relatively new to politics, having started his career on Wall Street. In 1998, he founded Tower Research Capital, one of the first firms to focus on high-frequency trading. Within a decade, his firm reportedly had over $117 million in assets.

Mark Gorton in LimeWire’s New York office in 2010.
Photo: Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images

He has extracurricular interests, too. A devoted bicyclist frustrated by car congestion in New York City, Gorton founded an urbanist nonprofit in 1999 that advocated for pedestrian safety and more bike lanes. The group eventually launched the popular transportation site Streetsblog, for which he remains the publisher.

But Gorton would have been just another millionaire with a nonprofit if not for LimeWire, the peer-to-peer sharing service he founded in 2000. For tens of millions of young users of its free and premium services, it was a portal into a world of easily accessible music, movies, and pornography. It was also a preview of the streaming age to come. “I saw it very much as a First Amendment thing,” says Gorton. “We were creating a tool that let people share files, any sort of files, and that seems like a basic logical extension of the First Amendment.”

According to the major record labels that sued him, LimeWire was also a massive exercise in copyright infringement. After a federal judge found the company and Gorton personally liable for violating copyright law, his attorneys settled. LimeWire would shut down and pay out $105 million in damages. “Through that experience, I saw that our legal system is not developed off of rational reasoning, based off of the Bill of Rights, but instead has been more or less constructed to support the property interests of large corporations,” Gorton says.

He was learning other lessons at this time. Around 2007, after reading Robert Caro’s famous series of books on Lyndon B. Johnson, Gorton realized LBJ was behind the JFK assassination. “He describes the character of LBJ, and just how ruthless and power hungry he was, and how, even in college, he’s running fairly sophisticated political conspiracies,” says Gorton. “And through that, I was able to see or get hints that he was behind the Kennedy assassination. Then when I looked more deeply into it, sure enough, there was a mountain of supporting evidence for that.”

Gorton has discussed this conspiracy theory with Kennedy but treads lightly: “For me, it’s a historical event. For him, it’s his dad and his uncle.” He also says Kennedy “really understands the depth and corruption of the deep state. And this includes the fact that the CIA and Lyndon Johnson and the political Establishment killed his uncle and killed his dad.” (Kennedy has maintained that Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of assassinating his father during his presidential run in 1968, is innocent.)

Gorton says that he did not have a similar a-ha text for his realizations about the pharmaceutical industry’s influence over American politics, only that he has read widely in the field. “I have several shelves in my library filled with books about pharmaceutical-industry corruption,” he says. “Also, I read a lot of Substacks. I found that basically Substack is the place where I think some of the best independent voices are. And it’s a corner of the internet that is not completely dominated by corporate interests.”

Gorton’s own Substack page provides a clue to his current beliefs on vaccines and the government’s response to COVID. “You can no more expect to hear the truth from the CDC than you could from a panel put together by Andrew Cuomo to look into workplace harassment or the NYPD to look into placard abuse,” he wrote in an open letter to an unnamed New York politician in 2022. He praised Alex Berenson, the former Times reporter whom Tucker Carlson referred to as his favorite “COVID contrarian.” He linked to a Joe Rogan episode featuring a vaccine scientist accused of spreading COVID disinformation. Much like Kennedy himself, he referred to the U.S. response to the pandemic as a “medical genocide” and a “state-sponsored crime” protected by “a massive cover up and disinformation campaign.”

Like many of his supporters, Gorton sees Kennedy as a way out of this cycle of public-health failure and political corruption: the ostracized insider railing against the Establishment he grew up in. “The corruption is marbled into the very structure of the entire system,” Gorton says, referencing Kennedy’s books The Real Anthony Fauci and The Wuhan Cover-up. “You can see he has an encyclopedic knowledge of this corruption and how the system works.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of RFK Jr.’s nonprofit group.



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