Updated Jun 30, 2023, 12:54pm EDT

Eliot Spitzer: RFK Jr. asked about giving paid speeches in office

New York Magazine

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The News

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. didn’t run for office before in part because he couldn’t afford it.

That’s what Kennedy told then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, when Kennedy was considering running to replace him in 2006, Spitzer, the former New York governor, recalled.

In a meeting in Spitzer’s office, Kennedy asked whether he could continue to give paid speeches to outside groups while he was attorney general, Spitzer told Semafor. The would-be candidate explained that his responsibilities to his six children from two marriages had left him with expenses that simply couldn’t be covered by a government salary.

Spitzer, incredulous, told him that there was no way a top law enforcement officer could go around getting paid for speeches. Kennedy didn’t run for office.

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Know More

While he’s best known for his high-profile role questioning vaccines, he’s kept his hand in a wide range of money-making roles. Kennedy is counsel to the powerhouse personal injury law firm Morgan and Morgan, for which he’s also cut television ads. And, among other roles, he held a position at a firm that advised on investments for a business that is part of a sprawling corruption investigation into Venezuela’s national oil company.


A Kennedy spokeswoman didn’t respond to an inquiry about Spitzer’s recollection.

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Ben’s view

Spitzer’s anecdote helps answer one of the great mysteries around Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. why he didn’t run for office during his period as a mainstream Democratic celebrity in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Kennedy’s work cleaning up the Hudson River through the group Riverkeeper seemed almost deliberately crafted for a run at New York State Attorney General, and a move he seriously considered in 2006.

Kennedy’s presidential campaign nearly two decades later comes without much risk that he wins — and in any case, the $400,000 presidential salary is about twice what the New York AG makes.

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  • RFK Jr.’s campaign “represents a significant post-Covid social phenomenon: a coalition of the distrustful that cuts across divisions of right and left,” the New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg writes.
  • Rebecca Traister’s New York Magazine portrait of Kennedy is of a damaged, charming opportunist living with the crushing weight of his family name and his own difficult life.