Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s career of public service began in 1985 as an attorney for the environmental nonprofit RiverKeeper. He eventually became one of the most influential environmentalists in the United States, receiving TIME Magazine's "Hero of the Planet” and the Sartisky Peace Award.
Bobby Kennedy Jr. comes from an illustrious political family. The son of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, Bobby Jr. was a lifelong Democrat but became increasingly estranged from the party in the 2010s as it drifted away from its traditional values. He made his final break on October 9, 2023, when he announced his candidacy as an independent for President of the United States.
Bobby has spent nearly 40 years fighting corrupt corporations and government agencies. During his tenure at RiverKeeper, he successfully sued dozens of municipalities to force compliance with the Clean Water Act. He won cases against corporate giants too, including a suit against General Electric for toxic runoff from its corporate jet hangar and a court order against ExxonMobil mandating they clean up tens of millions of gallons of spilled oil in Brooklyn, NY.
Building on the success of the local Riverkeeper model, Bobby co-founded the WaterKeeper Alliance and served as its President for 21 years. Under his direction, it became the world's largest nonprofit devoted to clean water and now protects 2.7 million miles of waterways with over a million volunteers in the United States and 46 other countries.
Bobby’s work has especially emphasized protection of local communities in their battle against corporate and government polluters. Some of his most noteworthy victories include:
- Beginning in 1985, Kennedy helped the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) establish an international program for environmental, energy and human rights. On behalf of this program he assisted indigenous people in Canada and Latin America protecting their homelands and wilderness areas from unwanted large-scale extractive energy projects.
- In 1990, Bobby assisted indigenous Peheunches in Chile working to prevent a series of dams proposed for the iconic BioBio River.
- In 1991, Kennedy represented the NAACP in a lawsuit battling the creation of a garbage transfer station in an underserved neighborhood in New York.
- Beginning in 1992, Bobby represented the Cree Indians in their fight against 600 proposed dams on their tribal land.
- In 1993, Kennedy represented the Confederation of Indian Peoples in their negotiation with oil giant Conoco to limit destruction of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
- Between 1993 and 1999, Bobby worked with the first Five Nations of Clayoquot Sound to oppose MacMillan Bloedel logging some of the last remaining intact coastal rainforests in British Columbia.
- Between 1996 and 2000, Kennedy represented Mexican fishing communities in their battle against Mitsubishi's proposed salt facility in the whale breeding waters of Baja.
- In 1997, Bobby sued Mobil oil to reverse its pollution of the Hudson River, making the waters fishable again and enabling the return of the Bald Eagle to its nesting ground.
- Throughout the 1990s, Bobby represented family farmers in their fight against factory farming giants in North Carolina, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma and Maryland.
- In 2001, Kennedy was arrested for protesting US military testing in the fishing waters of Puerto Rico and served 30 days in jail, eventually resulting in the termination of the US bombing of Puerto Rican waters that were causing cancers from uranium exposure and toxic spills.
- In 2007, Bobby won a $396 million jury verdict on behalf of rural communities in West Virginia contaminated by Zinc from a DuPont chemical plant.
The 2010 HBO Film Mann vs Ford documents his four-year battle on behalf of the Ramapough Tribe against the Ford Motor Company over its dumping of toxic waste on tribal lands in New Jersey.
The 2011 award-winning film The Last Mountain depicts Kennedy's tireless fight against Appalachian mountaintop removal mining.
- In 2013, Bobby and his son Conor were arrested in front of the White House for protesting the Keystone Pipeline's construction through native lands and protected wilderness.
- In 2016, Bobby prosecuted SoCal Gas on behalf of the California communities sickened by the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, the largest gas leak in American history.
- Also in 2016, Bobby and and several of his children joined the Water Protectors on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing tribal lands and threatening the Tribe’s primary water source.
- In 2017, Kennedy prosecuted Monsanto on behalf of poor farming communities and migrant workers who had developed non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma from exposure to the pesticide Round-up.
- In 2018, Bobby secured a $670 million settlement for under-resourced communities in Ohio and West Virginia whose drinking water had been contaminated by C8 from industrial dumping and runoff.
- Also in 2018, Kennedy prosecuted Columbia Gas Company for its negligent pipeline maintenance leading to explosions in three towns north of Boston.
- As of Dec 2022, the Monsanto lawsuits to which Bobby has devoted much of the past decade have yielded $11 billion for farmers, migrant workers, day laborers, and families exposed to the pesticide RoundUp.
Bobby Kennedy was involved in other issues during his career as an attorney. He was an early and vocal critic of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq and the US enhanced interrogation program at Guantanamo Bay and around the world. He has also been a devoted supporter of union rights, going on hunger strike with United Farm Workers and serving as a pall-bearer during the funeral of Cesar Chavez. Bobby has consistently argued that those who work hard in the United States should be able to afford a good life.
Bobby’s activism around toxic pollution led him to lobby successfully for the removal of mercury from most childhood vaccinations in the United States. He went on to advocate for the restoration of standard product liability and placebo testing requirements for vaccine manufacturers. The pharmaceutical megacorporations are by far the most heavily fined and criminally prosecuted companies in America, yet also some of the most powerful. His nonprofit, Children’s Health Defense, has long been a key crusader against the corruption of this industry and its influence in government.
Bobby is an avid outdoorsman, master falconer and white water kayaker. He has authored a dozen books on subjects ranging from environmental protection to American history and public life, including children's books on the lives of St Francis of Asisi and Robert Smalls. In October 2011, Bobby founded EcoWatch, a leading environmental news site, and was an editor of Indian Country Today, North America's largest Indigenous newspaper.
Recipient of the Father of the Year award for dedication to family, citizenship, charity, civility, responsibility and reverence, Bobby is the proud father of seven children and grandpa to two grandkids. He is the devoted husband of actress Cheryl Hines and pack leader to four dogs and two giant tortoises. (Yes, they're coming to the White House too.)