By Alexandra Ulmer and Jason Lange

(Reuters) – A mega donor backing Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has also given major donations to independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose presence on the ticket some polls have shown could siphon votes from Democrat Joe Biden in a general match-up against the former president.

Timothy Mellon, heir to the Mellon banking fortune, gave $10 million to the pro-Kennedy American Values 2024 super PAC in the second half of 2023, disclosures to the Federal Election Commission showed on Wednesday. He had previously given the group $5 million in April 2023.

Mellon’s donations to a pro-Trump outside group followed a similar pattern. Mellon gave a $5 million donation to MAGA Inc in April 2023. He then gave another $10 million in the second half of 2023, disclosures filed on Wednesday show.

Kennedy’s bid could take votes away from Democrat Joe Biden or Trump in critical states in the likely November general election, political analysts say.

But a December Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that Kennedy, part of the storied political family, could draw more support from Biden than Trump. Trump’s lead widened to a 5-point advantage nationally when respondents were given an option to vote for Kennedy, for example. A January Reuters/Ipsos poll, however, showed Trump’s six-point lead held even when respondents were given the option of voting for third-party candidates, including Kennedy.

To be sure, nationwide surveys do not capture the subtleties of the electoral college contest that will be decided this fall in just a handful of competitive states where independent voters will have huge sway.

Democratic strategist Lis Smith on Wednesday suggested that Mellon bankrolling pro-Kennedy efforts was an effort to help Trump.

“Numbers don’t lie- it’s clear Donald Trump and his biggest donors believe that RFK Jr. will help him in this election,” Smith said. “RFK Jr’s stalking horse candidacy should be very concerning to any American who wants to keep Trump out of the Oval Office.”

Reuters was not immediately able to contact Mellon.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer and Jason Lange; editing by Diane Craft)

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