Home Business Billionaire mega-donors Ken Griffin and the Koch Network tried and failed to make Nikki Haley a presidential contender

Billionaire mega-donors Ken Griffin and the Koch Network tried and failed to make Nikki Haley a presidential contender

Billionaire mega-donors Ken Griffin and the Koch Network tried and failed to make Nikki Haley a presidential contender


Former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley ended her bid to be the Republican presidential candidate on Wednesday, the morning after Super Tuesday. 

In recent weeks, Haley’s campaign had telegraphed her campaign would make a final determination about whether to continue based on the primary results from Super Tuesday. After winning only one state—Vermont—and the District of Columbia, and losing 22 states to former President Donald Trump, Haley decided to hang up her hat. With no other opponents left in the GOP presidential race, Trump effectively secured a presidential nomination he had already been heavily favored to win. That means in all likelihood the U.S. will face a rematch of the 2020 election between Trump and President Joe Biden.

Much of Haley’s success stemmed from a clearly defined track record both in her home state of South Carolina and as a Trump administration cabinet official, impressive debate performances, and a strong fundraising operation: In fact, Haley succeeded in recruiting some of the GOP’s biggest donors. Financial backers to Haley’s campaign included the Koch Network, a longstanding staple in Republican fundraising circles, hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin, and New Balance owner Jim Davis

Thanks to those donations, Haley succeeded in outlasting an extensive field of Republican candidates. In that field were several past Trump administration officials including former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who headed Trump’s 2016 transition team. Haley also outlasted several other candidates, like South Carolina senator Tim Scott and Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who were tipped as having bright futures in the Republican party. She did also make history as the first woman to win a Republican presidential primary. The result meant that women in both major parties had now won a presidential primary, after former New York congresswoman Shirley Chisolm became the first to do so when she won the New Jersey primary in 1972. 

Haley’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

In the Republican primary race, Haley’s big endorsements provided her campaign a war chest that propelled her campaign further than any of Trump’s other challengers. The coveted endorsement of the Koch Network’s Americans for Prosperity political network alone gave her a $32 million boost from November through February. Meanwhile, Griffin donated $5 million to Haley’s campaign in December and January in the lead-up to the Iowa caucus. Griffin had previously donated to a variety of candidates from both sides of the aisle, including former President Barack Obama, but now the majority of his political donations tend to go to the GOP.  

Over the course of her campaign, Haley touted the endorsements as a sign of her strength, seeming happy to remind the other candidates that they, too, had vied for these same big-dollar donors and their troves of cash. But despite ample support from the donor class, her campaign made little dent in the immovable political object that is Trump’s Republican support. As of Wednesday morning, the expected delegate count stands at 777 in favor of Trump and just 44 supporting Haley. Over the course of the primary, Trump consistently polled above Haley. Trump even beat Haley by 20 points in her home state of South Carolina. The disappointing results in her home state ultimately led the Koch Network to announce it was suspending its support to her campaign.  

Pegging herself as the best option to avoid another Trump presidency also endeared Haley to independents and even some Democratic donors. For example, the billionaire LinkedIn co-founder and longtime Democratic booster Reid Hoffman donated $250,000 to a Haley super PAC on the grounds that she represented an early possibility to keep Trump out of the White House should she win the Republican primary. Other business leaders, like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Pershing Square Capital founder Bill Ackman, called for Democrats to support Nikki Haley if they hoped to avoid a second Trump term. 

For her part, Haley seemed to welcome the donations and support regardless of their partisan affiliation. “Anybody that wants to come support the cause, whether they’re Republican, independent or Democrat, we’re going to take them,” she told Fox News in November. 

Haley alluded to her ability to have recruited support from outside the Republican party in a speech on Wednesday. “It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party, and beyond it, who did not support him and I hope he does that,” she said. “At its best politics is about bringing people into your cause, not turning them away. And our conservative cause badly needs more people.”

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