Billionaire-backed Koch network to stop funding Nikki Haley after defeat

Move by Americans for Prosperity Action shows support for Trump rival fading after her loss in South Carolina

A political spending group backed by conservative billionaire Charles Koch said it would stop funding Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign, in a blow to Donald Trump’s main Republican rival after she suffered a defeat in the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

The move by Americans for Prosperity Action is a signal that Ms Haley’s support among top Republican Wall Street and corporate donors – which has helped sustain her White House bid – is starting to fade as Mr Trump’s victory in the Republican nomination contest appears assured.

But even as it stopped funding Ms Haley’s run, AFP Action did not shift to backing Mr Trump, suggesting that the group may remain on the sidelines of the presidential race.

Emily Seidel, a senior adviser to AFP Action, said on Sunday that while her organisation continued to “endorse” Ms Haley for president, it would “focus our resources where we can make the difference”, pointing to races for the US Congress.


Ms Seidel said she expected Mr Trump to lose the November general election and damage the party’s “brand”, hurting other conservative candidates.

“If Donald Trump is at the top of the Republican ticket, the risk of one-party rule by a Democratic Party captured by the Progressive Left is severe and would do irreparable damage to the country,” Ms Seidel wrote.

At the start of February, the Haley campaign had about $13 million (€12 million) on hand, which was about how much she spent in January, according to federal filings released this week. She has vowed to press ahead with her White House bid until at least the Super Tuesday contests in a number of states in early March, which will decide a big chunk of delegates to the Republican convention.

Mary Kate Johnson, the Haley campaign’s finance director, emailed donors over the weekend with invitations to nine fundraisers this week in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, Utah, Virginia, North Carolina and Massachusetts.

Ms Haley has campaigned as a traditional mainstream Republican, with hawkish positions on national security and professing staunch fiscal conservatism. Lately she has been blasting Mr Trump for his temperament and the “chaos” he has brought to US politics.

California venture capitalist Tim Draper, one of Ms Haley’s top donors, said on Sunday: “I am thrilled she is in this to win it. Anything can happen in politics, especially this time.”

New York attorney Jay Lefkowitz, another Haley donor, added: “Without question, she should keep campaigning. And she will ... Does anyone honestly believe that [Joe] Biden and Trump are the best candidates this nation can offer?”

But while she has won votes from college-educated, moderate and centre-right suburban voters, she has failed to win over the Republican base, which remains captured by Mr Trump, his populist economics and his isolationism on foreign policy.

The Koch network has been a deep source of funding for Republican candidates since the Barack Obama era, even though it is no longer as influential as it used to be.

“AFP is a great organisation and ally in the fight for freedom and conservative government,” said Haley spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas. “Our fight continues, and with more than $1 million coming in from grassroots conservatives in just the last 24 hours, we have plenty of fuel to keep going. We have a country to save.”

One of AFP Action’s main goals will be to help Republicans win control of the US Senate, which they lost in 2020 and failed to win back in 2022 after Trump-backed candidates were defeated in a number of key races.

Ms Seidel said her group had already endorsed candidates in four competitive races in Nevada, Montana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and would soon be doing the same in Ohio and Michigan.

“This election will be decided by swing voters. And Joe Biden leads Donald Trump two to one among independents,” she said. “The most important – and hardest – thing we may need to do is convince millions of voters who will never cast a ballot for Donald Trump to vote for Republican candidates for [the] Senate and [the] House [of Representatives] who will advance our shared principles.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024

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