Nikki Haley gets early support from wealthy donors while some remain on the sidelines

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Nikki Haley gets early support from wealthy donors while some remain on the sidelines

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley listens as she is introduced at a campaign town hall meeting, in Salem, New Hampshire, U.S., March 28, 2023.

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Trump administration official, has emerged as an early favorite of several wealthy donors as she pursues the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential race.

Team Stand for America, a joint fundraising committee raising cash for Haley's campaign for president, and two other pro-Haley PACs received more than two dozen contributions from a mix of billionaires and wealthy executives during the first quarter, according to a CNBC analysis of new campaign finance filings.

Oil and gas magnate Harold Hamm, Wall Street titan Aryeh Bourkoff and New Balance owner Jim Davis are among the joint committee's big donors, according to the records.

A spokeswoman for Haley's campaign did not return a request for comment before publication.

Still, several of the biggest donors have remained on the sidelines ahead of the GOP primary next year, with some waiting for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to announce whether he'll run for the White House. Longshot candidate Republican Vivek Ramaswamy, in contrast, loaned over $10 million to his campaign in the first quarter and relied on about $1 million in contributions from others, including at least half a dozen wealthy donors, according to his campaign filings.

Both Haley and Ramaswamy are trailing former President Donald Trump, according to the latest public polls. A Fox News survey taken in late March shows Haley with 3% of support from Republican voters, with Ramaswamy holding at 1%. Trump had 54% of participants' support, with DeSantis picking up 24%. The poll surveyed just over 1,000 registered voters.

Republican megadonors have been looking for a strong alternative to Trump who could win the primary and appeal to a broader base of voters in the general election against President Joe Biden, who has said he is planning to run for reelection.

Team Stand for America's filing says the group received individual donations from wealthy donors ranging from $5,000 to $16,600. The joint fundraising committee finished raising over $4.3 million, while the Haley campaign itself brought in around $5.1 million, according to FEC records. Team Stand for America transferred about $1.8 million to the Haley campaign on March 31, according to the records.

Hamm, the executive chairman oil and natural gas company Continental Resources, donated $16,600 to Team Stand for America last month, according to the filing. Hamm supported former President Donald Trump during the 2016 election and later backed the Trump endorsed Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz. He told the Financial Times in an interview published last year that he didn't think Trump should run again in 2024.

"Loyalty's a big thing with us -- it's very necessary with leaders," Hamm told the FT. "And I wish Trump could have been a lot more loyal to his people." The former president overlooked Hamm to become Energy secretary in his administration, the FT said.

Hamm and his family are worth a combined $18.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Hamm isn't the only previous Trump ally turning to help Haley. Former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who said last year that the former president was a "deeply wounded narcissist," donated $5,000 to the Haley joint fundraising committee.

Leonard Stern, the CEO of real estate firm Hartz Mountain Industries, contributed the same amount as Hamm to Team Stand for America in March. Forbes says he has a net worth of $7.6 billion.

Stern, Cobb and a spokeswoman for Hamm did not return requests for comment before publication.

The support for Haley indicates a growing desire among donors to back a candidate who can beat Biden in 2024, according to one of Haley's top supporters. Haley seems to be making an appeal to more moderate Republicans while drawing a contrast with Trump. Since she announced her candidacy in February, Haley became the first declared 2024 candidate to visit the southern border to tout her immigration plan.

"If you take a look at the makeup of the donors at this stage in the game, you have people who are Republican donors that are often involved in presidential elections who see her as a viable candidate that won't just win in the primary but also in the general election," said Ozzie Palomo, a co-founder of lobbying firm Chartwell Strategy Group and a Haley fundraiser.

Other wealthy donors moving to back Haley include Davis, chairman of shoe company New Balance, who donated $16,600 to the joint fundraising committee in late March. Davis and his family, which own nearly all of New Balance, have a net worth of $4.9 billion, according to Forbes.

A New Balance spokeswoman did not return requests for comment.

Leaders on Wall Street also played a role in helping Haley's fundraising surge.

Bourkoff, the CEO of investment giant LionTree, contributed $16,600 to Team Stand for America last month. Bourkoff has a history of donating to Democrats running for office, including to Vice President Kamala Harris' 2020 campaign and Biden's successful run for the White House, according to data from the nonpartisan OpenSecrets. Bourkoff did not return a request for comment.

Jim Haskel, a partner at hedge fund behemoth Bridgewater Associates, gave the same amount to the committee in February.

Executives from Goldman Sachs, Susquehanna International Group, UBS Group and Tiger Management, are among the other Wall Street leaders who donated to the Haley joint fundraising committee in the first quarter.

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