The influential Koch Network is backing Nikki Haley in the GOP presidential race



CNN

The influential network associated with billionaire Charles Koch will throw its money and influence behind former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the Republican presidential race, the group announced Tuesday.

The decision could dramatically reshape the Republican field — roughly seven weeks before the Iowa caucuses — as Americans for Prosperity deploys its vast resources and a steady army of conservative activists on behalf of the former South Carolina governor.

The endorsement marks the latest sign that powerful Republican donors are rallying behind the candidacy of the former US ambassador to the United Nations. In recent weeks, particularly South Carolina Sen. After Tim Scott dropped out of the race, he’s seen key figures join his campaign.

Earlier this year, AFP Action — the political arm of Koch’s network — pledged to endorse a GOP presidential candidate for the first time in its history. It made clear it would ignore former President Donald Trump in its quest to find what AFP top official Emily Seidel called “someone who represents a new chapter.”

“When we announced our decision to run for our first Republican presidential primary, we made it clear that we were looking for a candidate who could turn around our political dysfunction and win. The candidate is clearly Nikki Haley,” Seidel said Tuesday. Can’t help but watch. Nikki Haley represents a new generation of leadership and offers a bold, positive vision for our future. AFP Action is proud to support her and will do everything we can to make her the next President of the United States.

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The effort will begin this week with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to support Haley’s launch in all primary and several Super Tuesday states, and the group is leveraging its data capabilities — including a contact database with millions of voters — and its extensive grassroots reach.

Seidel did not release a budget on Haley’s behalf, but the network has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in previous election cycles, rivaling the financial might of the Republican National Committee.

“Members of AFP Action know the risk of sitting on the sidelines in this election is high. It is a choice between liberty and socialism, individual liberty and big government, fiscal responsibility and spiraling debt. We have a country to save and I’m grateful to have the AFP operation on our side,” Haley said in a statement to CNN.

The former president is a clear lead in the Republican primary in both national and early state polls, with Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis emerging as the main Trump alternatives.

“We’re confident we’ll have the resources we need,” Seidel said, when asked about the dollar amount the network will commit on Haley’s behalf. “What we bring to the table is, obviously, a multi-year investment.”

He noted that in the 2022 midterms alone, Koch teams knocked on more than seven million doors and delivered more than 100 million pieces of mail.

The DeSantis campaign called Haley’s endorsement an “in-kind” contribution to Trump’s campaign, portraying the former South Carolina governor as a “moderate” without a path to victory.

DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo said in a statement, “Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley’s candidacy must be declared as part of the Trump campaign. No one has a stronger record of defeating the establishment than Ron DeSantis, and this time will be no different.”

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The network has already spent millions of dollars on advertising in early voting states this year to show that Trump is likely to lose the general election.

One ad, “Unelectable,” described Trump as a serial loser who undermined Republicans in Congress.

“If Donald Trump is the GOP nominee, we will lose everything,” says Story.

Trump’s campaign and aligned super PACs were quick to vilify the Koch endorsement.

“Americans for Integrity – the political arm of the China First, America Last movement – has chosen to endorse a pro-China, open borders and globalist candidate in Nikki ‘Birdbrain’ Haley,” campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said. “No amount of shady money” will stop Trump from winning the GOP nomination and the White House, he said.

In addition to stoking suspicions about Trump among GOP loyalists, network officials have said part of their 2024 strategy is to bring a wider swath of voters — those who reliably vote in general elections but are Republican primary — to the GOP primary process. It can help change the outcome of early matches.

During his White House tenure, Trump often clashed with Koch officials, who were fierce critics of his administration’s trade and tough immigration policies. But the network supported the Trump administration on other priorities, including the tax cut bill he signed in late 2017 and criminal justice reform. The network supported his nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This story has been updated with additional reporting. CNN’s Ebonie Davis, Kit Maher and Kate Sullivan contributed to this story.

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