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HomeUSA NewsWealthy donors’ millions for Haley fail to deter Trump dominance

Wealthy donors’ millions for Haley fail to deter Trump dominance

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FROM Wall Street to Silicon Valley, wealthy donors have thrown tens of millions of dollars at Republican US presidential candidate Nikki Haley in an effort to keep Donald Trump away from the White House.

They have learned a hard lesson – big money cannot win the Republican presidential nomination, at least not against Trump, who holds the support of a wide majority of the voters.

Pro-Haley forces outspent the main outside group supporting the former president’s candidacy by more than two to one over the past year, according to a Reuters analysis of campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The SFA Fund Inc, the main pro-Haley super PAC, has so far reported spending more than $70 million (£50m) backing her run over the last year and a super PAC linked with billionaire Charles Koch reportedly spent around $40m (£31m) to support Haley or oppose Trump.

In contrast, the main proTrump super PAC, known as MAGA Inc, reported spending about $50m (£39m) over the same period.

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In interviews with around a dozen donors and strategists who opposed Trump, a feeling of powerlessness was felt.

“Trump has a base that basically is impenetrable. I don’t think money was the issue at all,” said metal magnate Andy Sabin, who is illustrative of some donors’ frenzied quest for a Trump opponent.

At first, Sabin backed Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Then, put off by DeSantis’ foreign policy stance, Sabin decided to back US senator Tim Scott.

When Scott dropped out, Sabin chose to back Haley. After she lost New Hampshire, however, Sabin said last Wednesday (24) that the race was effectively over.

Haley’s campaign said Sabin had only donated $6,600 (£5,191), the maximum allowed, and had been refunded. The campaign added they raised some $2.6m (£2m) in the 48 hours since her New Hampshire defeat last Tuesday (23). Haley has taken a tougher stance on Trump in recent days, and has even fundraised off a warning he made to her donors to stop funding her.

The disempowering of wealthy donors is yet another way that Trump, who is financially fuelled by small contributions, has fundamentally remade the Republican Party.

“The idea that any single entity can take cheques and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to impact a presidential campaign is just not a 21st-century reality,” accoding to Ed McMullen, a top fundraiser for Trump and his former ambassador to Switzerland.

Trump’s financial model was sparking imitators, McMullen said. “I’m finding more candidates who are starting to focus more on a broader donor base than a singular high-dollar donor base.”

Hardline conservatives in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, for instance, already rely heavily on small campaign donors.

The Trump and Haley campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.

The disconnect between wealthy donors and Republican voters on the ground is clearly apparent. Keith Rabois, a Miami-based venture capitalist backing Haley, in December shared a graph on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, showing her climb in public opinion polls. “This is exactly what a successful startup’s KPIs look like,” he wrote.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI), which aims to gauge business performance, is unlikely to be among the average Trump voter’s, or average American’s, daily lexicon.

“Key Performance Indicator? I just chuckle,” said Gary Leffler, a general contractor who was a precinct captain supporting Trump in Iowa and is known for driving a Trumpthemed tractor to rallies.

“It’s a classic mistake made by people who have money. They take people out of the equation. It’s a total disconnect,” Leffler added of the donor class. “They’re not going to the grocery stores, to the home improvement stores, they’re not really connecting to people on the street.”

Asked about his comments and donors’ role, Rabois said he never believed “money matters” in politics, and said voters would again reject Trump.

Another illustration of the apparent diminishing power of old-line Republican money comes in Charles Koch, the fossil fuels magnate whose family built Americans for Prosperity (AFP), one of the most formidable US conservative advocacy and donor networks.

While Americans for Prosperity Action’s endorsement of Haley gave her more money and momentum, their advertisements and door-knocking have apparent;ly failed to convince enough voters.

To be sure, AFP Action’s 2024 strategy also involves congressional races, where it aims to prevent Democrats from gaining seats.

Reed Galen, a former Republican consultant who is raising money for the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, said donors might have had more success if they had started spending against Trump a year earlier, been relentless in their attacks and had chosen stronger candidates.

Still, he conceded that, “I am not sure if even that [strategy] would have worked.”

Some donors who previously bet against Trump have already begun to support him.

Dan Eberhart, a prominent donor who previously supported DeSantis, is now backing Trump. And Sabin, the metals magnate, said he would vote for Trump in November, although he reiterated that he would not give him a “nickel.”

Several donors said Trump’s team had been calling to try to get them on board, including in at least one case by enticing them with the offer of a Trump meeting at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Trump upped the ante, reportedly saying last Wednesday (24) that anybody making a contribution to Haley would be “permanently barred” from his political orbit.

One Haley donor said he wouldn’t speak out against Trump for fear of getting on his bad side, “It’s dangerous.”

Of course, Trump has long had some major, committed donors on his side, including Home Depot billionaire Bernie Marcus, who told Reuters that he would likely fund Trump even if the candidate is convicted. (Reuters)

 

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