The influential network associated with billionaire Charles Koch will put its money and influence behind former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the Republican presidential primary, the group announced Tuesday.
The decision could radically reshape the Republican field — about seven weeks before the Iowa caucuses — as Americans for Prosperity Action deploys its vast resources and standing 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 U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She has seen prominent figures join her campaign in recent weeks, particularly after South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott left the race.
Earlier this year, AFP Action — a political arm of Koch’s network — pledged to support a single candidate in the GOP presidential primary for the first time in its history. And he made clear that he would bypass former President Donald Trump in his quest for what Emily Seidel, a senior AFP official, called a president “who represents a new chapter.”
“When we announced our decision to enter our first-ever Republican presidential primary, we made it clear that we were looking for a candidate who could turn the page on our political dysfunction – and win. It’s clear that the nominee is Nikki Haley,” Siedel said Tuesday. “We cannot continue to rely on the politicians of the past to solve today’s problems. Nikki Haley represents a new generation of leaders and offers a bold and positive vision for our future. AFP Action is proud to support her and we will do everything we can to help make her the next President of the United States.
The effort will begin with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in support of Haley, launching this week in all early states and several Super Tuesday states, and the group has touted its data capabilities — including a database of contact data with millions of voters – and its vast popular reach.
Seidel did not disclose 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.
“The members of AFP Action know that the stakes of this election are too important to remain idle. It is a choice between liberty and socialism, individual freedom and big government, fiscal responsibility and growing debt. We have a country to save and I am grateful to have AFP Action on our side,” Haley said in a statement to CNN.
The former president is the clear front-runner in the Republican primary in national polls and early state polls, with Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis each vying to emerge as the leading alternative to Trump.
“We’re confident we’ll have the resources we need,” Seidel said when asked how much the network was committing on Haley’s behalf. “What we bring is, frankly, years of investment. »
She noted that during the 2022 midterms alone, Koch Groups knocked on more than seven million doors and delivered more than 100 million pieces of mail.
The DeSantis campaign called the support for Haley an “in-kind” contribution to Trump’s campaign, describing the former South Carolina governor as a “moderate” with no path to victory.
“Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley’s candidacy should be reported as an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign,” DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo said in a statement. “No one has a better record of beating the establishment than Ron DeSantis, and this time will be no different.”
The network has already spent millions of dollars on advertising in early voting states this year to portray Trump as likely to lose the general election.
One ad, “Unelectable,” portrayed Trump as a serial loser who would jeopardize Republicans in Congress.
“If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, we could lose everything,” the narrator says.
Trump’s campaign and an aligned super PAC were quick to criticize Koch’s support.
“Americans for Prosperity – the political arm of the China First, America Last movement – has chosen to support a pro-China, open-border, globalist candidate in Nikki ‘Birdbrain’ Haley,” the spokesperson said. Steven Cheung campaign. He added that “no amount of shady money” will stop Trump from winning the Republican Party nomination and the White House.
In addition to trying to sow doubts about Trump among the GOP faithful, network officials said part of their 2024 strategy is to bring in a broader range of voters — those who reliably vote in elections general but not in Republican primaries – in the GOP primary process to help change the outcome of early contests.
During his tenure in the White House, Trump often sparred with Koch officials, who sharply criticized his administration’s tough trade and immigration policies. But the network has supported the Trump administration on other priorities, including a tax cut bill it signed into law in late 2017 and a criminal justice overhaul. The network has also supported its nominees for the United States Supreme Court.
This story has been updated with additional reporting. CNN’s Ebony Davis, Kit Maher and Kate Sullivan contributed to this story.