Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

Why Is Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley Courting Wall Street Ahead Of 2024?

Nikki Haley
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. By Mary Lou Masters

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been courting Wall Street executives as she rises up the primary polls, raising eyebrows from some Republican political strategists and conservative finance experts.

As many financiers are seeking an alternative to former President Donald Trump, Haley has reportedly been meeting with Wall Street executives during fundraising events and has held private conversations with left-leaning JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon.

Though some argued the former ambassador is merely trying to appeal to a broad base of voters while gaining enough financial backing to go the distance, others voiced concern to the Daily Caller News Foundation over Haley courting members of the “establishment” who promote ideologies like environmental, social and governance (ESG) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) while cultivating business interests in China.

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“The Republican base once embraced Wall Street in an awkward, hugging-your-great-aunt-at-Thanksgiving kind of way. Now, in the Trump era, the party’s base walks in the other direction,” Mark Weaver, a veteran Republican strategist, told the DCNF. “Wall Street may bring Nikki Haley campaign funds but it will also bring her headaches with likely GOP primary voters.”

Haley attended a breakfast with BlackRock CEO Larry Fink on Nov. 14 followed by a fundraising event co-hosted by Democrat Gary Cohn, the former Trump administration official and past president of Goldman Sachs.

“She imagines that there still is Republican establishment and plans to vacuum up its cash,” Mike McKenna, GOP consultant and president of MWR Strategies, told the DCNF. “Anyone who takes cash from Larry Fink is no friend of the United States. He appears to be a stooge of the regime in Beijing.”

Fink and a long list of other top executives attended a lavish dinner honoring Chinese President Xi Jinping in California Nov. 15. BlackRock has been criticized by conservatives for promoting ESG factors that aim to make business decisions based off of one’s commitment to social and environmental initiatives.

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Fink did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

“Let’s call ESG what it really is: corporate socialism,” Haley’s campaign told The Hill in March. “What we need is capitalism and not businesses caving to the left. When they do, everybody loses.” A Haley campaign spokesperson directed the DCNF to the Hill article when reached for comment.

Other business leaders have considered endorsing Haley for president, including Citadel founder Ken Griffin, and billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller has already announced his support for the former ambassador. Haley is set to meet with other Wall Street executives in early December, including several tied to Paul Singer’s Elliott Management.

“Candidates for president should focus on the grassroots instead of cozying up to Wall Street. While we do know that money rules everything in politics, I would argue that a political candidate can be just as effective raising money from grassroots than from a couple of big investment banks or firms,” Bob Rubin, CEO and president of conservative wealth management firm Rubin Wealth Advisors, told the DCNF. “Gaining support from Wall Street, I guess it comes with strings attached, and one of those strings is the fact that the big banks and brokerage houses have been heavily supporting ESG and DEI policies that many like me in the conservative movement stand firmly against.”

“Whether Wall Street is doing business with China, or they’re utilizing ESG or DEI, it’s still moving money from the right to the left,” Rubin added.

Other Republican strategists shrugged off Haley’s connections with the executives and argued it shows her ability to reach broader factions of the electorate.

“The fact that she’s getting support from them doesn’t mean she’s changed her views one iota. It means they’re satisfied that she’s a rational [candidate] on economic issues and would do well,” Sal Russo, prominent GOP consultant and co-founder of Tea Party Express, told the DCNF.

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Wall Street executives appear to be flocking to Haley as she continues to rise in key early primary state polls, showing potential head-to-head viability against Trump.

Haley has seen a surge in the New Hampshire primary polls, where she has jumped to second, surpassing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The former ambassador has experienced a similar bump in Iowa, with a Fields of Freedom survey released Monday finding Haley tied with DeSantis for second at 17%.

The campaign announced its plans to launch a $10 million television, radio and digital ad reservation across Iowa and New Hampshire in December, according to a press release.

Haley brought in $8.2 million during the third fundraising quarter with $11.6 million in the bank, while Trump raised $24.5 million and reported $37.5 million cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

David Kochel, GOP consultant based in Iowa, doesn’t think the support from Wall Street will turn any voters off to Haley, and argued the additional backing would help her campaign go the distance against Trump’s mammoth fundraising operation.

“The money basically allows her to have that kind of staying power, to go a month deep into once these things start to happen, and once the votes start taking place in Iowa and New Hampshire, whatever happens in Nevada and then onto South Carolina — it takes a lot of money to sustain her base through that period, and not everybody is going to be able to do it, but it appears now that she’s most likely to be able to fund a real campaign,” Kochel told the DCNF.

Rubin said he isn’t surprised that Haley is seeking support from Wall Street, as she went into the private sector after leaving the Trump administration in 2018. The former ambassador gave private speeches to several overseas firms between 2022 and 2023, for which Haley raked in between $100,000 and $1 million, according to a disclosure reported by NBC News.

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“That’s why Nikki Haley is like a perfect person for the establishment — because they can control her, right? They can’t control a DeSantis, they can’t control a Vivek — so they don’t want them,” said Rubin. “They want a Nikki Haley. They sure as hell don’t want Trump, that’s for sure.”

Pete Earle, an economist from the conservative think tank American Institute for Economic Research, believes the financiers are trying to gauge whether Haley is “receptive to their policy desires,” he told the DCNF.

“It’s likely that financial interests would like a continuation of certain policies along with the relaxation or discontinuation of others,” said Earle. “On the other hand, with rising interest rates (and thus rising costs of compliance) firms may also be gauging Haley’s inclination to relax adherence to [ESG] and [DEI] frameworks.”

The former ambassador has been speaking with Dimon about the global economy. The CEO is reportedly fond of Haley’s views on how business and government should work together, and believes the former ambassador has the ability to unite the country.

Dimon did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

The CEO discreetly traveled with other top American executives to meet with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials and others earlier this year to promote business relations with the country. Conversely, Haley has campaigned as tough on China as she vies for the GOP nomination.

“Haley has essentially described China as an enemy and will probably be asked by financial and banking interests to soften that message as the quest for the GOP nomination looms closer,” said Earle.

The former ambassador has also been a vocal critic of “stakeholder capitalism,” which asserts that companies have responsibility to not only their shareholders, but their communities at large. DimonFink and other corporate leaders have been proponents of the idea.

Jim Merrill, a Republican consultant based in New Hampshire, isn’t surprised that Haley is receiving support from business leaders.

“I think it’s reflective that she’s taking a broad approach to earn support wherever she can, and whether it’s on Wall Street or it’s here on Main Street in New Hampshire, and she’s certainly doing a pretty good job of it,” Merill told the DCNF. “I don’t think in the end that it’d be held against her that she’s talking to business leaders — whether it’s a CEO of a large company or the sole proprietor of a convenience store here in New Hampshire. I think in the end, her message is consistent, and the fact that people from a broad swath of the electorate are attracted to that messaging speaks well of her.”

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