Nikki Haley super PAC enters election year with just $3 million, adding to woes

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley visits a polling place as voters cast their votes in the New Hampshire presidential primary election in Hampton, New Hampshire, U.S., January 23, 2024. 

Brian Snyder | Reuters

A political action committee backing former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley entered the election year in January with just $3.5 million in cash, according to new Federal Election Commission records. The relatively small sum raises new questions about whether Haley can finance a viable presidential primary campaign over the coming months.

The new report Wednesday from SFA Fund Inc covers the period from July 1 through December 31, 2023. It reveals the committee raised just over $50 million, but spent nearly $63 million to back Haley. The super PAC entered the reporting period in July with around $17 million, but finished with a paltry $3.5 million war chest.

The potentially worrisome numbers from SFA Fund come as some of Haley’s wealthiest donors consider whether to continue helping, especially after the former South Carolina governor suffered bruising defeats to front-runner former President Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

The next major primary is in Haley’s home state on Feb. 24, and she currently trails Trump by around 30 percentage points there, according to a Real Clear Politics poling average.

The leading pro-Trump super PAC, MAGA Inc. also filed its six-month disclosure report Wednesday, revealing that it entered January with just over $23 million in cash on hand.

In addition to raising concerns about Haley’s ability to compete in upcoming primary states, SFA’s $3.5 million raises questions about how the PAC was able to spend $14 million on advertisements backing Haley since Jan. 1, according to data from the tracking firm AdImpact.

Mark Harris, a representative for SFA Fund, told CNBC the ad spending in January did not come out of the previous fall’s totals. Instead, he said, the additional $10.5 million minimum came from “robust” fundraising just this month. Harris declined to say how much they’ve raised total this month, or who the PAC’s top donors were.

The lion’s share of the $14 million was spent in Iowa and New Hampshire, with just $200,000 spent on TV spots airing in South Carolina.

Wednesday’s filing revealed that the super PAC’s fundraising success last fall came on the backs of big money donors.

Ken Griffin, the CEO of Citadel, gave $5 million to the super PAC in December, according to the FEC records. Griffin made news this week when his spokesman told media outlets, including CNBC, that he donated $5 million to the pro-Haley super PAC in January.

It was unclear, however, if the $5 million Griffin revealed late in January was the same $5 million the Haley PAC reported in December.

Griffin’s spokesman later confirmed that the $5 million had been donated to SFA Fund in December, and not January, when the spokesman had originally said the donation was made.

Ken Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot, gave just over $500,000, and David Tepper, a veteran investor and owner of the Carolina Panthers, gave north of $1 million.

Oil tycoon Harold Hamm contributed around $100,000.

NBC News’ Ben Kamisar and Bridget Bowman contributed reporting.

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