Document reveals identity of donors who secretly funded Nikki Haley’s political nonprofit

Document reveals identity of donors who secretly funded Nikki Haley’s political nonprofit

Many of the GOP’s biggest donors are among those who funneled anonymous contributions to former U.N ambassador Nikki Haley’s nonprofit as she lays the groundwork for a prospective 2024 presidential bid, according to previously unreported tax documents obtained by POLITICO.

Haley’s nonprofit policy advocacy group, Stand For America, Inc., has received major donations from people including New York hedge fund manager Paul Singer, investor Stanley Druckenmiller, and Miriam Adelson and her late husband, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the Internal Revenue Service filings reveal.

The roster of supporters who gave undisclosed donations in 2019 also includes Suzanne Youngkin, the wife of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, himself a possible presidential contender; former Pennsylvania Senate candidate and hedge fund executive David McCormick; and Vivek and Lakshmi Garipalli, members of a New Jersey family that has donated large sums to Democrats — but which gave Haley’s organization $1 million.

The donor list also includes dozens of people who gave anonymously to Haley’s nonprofit but have not given disclosed contributions to her PAC, which was formed two years later and is required to regularly disclose the names of donors who give at least $200. Those contributors include the Garipallis and GOP megadonor Joe Ricketts.

(See the full list of donors here.)

Like other nonprofits, Stand For America files an annual tax return with the IRS. While the agency and the nonprofit must make those filings available to the public, including the amounts of contributions to the group, such nonprofits do not have to disclose the identities of their donors.

However, the organization Documented, which describes itself as a nonpartisan government watchdog that investigates money in politics, obtained an unredacted copy of Stand For America’s 2019 filings, which it then shared with POLITICO. The group did not share the original source of the filing, but it bears a stamp from the charity office of the New York state attorney general.

The disclosures provide the clearest picture yet of how a prospective 2024 presidential candidate is cultivating a secret network of high-dollar contributors as she builds a political apparatus. And the names of her donors demonstrate the deep connections Haley has formed at the top levels of the Republican Party, with some of the GOP’s biggest super PAC donors among those who gave money to fund the launch of her organization after she left the Trump administration.

Haley is among at least a dozen other would-be White House hopefuls— including former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence — who also have allied nonprofits bankrolled by donors whose identities have remained under wraps.

“It’s very rare that the public has the opportunity to see the identities of the donors who are providing five- or even six-figure contributions to a dark money group. It’s called dark money for a reason. Typically, the public does not know who is financing these groups, and this is a rare exception,” said Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director of Documented.

“This previously unpublished donor list provides a valuable clue as to the network of wealthy donors that Haley might rely upon if she does ultimately run for office,” Fischer said.

Such tax filings are typically closely held, as donors contribute to nonprofit groups with the understanding that their names will be kept secret. The Haley team moved to stop publication of this story, with attorney Michael Adams writing in a cease-and-desist letter that POLITICO “was not authorized to receive the confidential tax return information, nor is Politico entitled to print, publish, or even retain it.”

Lynn Oberlander, an attorney for Ballard Spahr representing POLITICO, responded in a letter that the reporting on the funding of U.S. political activity “is in the public interest and fully protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

POLITICO reached out to each donor named in this article prior to publication. They either did not respond or declined to offer comment.

“This disclosure of a confidential tax return was clearly a corrupt violation of state and federal law to try to intimidate conservative donors,” Haley said in a statement. “Liberals have always weaponized government against conservatives, and Republicans have been too nice for too long. We will make sure the buck stops here.”

The nonprofit is a political asset for the 50-year-old Haley, a former South Carolina governor long known as a favorite in the GOP donor world. When she launched the group in 2019, it was five years since her most recent run for office, and she could use the group to build a fresh new email list of supporters, pay staff and fund travel, polling and policy research.

Just because a donor gives to her nonprofit does not necessarily indicate they will back a future presidential bid. Many of the contributors are also known to support other potential candidates, including Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The contributions from 2019 also represent a snapshot in time: The donors gave before Trump lost his 2020 reelection race and immediately pivoted to make himself a frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Documented says it has not obtained the unredacted version of Stand For America’s most recent IRS filings, which cover the 2020 calendar year. The redacted 2020 filings show that the organization raised $9.3 million that year, with the largest single contribution totaling $750,000.

Haley stepped down from her post in the Trump administration at the end of 2018 and launched Stand For America shortly after. The 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization’s mission, according to its website, is to support “policy that will ensure a stronger, safer, and more prosperous country for all Americans.”

Over the course of 2019, the filing shows, Haley received the support of 71 donors who gave at least $5,000, for an overall fundraising total of $7 million.

The biggest givers were New Jersey health executive Vivek Garipalli and his mother, Lakshmi Garipalli, who contributed $500,000 apiece. Vivek Garipalli has been a regular Democratic donor, giving to the likes of President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats — but he has a “longstanding personal friendship” with Haley and her husband, according to a federal financial disclosure document Haley filed in 2018, when she was serving as U.N. ambassador.

Garipalli gifted Haley New York Knicks tickets valued at nearly $20,000 that year, and he gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to a pair of pro-Haley political action committees when she was governor of South Carolina, according to campaign finance filings.

Haley’s next-biggest nonprofit donors in 2019 were the Adelsons, who each donated $250,000. (Sheldon Adelson died in early 2021.) Miriam Adelson — who has since become the most sought-after megadonor in the GOP — also donated the maximum-allowed $5,000 to Haley’s PAC in 2021, her first federal donation since her husband’s death. Haley was one of a handful of would-be candidates who landed a private meeting with Miriam Adelson while attending a Republican Jewish Coalition conference in the fall of 2021.

The third-biggest donors were Stanley Druckenmiller and his wife, Fiona, who gave a combined $350,000. Next was Scott Bessent, an investor with a long history of giving to Republicans, who contributed $325,000. Singer, another prominent GOP megadonor, gave $270,000.

Haley’s donors span the party’s ideological spectrum, from those supportive of Trump to those less so. She attracted six-figure nonprofit donations from Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who extensively funded Trump’s 2020 reelection effort, but also Druckenmiller, who backed former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a moderate Republican, over Trump in the 2016 primary.

Haley has separately launched Stand For America PAC, which unlike the non-profit vehicle must disclose its contributors and has a donation limit of $5,000. The PAC can spend unlimited amounts on politics, though the size of donations are capped. And while the nonprofit can raise and spend in unlimited amounts, it has restrictions on how much it can spend on expressly political activity.

Some of Haley’s donors have only given through the dark money vehicle. While the Garipallis and Bessent are among Stand For America’s biggest donors, they have yet to give to Stand For America PAC, according to the most recent federal filings. The same goes for Republican megadonor Ricketts, who gave $50,000 to the nonprofit Stand For America but nothing to the PAC, which was registered in 2021.

Haley’s nonprofit vehicle — like those aligned with other prospective 2024 candidates — is using its funding to pay political consulting firms doing work for the group. Stand For America’s highest-paid vendors, according to the filing, include prominent Republican consulting firms: direct mail firm Image Direct and a pair of digital firms, Coldspark and Fifth Influence.

The nonprofit has also promoted Haley’s policy platform, and it has developed an extensive email list of prospective supporters. Stand For America sends out a five-day-a-week policy newsletter to more than 200,000 subscribers, has aired issue advocacy commercials in states like Georgia and Virginia, and hosted virtual town halls for supporters.

In addition, the organization has conducted congressional outreach on certain issues, published a 160-page policy book and produced a series of policy videos in which Haley has participated.

All of the activity helps to promote Haley as she ramps up for 2024. A future Haley campaign could rent or buy the email list to build out its fundraising apparatus, for example.

“The reality is that some potential candidates are relying on a small handful of very wealthy donors as they map out their political future,” Fischer said. “And if those candidates win office, they’re going to owe an immense debt of gratitude to those secret donors.”

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