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Report: Nikki Haley's campaign vastly inflated fundraising totals

Haley's campaign said it had raised $11 million in the first quarter of her campaign. But the actual figure appears to be closer to $8.3 million.
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.
Posted at 1:45 PM, Apr 19, 2023

When Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley's campaign announced its first-quarter fundraising totals earlier this month, many were impressed — until a filing with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) highlighted vast discrepancies.

In a memo to supporters, first obtained by Axios, Haley's campaign boasted that it had raised more than $11 million since announcing her presidential bid in mid-February — making it a point to mock her primary Republican foe, former President Donald Trump.

"We raised over $11 million in six weeks," the memo reads. "That's more than Donald Trump raised in his first quarter in this race, and more than nearly all the Republican presidential candidates in 2016 raised in their first quarter."

However, a closer look at financial disclosure forms submitted to the FEC showed the former U.N. ambassador's campaign — and two affiliated committees — had actually raised just $8.3 million. While still an impressive figure, her team's math simply doesn't add up, and it appears to be a case of double-counting.

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Haley has raised money across three aligned committees: her main campaign committee, a political action committee (PAC) that's used to promote her agenda, and a joint fundraising committee that funnels money to the other two.

According to the FEC filings, Haley's campaign alone raised $3.3 million. An additional $1.8 million came by way transfers from her joint fundraising committee on March 31, for a total of $5.1 million in contributions, the filings show.

Then Haley's Super PAC raised about $1.5 million, including a transfer of nearly $900,000 from the joint fundraising committee.

To get to $11 million, Haley's campaign appears to have combined the receipts of all three committees, even though $2.7 million raised by the joint fundraising committee was parceled out to the other two committees. Had they counted those transfers just once, Haley's fundraising totals would have dropped to about $8.3 million.

In addition, not all of the money reported by Haley's various committees can be used for her campaign. Due to campaign financing laws, the money in her Super PAC can be used to promote a particular message and boost conservative allies, but it can't directly finance her own campaign.

Fundraising is an important metric used to track campaign strength, and candidates are often eager to boast about their fundraising totals as a sign of widespread support. That said, this isn't the first time political campaigns have moved the numbers around to inflate their advertised fundraising totals.

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For example, the Trump campaign claimed to have raised over $34 million so far this year, though finance disclosures put that figure closer to $14 million. 

Nonetheless, the $8.4 million raised by Haley's campaign is an impressive number for a first-time presidential candidate. The downside for her is that the strong financial support isn't reflected in the Republican primary polls.  

According to the market research firm Morning Consult, Haley still trails Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence — with the latter two having yet to even announce a bid for president.