Two months after leaving the United Nations, Nikki Haley has assembled a political network that is laying the groundwork for a possible presidential run in 2024, or even in 2020 — should her mentor Donald Trump not run.
The best thing about it from her point of view? The scheme will enable her to raise a lot of money, fast, by cashing in on her time in federal and state government service. At this point, this seems to be coming largely in the form of giant checks from the pro-Israel groups whose interests she so avidly pursued as UN ambassador, and from the Boeing Company, still apparently grateful for the fat incentive package she offered while South Carolina governor in exchange for an assembly plant in her state.
Some diplomats at the UN said that Haley had been offered a job by Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, when he planned to exit that post and move into investment banking. That deal fell through at the last minute for Haley.
The quick cash from the new sources will help her pay off some of her considerable debt whether or not she ever runs for high office. And if she does run, her backers can view the money as payback for the support she has given them in the past and as a down payment for favors they can hope for if she wins.
The way Haley is setting things up, she is not required to affix the word “campaign” to her activities, and she has yet to formally declare an interest in any office or to set up a political action committee. This means she doesn’t have to disclose the source or amount of donations or how she spends it.
So just what is Haley up to these days?
Let’s start with her new foundation, Stand for America, classified by the IRS as a social welfare organization but set up so that donations to it are not tax-deductible. Though it is barred by its nonprofit 501(c)(4) tax status from financing political campaigns or contributing to candidates, it provides Haley with a policy forum and a base for promoting her brand, which can also pay her to promote her favorite civic causes and even do lobbying, according to IRS rules.
Unveiled Feb. 25, the foundation website asks for donations and promotes international values generally in line with Trump’s America First views and her own. Domestically, it also sounds quite Trumpian, vowing to combat many of his favorite bogeymen, including “socialist schemes of higher taxes, burdensome job-destroying regulations, government-run health care, and unsecure borders.”
Haley, who appeared to fall deeper in debt the longer she stayed in New York and where she still lives, grabbed the biggest headlines after her departure from the UN by signing up for the Washington Speakers Bureau. She has been widely reported as asking $200,000 a pop plus transport by private jet for domestic speaking engagements. While at the UN, Haley was barred by federal ethics rules from accepting honoraria for speeches to groups in any way linked to her government work, but now she is under no such restrictions.
This news was soon followed by the announcement of “An Evening With Nikki Haley” in Manhattan on March 12, to be offered by the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, held on the Upper East Side at Temple Emanu-El, one of the most prestigious synagogues in the city. Tickets are $125. The charity did not respond to a query about Haley’s fee for the appearance.
Next, we learned that Haley would address the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the country’s most influential pro-Israel lobbying group, on March 25. (In this, she is hardly alone, joining numerous other political leaders in the past, including Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.) Marshall Wittmann, Aipac’s spokesman, had no comment on Haley’s speaking fees.
On Feb. 12, Haley appeared before the Greater Miami Jewish Federation to receive its 2019 Friend of Israel Humanitarian Award. According to media reports, attendees typically contribute more than $1,000 a year to the federation, but there was no word on speaking fees. In accepting the award, Haley said that “fighting for Israel” at the UN was more than just a job for her. It was “one of the easiest things I did in the UN,” she said. “It was about doing what was right; it was about telling the truth.”
Haley was also the guest of honor at a Feb. 27 dinner in New York with some of the city’s top Republican donors, the first of a series of get-togethers organized by the hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer to highlight prominent Republicans ahead of the 2020 elections, Axios reported.
Because Singer, a frequent contributor to Jewish and pro-Israel causes, was a never-Trumper in 2016, the invitation prompted rumors that Haley was weighing a primary challenge to the president. Haley has insisted she has no intention of going against Trump next year, but is there much doubt that she would love to step in should Trump not run?
Another sign that she may be in a hurry to promote her brand now rather than wait until, say, 2022, is her plan for a new book to be published later this year. Her first book, “Can’t Is Not an Option,” was published in 2012 and is on life support.
Even before leaving her UN job, Haley was on the receiving end of wet kisses from a range of pro-Israel organizations and individuals. On Dec. 1, she won B’nai B’rith International’s Award for Excellence in Diplomacy for her “stalwart defense of Israel at the United Nations.”
Among her UN actions, the organization cited Washington’s withdrawal from the Human Rights Council and Unesco, its suspension of funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, Haley’s strong defense of US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and her veto of a Security Council resolution condemning the recognition.
Boeing, the American aerospace giant, meanwhile announced on Feb. 26 that it had asked Haley to join its board of directors, subject to shareholder approval. According to company filings, Boeing in 2017 paid each board member $135,000 plus $180,000 in restricted stock, plus fees for any board committee work.
In 2013, as South Carolina governor, Haley pushed for a $120 million incentives package to open a 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in North Charleston and fought hard to kill unionization efforts by the International Association of Machinists. “We discourage any companies that have unions from wanting to come to South Carolina because we don’t want to taint the water,” Haley said in 2014.
The machinists’ union, however, succeeded in organizing at Boeing and recently objected to Haley’s board nomination.
Boeing can now benefit from Haley’s ties to the Trump administration: the company is pressing the Pentagon to buy a new advanced version of its F-15 fighter.
So what are the odds that Haley, if elected president, would suddenly turn a harsh eye on Israel or Boeing? She continues in private life to make an extraordinary effort to quash criticism of Israel despite its regular violations of Security Council resolutions on the Middle East conflict and its tacit embrace of the Trump administration’s quiet efforts to bury a two-state solution.
While some critics of Israel back a global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to pressure Israel to comply with Security Council resolutions and other applicable international agreements, Haley joins many strong supporters of Israel in declaring such efforts to be anti-Semitic, although a similar campaign helped topple South Africa’s all-white apartheid government in 1994.
“If you support BDS, you support hate,” Haley said in Miami on Feb. 12.
Another way she is trying to become more of an influencer? An apparent bid to promote sales of her personal makeup choice, a brand of the French conglomerate LVMH.
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Irwin Arieff is a veteran writer and editor with extensive experience writing about international diplomacy and food, cooking and restaurants. Before leaving daily journalism in 2007, he was a Reuters correspondent for 23 years, serving in senior posts in Washington, Paris and New York as well as at the United Nations (where he covered five of the 10 years that Sergey Lavrov spent in New York as Russia’s senior UN ambassador). Arieff also wrote restaurant reviews for The Washington Post and Washington City Paper in the 1980s and 1990s with his wife, Deborah Baldwin.