Nikki Haley's Sudden Wealth Rooted in Weapons Industry, Pro-War Advocacy Network
The former U.N. ambassador went from virtually no savings in 2017 to a small fortune in part from defense contracting and war advocacy ties.
When should America deploy its armaments and forces to conflicts around the globe? And how much of the American military intervention abroad is shaped by genuine humanitarian and U.S. interests versus the tangled web of foreign alliances, special interest groups, and defense contractors?
These questions, which have long divided both major political parties, were on display in Milwaukee last night at the first Republican presidential debate as foreign policy loomed as a key point of contention.
Vivek Ramaswamy, as the only candidate directly against any escalation in the Ukraine-Russia war and against any additional U.S. funds, argued that the conflict represented “another no-win war” like the wars in Iraq and Vietnam. The biotech investor favors a quick negotiated end to the fighting and an alliance with Russia to help contain China against any future aggression, as well as a greater focus on domestic issues, such as immigration.
Several candidates, in contrast, bitterly argued that supporting Ukraine is a moralistic necessity.
Mike Pence, a proponent of increased military support to Ukraine, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is a dictator and a murderer, and the United States of America needs to stand against authoritarianism.”
Nikki Haley, who also backs more American funds and military support for the conflict, made similar remarks. “Look at what Putin did today. He killed Prigozhin. When I was at the U.N., the Russian ambassador suddenly died. This guy is a murderer,” said Haley.
But the debate turned personal a moment later, as Haley charged that Ramaswamy is “choosing a murderer over a pro-American country.”
"I wish you well on your future career on the boards of Lockheed and Raytheon," Ramaswamy shot back.
“You would make America less safe. You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows,” countered Haley.
The incendiary exchange, which instantly became a viral, made-for-television exchange clip shared widely, belied a deeper divide in foreign policy and the curious background of Haley, who went from near negligible wealth – with virtually no assets or investments other than a bank account with less than $15,000 in 2017 and up to $1 million in debt – to a sizable fortune.
Over the last year, Haley and her husband reported a vast investment stock portfolio and $12 million of income.
The former South Carolina governor left the Trump administration in 2018 at a time when her parents were struggling financially and had just faced foreclosure. Those days are over. Haley now resides in a 5,700-square-foot mansion on Kiawah Island now worth close to $5 million. Haley and her husband also helped sell a strip mall once owned by her parents and worked to clear the family of previous debts.
Along the way, Haley became wealthy in large part from her ties to a network of defense interests and hawkish advocacy organizations tied to U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials.
In one of her first reported private sector jobs after leaving her last government post, Haley joined the board of Boeing, a defense contractor, a position that paid around $300,000 a year in cash and stock. Haley, according to disclosures, still owns up to $250,000 in Boeing stock.
Haley’s primary income, aside from speaking engagements, is from United Against a Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group shrouded in secrecy.
The group, which has lobbied for military strikes on Iran, is advised by Zohar Palti and Tamir Pardo, two former Israeli intelligence officials, as well as many former U.S. national security officials. The Department of Justice previously intervened in a lawsuit to prevent the disclosure of United Against a Nuclear Iran's donors, claiming that doing so would "cause harm to national security."
Haley also works as a consultant to Prism Global Management, a New York-based investment fund run by Richard Kang, a position that earned $708,335. While the investment fund has no substantial online presence, Kang is active in the defense world and serves as an advisor to America’s Frontier Fund, a new group backed by former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and run day-to-day by Gilman Louie, the former head of In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm.
At a launch event for the fund last year, a participant openly discussed the fact that America’s Frontier Fund is investing strategically in “choke points” in case of war between China and Taiwan, in which case the fund’s portfolio would increase “10x, like overnight.”
Michael Haley, Nikki’s husband, also launched his own defense contracting firm in recent years. Michael who previously served with the National Guard, along with stints in human resources and at a high-end clothing store, earns up to $500,000 from a company called Allied Defense.
An investigation from the Daily Beast showed that Allied Defense appears to overlap with a sister company, Defense Engineering Services, that helps clients “navigate political and legal concerns to allow for defense system acquisition."
IKOR Systems, a firm founded by Michael, touts clients in “aerospace manufacturing,” as well as gaming. The website for the company provides few details. But the company brought in up to $1 million in income for the couple.