Nikki Haley isn't divulging what she said in paid private speeches

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Nikki Haley doesn't have transcripts, notes or recordings of the paid remarks she made to private audiences before she became a presidential candidate, her campaign told NBC News on Thursday.

Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, earned $100,000 to $1 million for each of a dozen speaking engagements in 2022 and 2023, according to a financial disclosure statement she filed in March. The form requires candidates to provide ranges of income only. CNBC, citing seven sources with knowledge of her arrangements, reported in 2019 that Haley charged $200,000 and the use of a private jet per U.S. speaking gig.

Haley's speaking tour took her to Singapore, Australia and Canada, as well as cities across the U.S., where she met with bankers, firms that do business with China, and pro-Israel groups, among other entities with interests in the federal policy she hopes to oversee as president. Several of the companies promote "ESG" policies — considering environmental, social and governance factors in making business decisions — which have been the subject of derision from conservatives.

A onetime accountant, Haley kept track of the cash. But as for what she said, she doesn't have the receipts, a spokesperson for her campaign said.

Most of Haley’s appearances were conducted as question-and-answer sessions, rather than formal speeches, the spokesperson added.

"Whether as governor, ambassador, private citizen or presidential candidate, Nikki has never shied away from telling the American people where she stands on important issues," the spokesperson said in response to requests for records of her remarks. "Nikki is the only candidate with real momentum, and she’ll continue to share her message for a strong and proud America.”

That's a turn from 2016, when Haley, campaigning on behalf of the presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., ripped a pair of his rivals for not shedding more light on their own activities.

"We have two presidential candidates that refuse to disclose information, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump," Haley said in February 2016 as she praised Rubio for his integrity. At the time, Clinton was under tremendous pressure from Democrats, Republicans and watchdogs to release transcripts of her paid speeches, and Trump faced calls, some from Haley, to make his tax returns public.

NBC News on Thursday asked each of the 12 groups that paid Haley to meet with them for any materials that would reveal what she said. Most of them said they had no records, wouldn’t provide information about her remarks or didn't reply.

Barclays, China and ESG

Two of Haley's speeches were to branches of Barclays, the London-based bank, which has been a beneficiary of billions of dollars of Chinese investment and has expanded its business in China over the past decade. Haley spoke on the dime of Barclays Capital Asia Limited in Singapore in November 2022 after having been paid to meet with Barclays Services Corp. in New York in March of last year.

Never Back Down, a super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' presidential bid, is running ads in Iowa and New Hampshire that portray Haley as soft on China because South Carolina donated land so China would build a fiberglass company in the state under her watch. Florida has banned providing land to China after having done so earlier in DeSantis' tenure.

A Barclays spokesman said he would look into the availability of records of Haley’s remarks but didn't provide them before this article was published. The bank promotes its ESG policies on its website: “Our approach to environmental and social issues is becoming increasingly integrated in the work we do across our business.”

Haley recently received a grade of C-plus on efforts to fight corporate ESG consideration from the conservative Heartland Institute, in part because, the organization has said, she had little public record on the matter.

“Let’s call ESG what it really is: corporate socialism,” Haley said in a statement to the group. “What we need is capitalism and not businesses caving to the left. When they do, everybody loses.”

'I don't care if Americans buy T-shirts ... from China'

Haley was unequivocal about her stance toward China in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

"I view China as an enemy," she said.

That's consistent with part of what she said in paid remarks to ASC Communications, which runs Beckers Healthcare and produces health care industry news; it posted a link to her April 27 remarks to the group.

Haley said she spoke with her Russian and Chinese counterparts every day when she was Trump's ambassador to the U.N., because "you always keep your enemies close to know what they're doing all the time." Under the shadow of the Covid pandemic, she questioned the wisdom of America's relying on China to produce masks, medicine and medical tests.

But she sounded much less worried about Americans' buying other Chinese goods.

"I don't care if Americans buy T-shirts or light bulbs from China," she said in an interview at Beckers Annual Hospital Review meeting. "But I don't want them having to get their medications or anything that's a national security threat from China."

Trump, the front-runner in the polls for the Republican nomination, has proposed phasing out all imports from China over four years.

DeSantis, who was tied with Haley for second place in Iowa in the most recent NBC News poll, has landed in a spot between those two positions.

"Our focus is going to be less maybe on, like, a typical consumer good than it would be on things that are more significant in terms of our defense, in terms of pharmaceuticals, in terms of things that you really, really would need," he said in August in an interview with CNBC. "I think it’s going to be a combination."

High finance, no disclosure — and more business in China

Players in the finance sector were among those most interested in hearing from Haley — and willing to part with six-figure sums to do so. In addition to the branches of Barclays, Haley spoke to audiences from BMO, Partners Group, Linden Capital Partners and Water Street Healthcare Partners. The latter three are private equity firms; BMO is the U.S. arm of the Bank of Montreal.

Like Barclays, BMO promotes its consideration of ESG factors in making business decisions, listing climate change, human rights and cultural heritage issues among a long list of risks to investors. BMO's business in China dates to 1818, according to a timeline on the bank's website. More recently, it opened its first office there in 1983.

BMO didn't respond to a request for Haley's remarks. Neither did Parker Hannifin, a U.S.-based technology company that boasts more than 2,000 product lines and eight offices in China. Haley spoke to a Parker group in September 2022, according to her financial disclosure.

The company, which specializes in motion and control technologies, makes parts for planes, trains and automobiles, as well as medical devices, construction vehicles and mining equipment.

Pro-Israel and Jewish groups

Since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel and through Israel's ensuing war with Hamas, Haley has expressed unflinching support for Israel's response. As Trump's ambassador to the U.N., she defended Israel regularly.

In between, she accepted fees for meeting with Jewish and pro-Israel groups in Australia and Canada. In May 2022, Haley spoke with a group from the Mount Scopus College Foundation, the funding source for an Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne, Australia. Later in the year, she traveled twice to Canada and was paid for speeches to the Canadian Friends of the Jerusalem College of Technology and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Nicole Amiel, a spokesperson for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said that, to her knowledge, there are no records of Haley's remarks. Mount Scopus College said the same. The Canadian Friends of the Jerusalem College of Technology didn't respond to a request for comment.

What Haley won't say

In addition to declining to make records of Haley's paid appearances available, her aides wouldn't put an exact dollar figure on each of them.

They also declined to say whether voters should be concerned when presidential candidates are paid for speeches by entities with business before the federal government or whether Haley would recuse herself from decisions affecting companies that paid her for private speeches.

Haley remains in third place in most national polls of the Republican primary field, trailing Trump and DeSantis. But she has been surging in early states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — that can have an outsize effect on the nomination process.

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