Some top GOP donors are having trouble choosing a 2024 candidate — so they’re picking two

Republican donors are already starting to fall in line behind their preferred candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. But some of the party’s most recognizable givers are having trouble choosing between multiple items on the menu.

At least 110 Republican donors gave the maximum primary donation allowed under federal law to at least two GOP presidential primary candidates, an NBC News analysis of campaign finance reports shows. A small handful gave to three or more Republican White House hopefuls.

Some of Trump’s biggest donor allies from past election cycles haven’t yet made disclosed donations to the former president this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission filings, but have gifted maximum donations to multiple Trump rivals.

Harold Hamm, the oil magnate and former Trump ally, previously donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trump’s two presidential campaigns and Republican Party organizations under his control. So far this year, Hamm has gone in other direction: He maxed out to former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Joe and Kelly Craft, the former a major coal executive and the latter Trump’s United Nations ambassador after Haley, were both major donors to Trump and his allied groups during his previous presidential bids. This year, they have made maximum donations to a whole host of candidates: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and DeSantis.

Before making the flurry of donations to Trump’s GOP rivals in June, Kelly Craft forcefully highlighted her ties to Trump during an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in Kentucky this year, peppering many of her TV ads with images of the former president and references to her service in his administration. A representative for Craft did not return requests to comment on her donations.

As Trump continues to hold onto a significant lead in the polls, just a small handful of donors maxed out to both the frontrunner and one of his opponents. One of note: Andrew Puzder, who was nominated for Labor secretary by Trump but withdrew when it became clear he wouldn’t be confirmed. The fast-food magnate gave to both Trump and Pence, making him the only person who appears to have maxed out to both estranged former running mates so far.

The most overlap among these donors who gave the maximum to multiple candidates was between DeSantis, Haley and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. It’s a small reflection of the muddled polling picture among wealthy Republicans, who are less keen on Trump than the rest of the party but divided among the possible alternatives.

DeSantis and Haley share at least 27 maxed-out donors, Haley and Scott (the race’s two South Carolinians) share at least 25 maxed-out donors, and DeSantis and Scott share at least 18 maxed-out donors.

Billionaire Republican megadonor Harlan Crow (who has been in the news recently amid criticism of his relationship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) is one notable donor who gave at least $3,300 to both DeSantis and Haley.

And hedge fund billionaire Cliff Asness gave the two South Carolina candidates maximum donations.

There were some other, less common combinations, too.

William Oberndorf, a prominent Republican donor who broke with the party to vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, backed both Haley and North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum.

And Francis Brogan III, a political operative-turned-restaurateur who runs, among other venues, a Florida-themed bar in Washington, D.C., gave maximum checks to both DeSantis and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, the only donor to do so through the end of June.

“As a native Floridian, I was happy to max out to both of the Florida natives in the race. DeSantis and Suarez (alongside my former boss Rick Scott) have led Florida’s growth into the innovation and economic powerhouse that it is today,” Brogan told NBC News in an email, adding that he also maxed out to the Tim Scott campaign.

“This is the most diverse GOP field in history, which speaks to the expanding Republican big tent,” Brogan continued. “A spirited primary is good for our party and nation.”

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