Kelly and Joe Craft give the max to Trump’s rivals in GOP field for president

Former president did not endorse his U.N. ambassador in her run for Kentucky governor

By: - October 25, 2023 12:28 pm

In December 2019, then-President Donald Trump and then-Ambassador Kelly Craft spoke to the media during a luncheon with representatives of the United Nations Security Council in the Cabinet Room at the White House. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

FRANKFORT — Kelly Craft, who failed to secure Donald Trump’s endorsement in last May’s Republican primary for Kentucky governor, has donated to six Republican candidates for president in recent months.

None of the six is Donald Trump.

Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that since June 26 Kelly Craft and her husband Joe Craft, chief executive of Alliance Coal, each contributed $6,600 — the maximum allowed by law — to the presidential campaigns of former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Each also gave $3,300 to the presidential campaign of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who suspended his campaign in late September.

In addition, FEC records show that Kelly and Joe Craft each contributed $5,000 to another DeSantis-related political committee called Team Desantis.

DeSantis endorsed Craft in the May primary campaign for governor.

That adds up to $82,600 in contributions from the Crafts to alternatives to Trump in the large field of candidates seeking the 2024 Republican nomination for president.

Kelly Craft did not reply to text messages sent to her by Kentucky Lantern seeking comment on why she and her husband contributed to campaigns of these alternatives to Trump, who polls show is running far ahead of all of his rivals for the GOP nomination for president next year.

For many years Joe Craft has been a major donor to the committees and causes of many Republican candidates, including Trump. For instance, in 2017 he gave $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund, and in 2020 he gave $500,000 to a political committee called America First Action which supported candidates who backed then-President Trump’s policy agenda.

As president, Trump nominated Kelly Craft to be the U.S. ambassador to Canada, and he later nominated her to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In May of 2022 Trump came to Louisville for a political fundraiser of his own and made a brief public appearance at Churchill Downs just before the Kentucky Derby where he was photographed flanked by Kelly and Joe Craft.

But the following month Trump gave an early and unequivocal endorsement in Kentucky’s 2023 governor’s race to Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron. That was before Craft had formally entered the race for governor.

Cameron emphasized his endorsement by Trump (who won Kentucky in the 2020 presidential election by 26 points over Democrat Joe Biden) throughout the primary election, which he won by a landslide margin over Craft and other Republican contenders. Cameron continues to highlight the endorsement this fall in the general election against incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

Kelly and Joe Craft at a reception in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2017 after she became U.S. ambassador to Canada. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Kelly Craft)

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Tom Loftus
Tom Loftus

Tom Loftus is a native of Cincinnati and a graduate of The Ohio State University. His long career in Kentucky journalism includes four years as Frankfort bureau chief for The Kentucky Post and 32 years as Frankfort bureau chief for The Courier Journal. He is a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and a freelance reporter for the Kentucky Lantern.