Ron DeSantis-backing super PAC picks up disillusioned Koch network staffers

A top New Hampshire political operative who worked for Americans for Prosperity’s political arm and was upset with the group’s endorsement of Nikki Haley is joining a super PAC supporting Ron DeSantis.

Chris Maidment is the latest staffer with AFP — a branch of the powerful Koch network — to leave and join the DeSantis effort after it decided to back Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, last week. He will be Never Back Down’s New Hampshire political director.

AFP’s decision to endorse Haley confounded many longtime Koch-world operatives, who view her not only as someone with little chance to win the Republican presidential nomination but also as someone who is out of step with many of their beliefs — particularly because of her interventionist foreign policy instincts.

Maidment, who had been a director of grassroots operations in New Hampshire for AFP, spoke out on X after the endorsement that he opposed the group’s decision and would not be helping it elect her.

In his post last Friday, Maidment wrote that he had “lost all faith” in AFP leadership with the endorsement and would vote for President Joe Biden over Haley “10 times out of 10,” citing concern over her foreign policy views.

He told NBC News that he was then “terminated” from his job.

“Voters are ready to turn the page from the past. But more than just the last eight years, Republicans are ready to turn the page on failed interventionist foreign policies, cronyism, and appeasement of progressive policies that keep Americans down,” he said in a statement to NBC News.

“Nikki Haley represents this failed past, while Governor DeSantis represents the future,” he added. “I’m excited to join the Never Back Down team and keep growing their historic grassroots and political operation in New Hampshire to elect Ron DeSantis our next President.” 

In Iowa, Never Back Down recently hired two grassroots directors who left AFP because of the Haley endorsement, as was first reported by Semafor.

Last week, an AFP official played down any internal divisions.

“This is primary season, and with a grassroots organization as large as AFP Action, it’s entirely expected to see some individuals move to different campaigns or pursue other opportunities,” an AFP official said. “But AFP Action has also heard from a number of people excited about our endorsement and interested in ways they can join our team and help the effort. And the response we’re already seeing at the doors reinforces that excitement and momentum.”

Since the endorsement, AFP Action, the group’s political arm, has added more than 120 volunteers and reached out to more than 180,000 voters across the country to build support for Haley.

Haley and DeSantis are battling for second place in the polls in the Republican presidential contest; both still trail former President Donald Trump by double digits.

DeSantis’ failure to hang on to what was once supposed to be a safe No. 2 spot has shaken up the strategy around his bid. A new super PAC, Fight Right, recently popped up, run by one of his close allies.

And Never Back Down has undergone its own turmoil. On Saturday, it installed a new CEO — its third in two weeks.