The leader of a white nationalist group cited in a chilling manifesto apparently written by the suspect in last week’s massacre at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina donated thousands of dollars to Republican presidential candidates, campaign finance records show.
The Guardian late Sunday first reported that Earl Holt III, the president of the Council of Conservative Citizens, donated to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
The Council of Conservative Citizens is a white nationalist group based in St. Louis, Missouri that once had close ties to congressional Republicans. Prominent Southern GOPers including former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) spoke to the group several times in the 1990s, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Conservative politicians continued to associate with the group even after the Republican National Committee asked party members to sever ties with it in 1998, according to the SPLC.
Dylann Roof, the white, 21-year-old male charged with nine counts of murder after he opened fire at the downtown Charleston church, Emanuel AME, credited the Council of Conservative Citizens in the alleged manifesto with opening his eyes to “black on White” crime following the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.
“There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief,” the manifesto read. “At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?”
Holt said Sunday in a statement posted to the group’s website that his organization is “hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website.”
Federal Election Commission records show Holt has donated tens of thousands of dollars to various Republican candidates and conservative political action committees over the years. Rep. Mia Love (R-UT), the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, was notably among the beneficiaries of Holt’s largesse.
Holt donated $8,500 to Cruz and his Jobs, Growth & Freedom Fund political action committee, records show. He also donated $2,250 to Paul’s super PAC and $1,500 to Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign.
A Cruz campaign spokesman told The Guardian that the senator would be refunding Holt’s donations immediately. Doug Stafford, chief strategist for Paul’s presidential campaign, told the publication that the senator would donate Holt’s contributions to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, which was set up to benefit the families of the Charleston shooting victims.
Santorum later issued a statement saying that he would also be donating the funds he received from Holt to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.
Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that the name of the white nationalist group is Council of Conservative Citizens.