When Dylann Roof planned his violent attack on a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, one of his alleged sources of inspiration was the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), a designated white nationalist hate group that has written extensively about the inferiority and violent tendencies of non-white people.
The current leader of the CCC, Earl Holt, has donated tens of thousands of dollars Republican candidates for President and Congress — money that these officials are now scrambling to disavow and return.
Aides to Texas Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz say they “will be immediately refunding” the $8,500 Holt has donated to his campaign and PAC, the Jobs, Growth and Freedom Fund.
Kentucky Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul’s spokesman says they will be donating the $1,750 they received from Holt to a fund for the victims of the Charleston church attack.
Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker says he will give the $3,500 received from Holt since 2011 to an unnamed charity.
Yet Rick Santorum, another presidential candidate who received donations from Holt, responded only that he “does not condone or respect racist or hateful comments of any kind,” and while he did not say whether he would return the money, he added that he is “focused on uniting America, not dividing her.”
Holt also gave generously to congressional campaigns, backing Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and other lawmakers who oppose immigration reform and the social safety net.
In a tweet posted Monday, Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton said he too would return the $1,500 he received from Holt, adding that he does “not agree with his hateful beliefs and language and believe they are hurtful to our country.”
Many of these politicians, most notably Ted Cruz, have spent their careers advocating for the right of all U.S. citizens to spend as much money as possible to influence the outcome of elections. Just a few months ago, Cruz told supporters in New Hampshire: “I believe in free speech and the First Amendment, which means everyone here has a right to speak out in politics as effectively as possible.” He introduced a bill last year to eliminate all limits on direct political contributions.
In his donation disclosures, Holt did not identify himself as the leader of the CCC, listing his occupation instead as either “slumlord,” “retired slumlord,” “writer” or “entrepreneur.”
Yet Holt has been connected to many racist posts online, some of them insinuating violence against people of color.
In a statement published this weekend, Holt said he was “hardly responsible” for Roof’s massacre “merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website.”