The head of a white supremacist group that appears to have influenced the alleged shooter in last week's mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, has donated money to dozens of Republican candidates and causes, including presidential hopefuls Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
A website registered to Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old suspected of murdering nine black churchgoers in a massacre that has rocked the nation, includes a manifesto that traces the author's views on race back to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. The manifesto — whose author has not yet been confirmed and is being investigated by federal authorities — cites the Council of Conservative Citizens as the source of information that prompted the author realize "that something was very wrong" about the way America made "a big deal" about the killing of black youth like Trayvon Martin while shunning the problem of "black on white crime."
The Council of Conservative Citizens, an activist organization that believes that "the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character" is led by president Earl Holt III. According to FEC data first reported by the Guardian and independently analyzed by Mic, Holt has given $65,250 to dozens of influential Republican politicians since 2004.
The list of candidates and groups he's donated to is long, but most notable are his donations over the past few years to the previous campaigns and PACs of three current presidential contenders: Cruz, Paul, and Santorum.
When the Guardian reached out to the presidential candidates whose campaigns had taken money from Holt, they immediately disavowed any association with him. Cruz promised to refund the money, Paul's camp said it would be donated to the church from last week's massacre, and Santorum's team refrained from commenting about the money but did say they didn't condone any of Holt's views.
Congresswoman Mia Love, a Republican from Utah, also said on Monday that she would return donations received from Holt.
Who is Eric Holt? Holt sits at the helm of a fringe hub for white supremacist right-wingers who fear that attempts to achieve racial harmony will ensure the downfall of the United States.
The second item in the council's statement of principles says that "we believe the United states is a European country and that Americans are part of the European people." Here's what they mean by that:
We believe that the United States derives from and is an integral part of European civilization and the European people and that the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character. We therefore oppose the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime. We believe that illegal immigration must be stopped, if necessary by military force and placing troops on our national borders; that illegal aliens must be returned to their own countries; and that legal immigration must be severely restricted or halted through appropriate changes in our laws and policies. We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.
The Guardian has linked Holt with an avatar online that repeatedly refers to black people as "niggers" and "Africanus Criminalis."
In a statement regarding the Charleston shootings and the possible ideological link between Roof and his organization, Holt said that he condemned the shooting, but also that it was "not surprising" that Roof may have learned about "the seemingly endless incidents involving black-on-white murder" through his website.
Why it matters: Campaigns don't typically vet every small donor — at least not until reporters start asking questions about them — so it wouldn't be fair to paint their acceptance of Holt's money as any kind of alignment with his worldview. But given that most white supremacists in the U.S. are on the conservative side of the political spectrum, it's a reminder of how important it is for conservative politicians to be candid about the racial nature of the Charleston attack. Given that few of them have truly grappled with this reality, it seems like a missed opportunity for the country to grow.