The leader of a white supremacist group – whose website may have been visited by Dylann Roof, the man charged with shooting nine people in a Charleston, S.C. church last week – has donated $65,000 to in recent years to Republican candidates such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum, federal records show.
Earl Holt III is listed as the president of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), an activist organization cited by the author of a manifesto-style text posted on The Last Rodesian, a website registered under Roof’s name. The author of the text explains that he was "truly awakened" by the Trayvon Martin case and became extremely interested in black-on-white violence while browsing the Council of Conservative Citizens website. The manifesto's author is thought to be Roof, and the manifesto and website are under investigation by the FBI.
The CofCC is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a white nationalist extremist group that is primarily opposed to "race-mixing" and, more recently, non-white immigration. It is a contemporary reincarnation of the White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle desegregation in the South, according to the SPLC website.
In a statement published Sunday, Holt said he was "not surprised" that the CofCC was mentioned in Roof's alleged manifesto, as the group has "one of perhaps three websites in the world that accurately and honestly report black-on-white violent crime, and in particular, the seemingly endless incidents involving black-on-white murder."
Holt also stated that the CofCC is "hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website" and "does not advocate illegal activities of any kind, and never has."
Since 2012, Holt has contributed $8,500 to presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas and his Jobs, Growth and Freedom Fund political action committee, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, The Guardian reports.
Holt also gave $1,750 to RandPAC, the political action committee of Kentucky senator and 2016 presidential contender Rand Paul.
An additional $1,500 was donated by Holt to Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and 2012 Republican presidential primary runner-up, who is running for president again in 2016. Santorum attended Sunday’s memorial service at Emanuel AME Church.
When reached for comment by The Guardian, a spokesman for Cruz said that his campaign and PAC would be making "a full refund" of the Holt donation.
A spokesman for Santorum told The Guardian: “Senator Santorum does not condone or respect racist or hateful comments of any kind. Period. The views the Senator campaigns on are his own and he is focused on uniting America, not dividing her.”
Holt has also donated tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Republicans in congress, including Rep. Steve King of Iowa ($2,000), Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas ($1,500), Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona ($1,000), and former Minnesota congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann ($3,200). He gave $2,000 to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.