Leader of group linked to Charleston manifesto donated to GOP candidates

Earl Holt III, the head of a rightwing group allegedly linked to Dylann Roof, gave to Cruz, Paul and Santorum

The head of a right-wing group that has been linked to Dylann Roof, the suspect in the murders of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican presidential candidates, according to media reports.

The Guardian was the first to report donations to GOP presidential hopefuls Sen. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum by Earl Holt III, who is listed as president of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC).

Cruz told the New York Times on Sunday night that he would be returning $8,500 donated by Holt.

A spokesperson for Paul, a senator from Kentucky, did not respond to requests for comment on the donations, according to The Times and The Guardian. Matthew Beynon, a spokesman for Santorum, said in an email to The Guardian that “Senator Santorum does not condone or respect racist or hateful comments of any kind.”

According to a Guardian search of Federal Election Commission records, Holt contributed to Cruz and his Jobs, Growth and Freedom Fund political action committee.

Holt also donated $1,750 to RandPAC, Paul’s political action committee, and he gave $2,000 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. He also gave $1,500 to Santorum, who attended the memorial service at Mother Emanuel, as the Emanuel AME Church is known.

CofCC describes itself on its website as the “only serious nationwide activist group that sticks up for white rights!”

The website registered in Roof’s name featured a racist manifesto. It is believed, but not confirmed, that he wrote the unsigned screed, which says the author first learned of “brutal black-on-white murders” from the CofCC site, according to both news outlets.

The Southern Poverty Law Center views the CofCC as “a white supremacist extremist organization that opposes “race mixing” as a religious affront and that vilifies blacks as an inferior race,” according to the Times. The group emerged from the Citizens Councils of America, which Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once referred to as the “uptown Klan,” according to the SPLC site. 

The “Statement of Principles” for the CoCC says its members believe the “United States is a Christian country,” embrace “states’ rights, the right to keep and bear arms, and the bill of rights, and believe “public monuments and symbols should reflect the real heritage of our people, and not a politically convenient, inaccurate, insulting, or fictitious heritage.”

Holt, who according to the Times has identified himself on some records as a “Texas slumlord.” According to media reports, he has donated $65,000 to Republican campaign funds including those of including Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona ($1,000), Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas ($1,500), former Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota ($3,200), Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, and former Representative Todd Akin of Missouri.

In a statement published on Sunday, the same day hundreds of people jammed services at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where the June 17 shootings occurred, Holt said it was not surprising that “Roof — the alleged perpetrator of mass murder in Charleston this week — credits the CofCC website for his knowledge of black-on-white violent crime.

“The CofCC is 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 went on to say “We are no more responsible for the actions of this sad young man, than the Olin Corporation was for manufacturing the ammo misused by Colin Ferguson to murder six whites on the Long Island Railroad in 1993.”

Statements signed by a person using Holt’s full name, Earl P. Holt III, and referring to Longview, Texas, as his hometown — where Holt lives, have been posted over the past four years to The Blaze, a conservative news website, according to The Guardian.

Jared Taylor, a close associate of Holt and former director of the CofCC, told The Guardian that Holt had asked him to handle media for inquiries relating to the Charleston massacre. He said, “If there’s a statement that is ‘Earl P Holt III’, he probably made it.”

Under a February 2014 article, the Guardian reported that the user named Holt warned other readers that black activists would “kill you, rape your entire family, and burn your house to the ground”. According to an account of a report by a witness, Roof said to his victims in Charleston last week: “You rape our women” before he began firing.

Al Jazeera with wire services

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