The president of a white supremacist group that was referenced in a manifesto attributed to accused Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal shooter Dylann Roof donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns, including those of former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania) and Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Kentucky), all of whom are running for president in 2016, the New York Times reports.
Upon discovering the connection, Cruz announced Sunday night that he would be returning approximately $8,500 that he had received from the self-identified president of the Council of Conservative Citizens, Earl Holt III, since 2012.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the group as white nationalist, with a statement of priniciples that "oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind," and quotes the group as saying that "God is the author of racism."
"We just learned this evening that Mr. Holt had contributed to the campaign," a Cruz campaign representative wrote in an email to the Times. "We will be immediately refunding all those donations."
As the report notes, in a racist manifesto that was posted to a website registered in Roof's name, the writer said that he had first learned of "brutal black-on-white murders" from the Council of Conservative Citizens website.
The Times reports that a statement posted online in Holt's name said that the council wasn't surprised to learn that Roof had learned about "black-on-white violent crime" from the supremacist organization, since the group is one of few that "accurately and honestly report" it.
Holt did add this, however: "The CofCC is hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website. … The CofCC does not advocate illegal activities of any kind, and never has. I would gladly compare the honesty and law-abiding nature of our membership against that of any other group."
According to The Guardian, Holt has given some $65,000 to Republican campaigns in total, including some $1,750 to RandPAC, Paul's political action committee, and some $2,000 to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.