Right-wing leader’s donations tie top 2016 GOP candidates to Charleston controversy

The leader of a right-wing group cited by suspected Charleston shooter Dylann Roof in his alleged manifesto has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans candidates, reports the Guardian

Earl Holt, 62, president of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC or CofCC), has reportedly donated $65,000 in recent years to candidates, including several currently seeking the 2016 GOP nomination such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

According to the manifesto attributed to Roof, the alleged 21-year-old shooter discovered the CCC’s website after reading a Wikipedia article about the case of George Zimmerman, who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. As of Sunday, the CCC’s website was offline. 

“The CofCC is hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website.”

The organization, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “is the modern reincarnation of the old White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle school desegregation in the South.” Due to a “veneer of civic respectability,” the future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall referred to the groups as the “uptown Klan,” referencing the Ku Klux Klan. 

In a statement on Sunday, Holt wrote it is “not surprising” that Roof had credited his website. “The CofCC is hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website,” Holt said.

Roof was arrested on June 18 after a 14-hour manhunt. A surveillance camera allegedly captured him entering the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the night before. Survivors of the shooting say he sat with the church’s bible study group for nearly an hour before opening fire. Nine people were killed, including the pastor, Clementa Pinckney.

According to the Guardian, Holt has contributed at least $8,500 to Sen. Cruz and his political action committee since 2012. He gave another $1,750 to RandPAC, the political action committee for Kentucky senator Rand Paul. Holt gave an additional $1,500 to Santorum, whom the Guardian notes was present at the Emanuel AME memorial service on Sunday.

Holt further donated $2,000 to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and $3,200 to former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), during previous presidential campaigns.

A spokesperson for the Cruz campaign said they had discovered Holt’s contributed and a “full refund” would be made. Paul’s campaign has reportedly elected to donate Holt’s donation to Emanuel AME. A spokesperson for Santorum’s campaign said the senator “does not condone or respect racist or hateful comments of any kind.”

Federal Election Commission filings also show that Holt has contributed tens of thousands towards Republican congressmen, such as Rep. Steve King of Iowa, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Holt’s online activities have been closely scrutinized since Roof’s alleged manifesto was made public. Numerous racist remarks attributed to the username Earl P Holt III were discovered on the conservative news website The Blaze. In one comment, dated April 2012, the user with Holt’s name asked other users about acquiring “180 grain .308 NATO rounds with a polymer tip,” referring to a powerful type of ammunition.

An associate of Holt’s told the Guardian: “If there’s a statement that is ‘Earl P Holt III’, he probably made it.” 

H/T Guardian | Photo by Gage Skidmore/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron was a reporter at the Daily Dot who covered security and politics. In 2015, he revealed the existence of an American hacker on the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist. He is a co-author of the Sabu Files, an award-nominated investigation into the FBI's use of cyber-informants. He became a staff writer at Gizmodo in 2017.