Republicans return supremacist’s cash
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Republican candidates in and out of the 2016 presidential contest are racing to distance themselves from a Texas white supremacist linked to last week’s shooting massacre in a black South Carolina church.

The lawmakers include Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves Florida sheriff asks for new leads in disappearance of Carole Baskin's former husband after Netflix's 'Tiger King' drops MORE (R-Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGeorgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Ky.), both presidential hopefuls, as well as Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRemembering Tom Coburn's quiet persistence Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner GOP seeks up to 0 billion to maximize financial help to airlines, other impacted industries MORE (R-Wis.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP senator to donate 2 months of salary in coronavirus fight Senators pen op-ed calling for remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Some Democrats growing antsy as Senate talks drag on MORE (R-Ohio), who face tough reelection bids next year. 

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All have joined the growing group of Republicans vowing to refund or donate campaign contributions from Earl Holt III, leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.”

Dylann Roof, who was charged with killing nine African-Americans at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, allegedly cited the group’s website in a manifesto posted ahead of the shootings, which he credits with opening his eyes to “brutal black on White murders.”

Paul spokesman Doug Stafford told The Hill that the Kentucky Republican would donate the $2,250 he received from Holt to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, created to help the victims’ families.

The offices of Portman, Johnson and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcSally campaign to suspend TV ads, canvassing amid pandemic Coronavirus isn't the only reason Congress should spend less time in DC Trump Jr. says he inherited 'Tourette's of the thumbs' from his father MORE (R-Ariz.), another benefactor of Holt’s donations, quickly followed suit.

“As soon as we discovered that Mr. Holt had contributed to the campaign, we immediately donated the full amount of his contribution to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund,” said Betsy Ankney, a spokeswoman for Johnson, who received $1,250 from Holt.

Cruz’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday, but his presidential campaign told The New York Times it had only recently learned that Holt gave $8,500 to his campaign — money it plans to return.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), another 2016 contender who received donations from Holt in 2012, is also distancing himself. In a statement, he said he would also donate the money to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.

“I abhor the sentiments Mr. Holt has expressed. These statements and sentiments are unacceptable. Period. End of sentence,” Santorum said. “Our campaign is about, and has always been about, uniting America, not dividing her.”

The issue has quickly become campaign fodder, with Democratic strategists wasting no time attacking vulnerable Republicans for accepting the donations to begin with. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a statement Monday charging Portman with making a “calculated political decision” to donate the money “only after realizing the political consequences.”

“Rob Portman is already running the most negative campaign in the country despite the election being 14 months away,” said spokeswoman Sadie Weiner, “and now we know he’s willing to take money from just about anyone in order to stay in office.”

Holt has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans over the span of more than a decade.

His largess includes donations to former President George W. Bush and 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. An overwhelming bulk of the money has gone to Republican congressional contenders, a long list that includes Reps. Steve King (Iowa), Louis Gohmert (Texas), Mia Love (Utah), former Reps. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannEvangelicals shouldn't be defending Trump in tiff over editorial Mellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations MORE (Minn.) and Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.).

In a 2,400-word manifesto, Roof allegedly says he was “awakened” by the case of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager fatally shot by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman in Florida in 2012. Researching online, “the first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens,” the posting reads. 

“There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief,” he said. “At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?”

The Council of Conservative Citizens posted a statement on its website Sunday saying the group “unequivocally condemns Roof’s murderous actions.”

“However,” the statement says, “the council stands unshakably behind the facts on its website, and points out the dangers of denying the extent of black-on-white crime.”

Holt has also weighed in, strongly condemning the shooting but adding that it’s “not surprising” the alleged gunman was influenced by the group’s catalogue of black-on-white violence.

“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 said.

“The CofCC website exists because media either ‘spike’ such stories, or intentionally obscure the race of black offenders,” he added. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks race-based hate groups nationwide, lists the Council of Conservative Citizens as a “white nationalist” organization.