The person Dylann Roof has credited with helping shape his views on race was Earl Holt, the leader of a right-wing group in Missouri called the Council of Conservative Citizens, or CofCC. The council has been criticized for its white supremacist leanings and for perpetuating racist opinions in its Internet message boards, according to the Guardian. Meanwhile, Holt, 62, has given tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations in recent years to prominent Republicans, including presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum.
Holt’s political contributions have included $8,500 to Cruz, $2,000 to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012 and $1,500 to Santorum. The contributions to Republicans totaled about $65,000. He listed his occupation as “slumlord” on some of his campaign donations filings, the Guardian reported.
Nine people died in last week’s shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Police identified Roof as the alleged shooter. The 21-year-old South Carolina native had apparently targeted the African-American church for its historical significance. Photos of Roof that surfaced online in the wake of the shooting show him posing with the weapon he allegedly used to shoot nine churchgoers on Wednesday, donning patches on his jacket that depicted symbols of white supremacy and waving the Confederate flag, which many consider a lasting symbol of racism.
Roof described his motivations for the shooting in a manifesto posted to a website, lastrhodesian.com, which was discovered over the weekend. The writings included references to the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012, an event Roof said “awakened” him to the “brutal black-on-white murders” that he said were ignored in the media.
Holt released a statement Sunday distancing himself and the group from the shooting. “The CofCC is hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website,” Holt said, referring to Roof's having cited the group in his manifesto.
Some Republicans who accepted money from Holt have said they would return the money he donated to their campaigns. “We just learned this evening that Mr. Holt had contributed to the campaign,” a spokesman for the Cruz campaign told the New York Times. “We will be immediately refunding all those donations.”