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GOP Candidates Return Funds From Leader of Hate Group

Republican presidential candidates who received donations from the head of a white supremacist group that is believed to have inspired Dylann Roof, the alleged shooter in the Charleston church massacre, are donating or returning the contributions.
Image: Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) waits before addressing a legislative luncheon held as part of the \"Road to Majority\" conference in Washington
Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) waits before addressing a legislative luncheon held as part of the "Road to Majority" conference in Washington June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria CARLOS BARRIA / Reuters

Republican presidential candidates who received donations from the head of a white supremacist group that is believed to have inspired the alleged shooter in the Charleston church massacre are donating or returning the contributions.

GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz all received funding from Council of Conservative Citizens head Earl Holt, whose group is cited on a website believed to belong to the man arrested for the shooting, Dylann Roof.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Council of Conservative Citizens as a white supremacist extremist group.

Santorum received $1,500 from Holt, and RandPAC, Paul’s political action committee, received $1,740, according the Guardian, which first reported the story. Both candidates plan to donated the money to a fund created to aid the families of the nine victims killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week.

“Rather than put more money back in the pockets of such an individual, my 2012 campaign committee will be donating the amount of his past donations to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund to support the victims of this tragedy,” Santorum said in a statement.

Sen. Ted Cruz, former senator Rick Santorum and Sen. Rand Paul.-- / AFP - Getty Images

Cruz’s campaign said it would return $8,500 the Texas senator has received from Holt, who is also a Texan.

The three Republicans are far from the only political donations Holt has made. Federal Election Commission records show Holt has donated to a number of current and former GOP members of Congress that has totaled $65,000 in recent years, according to the Guardian.

In his manifesto, Roof said he had learned about “brutal black-on-white murders” from the Council of Conservative Citizens’ website. Holt responded in a statement saying it was “not surprising” Roof found the information on the group’s site.

“The CofCC is hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website,” he said in a statement posted online.