WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of a white supremacist group cited by the alleged killer of nine people at a black South Carolina church last week has given thousands of dollars to several 2016 Republican presidential candidates, according to media reports.
Earl Holt III of Texas, leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens, has donated a total of $65,000 to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, among other politicians in recent years, Britain's The Guardian newspaper reported late on Sunday.
The New York Times also reported the donations on Monday.
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Reuters could not immediately confirm the reports.
According to the Guardian, Holt also donated to campaigns for other Republicans, including U.S. Representative Steve King of Iowa, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Representatives for Cruz told the papers his campaign would immediately return the $8,500 given by Holt.
A spokesman for Paul said the campaign could not confirm the amount received from Holt but that all contributions would be donated to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund for victims of the shooting, the New York Times reported.
Last Wednesday's shootings took place in Charleston during a Bible study session at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as "Mother Emanuel."
In a statement on Monday, Santorum said he would donate the funds Holt gave his 2012 campaign to the same fund. He did not say how much Holt gave.
Flake is donating the $1,000 contribution he received to the Mother Emanuel fund, his office said in a statement.
Holt has also donated to former congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, The Guardian said.
CNN reported that U.S. Representative Mia Love of Utah, the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, would also return three donations from Holt.
According to the media reports, records show Holt, 62, lists himself as president of the group, which the suspect in the South Carolina shootings, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who is white, reportedly cited in a racist manifesto he appears to have written and that surfaced over the weekend.
Reuters could not confirm who created the website with the manifesto or the authenticity of photographs posted on it. The FBI has said it is investigating the website.
In a statement on Sunday, Holt said he was not surprised his group helped inform Roof but that it was "hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual," according to the newspapers. The group, on its website, has said it was saddened by the shootings.
The Missouri-based Council of Conservative Citizens advocates "whites' rights" and believes "the United States is a European country and that Americans are part of the European people." It opposes integration and so-called race-mixing and calls for the halt of immigration, according to its website.
The organization has been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist group that has called blacks "a retrograde species of humanity."
(Reporting by Washington Newsroom; Editing by Bernadette Baum, James Dalgleish and Eric Beech)