Note to Candidates: Count Contributions Carefully

By Thomas L. Knapp

The fallout continues from last week’s massacre at an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. In an online manifesto of sorts, accused killer Dylann Roof credits an organization called the Council of Conservative Citizens with inspiring his racist agenda.

Now, it turns out, at least three Republican presidential candidates (Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum) and one likely candidate (Scott Walker) have received campaign or PAC contributions from CCC’s president, Earl Holt III. All four are returning the contributions or donating similar sums to charities.

But there’s more to this story. Writing in the Washington Post, Will Greenberg and Tom Hamburger report that “[t]here is no evidence that the campaigns, including those of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum, were aware of the group’s background.”

That’s probably not true. If it IS true, it makes those candidates look, well, incompetent.

The Council of Conservative Citizens, which “oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind … and to force the integration of the races,” has been been scandalously associated with the Republican Party since at least as far back as the 1980s.

Numerous Republicans, including US Representative (and later, to the shame of the Libertarian Party, its presidential nominee) Bob Barr, US Senator Trent Lott, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour and Mike Huckabee, then lieutenant governor of Arkansas, have addressed the group’s events and been called out for doing so.

In 1999, Republican National Committee chairman Jim Nicholson asked Republican CCC members to disassociate themselves from the organization.

And in two presidential campaigns, Rand Paul’s father, Ron Paul, was dogged by associations with CCC, including a scheduled (but either missed or “disappeared”) appearance on its “Political Cesspool” radio show and contributions from CCC activist Virginia Abernethy.

CCC is not a new problem for the GOP. It’s been a problem for nearly 30 years. Presidential campaign staffers have been down this rabbit hole in previous election cycles. Anyone running a serious campaign for the GOP’s presidential nomination knows — or SHOULD know — that CCC-linked money comes with scandal attached to it.

No, I’m not accusing these four candidates of being racists. But in politics, it matters who you hang out with and whose checks you cash. In the information age, a computerized contributor blacklist (“return checks from X”) just isn’t that complicated to implement … and only returning the money after you get caught doesn’t cut the mustard.

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Thomas Knapp

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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