WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidates, GOP lawmakers and the lone black Republican in the House are returning donations from the leader of a white supremacist group cited by Charleston church murder suspect Dylann Roof or giving the money to charity.
Rep. Mia Love of Utah, an African-American Republican woman who was elected to the House last year, said through a spokesman that she had returned $1,000 in donations from Earl Holt, leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens.
The presidential campaigns of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rick Santorum said they would donate the money received from Holt to a fund set up by Charleston's mayor to assist the victims' families.
"I abhor the sentiments Mr. Holt has expressed," Santorum said in a statement. "These statements and sentiments are unacceptable. Period. End of sentence."
Holt has contributed more than $60,000 to Republicans since 2010, including several White House hopefuls, Federal Election Commission records show.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to announce his presidential candidacy next month, has received $3,500 in donations from Holt since 2011. Walker will also donate the money to the charity supporting the victims' families, said his spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, in an email.
An online manifesto purportedly written by Roof, the suspect in last week's murder of nine African-Americans at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, said he learned about "brutal black on white murders" from the Council of Conservative Citizens website.
Another presidential hopeful, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, said he will return the $8,500 he received from Holt.
In a statement posted online Sunday, Holt said that it "was not surprising" that Roof credited his group with his knowledge of black-on-white crime. But he added that the Council of Conservative Citizens is "hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website," and said that the group doesn't condone illegal activities.
Holt also donated to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign and to several current and former GOP members of Congress, including Iowa Rep. Steve King, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and former Minnesota congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.
In a statement Monday, Cotton said he had taken the initial steps to refund Holt's contribution.
"I do not agree with his hateful beliefs and language and believe they are hurtful to our country," Cotton said.
Flake's press secretary said Monday the senator is donating his $1,000 to the fund set up in Charleston to help the shooting victims' families. Ernst's office said she would do the same with her $1,000 contribution from Holt.
The Guardian newspaper first reported the donations.
Associated Press writers Bob Christie in Phoenix and Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.