The white supremacist group now at the center of the fallout from the Charleston shooting has a long history with politicians in the South - a history that includes a level of success that today seems pretty remarkable.
Accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof cited the Council of Conservative Citizens in his racist manifesto. The group and its current leader, Earl Holt, donated about $25, 000 to Republican candidates in 2012, and this weekend Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said he'd return the estimated $8, 500 that Holt donated to him. Sen. Rand Paul and others also quickly said they would return contributions.
In the billion-dollar world of national politics, $25, 000 isn't a lot. But there's little doubt that in the 1990s, the council had the ear of some of the nation's most powerful politicians - and has since become more radicalized. The Republican Party, in particular, has had trouble keeping the group at arms length.
"They've kind of been in plain sight, " DePaul University professor and historian of white supremacy Euan Hague told The Fix. "They've been a consistent presence in the Southern political landscape."
Here's a brief history of the Council of Conservative Citizens.
Born of school desegregation
The nationwide council wasn't formed until 1985, but it has roots in the school desegregation era. It was started by officials of the White Citizens Council, a 1950s southern group that sprang up to oppose the Supreme Court-mandated desegregation of public schools.
Gordon Baum was one such White Citizens Council official to help form this new council. The Missouri personal injury lawyer sought support for his new group via mailing lists from the White Citizens Council.
Many of these neo-Confederate groups, the CCC included, derive their ideology from even further back in American history, Hague wrote. They (inaccurately) believe the Civil War was fought not over slavery but for the future of American Christianity. The groups' leaders share 19th-century theological writings making a biblical justification for slavery and segregation.
Groups like the CCC advocate a return to Christian values they say call for homogeneous societies.
"We believe that the United States of America is a Christian country, that its people are a Christian people, and that its government and public leaders at all levels must reflect Christian beliefs and values, " the group's statement of values reads. "We therefore oppose all efforts to deny or weaken the Christian heritage of the United States."
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