HELENA — U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana is among a group of Republicans who received donations from the leader of a white supremacist group cited by Charleston church murder suspect Dylann Roof.
Documents show Earl Holt, the leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens, made a $500 donation to Zinke's election campaign in October 2014. Holt listed "slumlord" as his occupation on the document.
Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift said Monday Zinke will donate the money to a fund set up for the families of the victims of the Charleston shooting.
"It's being donated to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund," she said.
The Guardian newspaper first reported that Holt made $65,000 in donations to Republicans, including several to Republican presidential candidates. The paper reported that candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas will return the $8,500 he received from Holt.
Holt also donated to current and former GOP members of Congress including Iowa Rep. Steve King, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and former Minnesota Rep. and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, according to the Guardian.
A manifesto purportedly written by Roof says he learned about "brutal black on white murders" from the Council of Conservative Citizens website.
Holt said in a statement posted online Sunday that it "was not surprising" that Roof credited his group with his knowledge of black-on-white crime. 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 the group doesn't condone illegal activities.
Swift also said Monday Zinke will donate $500 he received in September 2014 from Richard Spencer, director of the National Policy Institute now based in Whitefish that bills itself as a think-tank dedicated to the "heritage, identity, and future of European people."
Montana Democratic Party Chairman Jim Larson said in a statement Monday that accepting money from a known white supremacist shows poor judgment.
"We cannot move Montana — or our country — forward without our leaders standing up to hate and intolerance," he said.
Zinke was elected in November as Montana's U.S. House representative.
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