Why did they accept hate money?

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks in Nipomo on June 22, 2015.
Presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks in Nipomo on June 22, 2015. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

If we’d had the chance to interview presidential candidate Ted Cruz during his visit to Nipomo this week, here’s one question we would have put to the senator: Why accept a campaign donation from a white-supremacist leader in the first place?

Why did you — along with other presidential hopefuls — wait until after the revelation that accused mass murderer Dylann Storm Roof was influenced by the Council of Conservative Citizens to return donations from the leader of that racist hate organization?

Accepting donations legitimizes the intolerance espoused by this group, in much the same way that flying the Confederate flag on South Carolina Statehouse property legitimizes what, as South Carolina’s governor finally acknowledges, many see as a “deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past.”

As we now know, Cruz was not alone in accepting money from Earl Holt, the leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens. According to The Associated Press, Holt has contributed more than $60,000 to Republicans since 2010. Presidential candidates Rand Paul and Rick Santorum also received donations, and are now among several politicians either returning the money or donating it to charity.

To be fair, then, we pose the question not just to Cruz — whose camp turned down our request to interview the candidate Monday — but also to each and every politician who accepted donations.

Again, why take the money in the first place? Did you or your handlers not know about the hateful “principles” espoused by this group?

We hope that’s the case, because that points to human error. If the campaigns knew of the group’s positions and accepted the money anyway, that’s profoundly disturbing, given the sickeningly intolerant platform proudly displayed on its website.

Among other things the Council of Conservative Citizens believes the “United States is a European country and Americans are part of the European people.”

It opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote nonwhite races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action’ and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.”

The group also:

Opposes efforts to “weaken the structure of the American family through tolerance of sexual licentiousness, homosexuality and other perversions.”

Opposes the “presence of homosexuals and women in the military services, and especially the presence of women in combat roles.”

Advocates U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations, the World Court, the International Monetary Fund, North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization.

Calls for the abolishment of government agencies “that have no constitutional foundation, including the U.S. departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, Health and Human Services.”

Demands the repeal of gun control “in all forms.” Writing for The Daily Beast, Olivia Nuzzi and John Avlon described the organization like this: “The evil endorsed by the Council of Conservative Citizens is the same evil endorsed by the Confederate flag, which remains raised, mockingly, over the South Carolina state Capitol.”

We agree completely. The fact that high-ranking politicians who aspire to the highest office in the land would accept donations from such an organization is outrageous and unacceptable.

Returning the donations — like taking down the Confederate flag — are necessary steps, but they are just that steps on a long road.

Taking down a flag that should never have been flying in the first place does not count as some sort of final victory over evil — nor does returning campaign donations that should have been rejected from the start.