Racist Council of Conservative Citizens Finds Home in Mainstream Politics
Despite Baum's protestations, the CCC's ties to Duke are longstanding. During Duke's run for Louisiana governor in the early 1990s, Baum and two other leaders wrote to council members to urge them to vote for Duke, according to The Riverfront Times, a St. Louis newspaper.
In 1995, Duke spoke to the CCC's South Carolina chapter to urge a fight for "our very genes" and support for the Council. And, even as Baum tried to fight off public affiliation with the former Klansman, Duke was invited to speak Jan. 2 to the CCC's "National Capital Region" chapter — at least according to Cotterill, who spoke before his resignation as chapter leader.
But Baum heatedly denied that such an invitation had been made in the name of the CCC. In the end, Cotterill hosted Duke at his own meeting, telling a reporter that it was not a council event because Duke was "too controversial."
One key CCC member, Florida State University psychology professor Glayde Whitney, contributed an introduction to Duke's new autobiography, My Awakening, which Whitney terms "a painstakingly documented, academically excellent work."
Speaking at a gathering hosted by Jared Taylor, who is the editor of the right-wing American Renaissance magazine, Whitney warned last fall that blacks are "bigger in bone, smaller in brain," biologically specialized "primitives" who are wont to mating with white schoolgirls as they mature faster and are more sexually aggressive than their white male schoolmates.
And in Mississippi, one politician identified as a CCC member — ultraconservative state Sen. Mike Gunn — earned $9,500 with his wife for helping prepare a fundraising brochure for David Duke's failed gubernatorial bid, according to the The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.
The paper said Gunn's direct-mail operation was paid through a fake company. Gunn was also criticized editorially for alleged race-baiting.
Politicians and the CCC
Today, the council boasts of endorsements by past and present political leaders including Lott, Fordice and Barr, who was the keynote speaker at the semiannual council board meeting held last June; Sen. Jesse Helms (R.-N.C.); former Georgia Gov. Maddox, a staunch segregationist whom the CCC has honored with a "patriot of the century" award; former Rep. Rarick (R-La.); former Rep. Webb Franklin (R-Miss.); and more than 50 local politicians in eight states, including the 34 in the Mississippi state legislature.
Republican National Committeeman Buddy Witherspoon of South Carolina is a CCC member, according to The Washington Post, and GOP National Committeewoman Bettye Fine Collins of Alabama has spoken to the group and received a special award. So has former Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt.
Alabama Judge Roy Moore, who stirred national debate by refusing to take down a display of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, addressed the Council. Claire Bawcom, a vice president of the Tennessee Federation of Republican Women, writes a column for the Informer and regularly speaks at CCC meetings.
Many politicians, like Arkansas' then-Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee, have walked away from the CCC after learning something of its ideology. Huckabee, today the governor of Arkansas, backed out of a 1994 speech to the CCC after learning that he would have shared the podium with white supremacist lawyer Kirk Lyons.
Last year, Winston-Salem, N.C., Mayor Jack Cavanagh publicly apologized after speaking to the CCC, saying he was not a racist and had not known of the group's views. In Washington, the influential Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which once allowed the CCC to co-host an annual meeting, has barred the CCC because, CPAC's director said, "they are racists."
For his part, Barr, after being criticized in December for speaking to the CCC, told reporters that he disagreed with many of the group's "ridiculous views."
Lott, similarly criticized in December, initially told The Washington Post that he had "no firsthand knowledge" of the CCC and was not a member. Informed that Cotterill and other CCC leaders had told the Intelligence Report that Lott was in fact a paid-up CCC member, Lott spokesman John Czwartacki said Lott "doesn't consider himself" a member and "has no recollection" of ever paying dues.
Czwartacki declined to say if Lott had been a member in the past, but he did insist that Lott "firmly rejects" many CCC views. Later, after a month of criticism, Lott issued a statement decrying "the racist view of this group."
Publicly, Baum said, in effect, that if Lott didn't consider himself a member then he wasn't one. "He's gotta do what he's gotta do," Baum said of Lott's denials.
In any event, Lott certainly had heard of the group.
In 1992, Lott gave a speech to 400 CCC supporters in Greenwood, Miss., at the group's national board meeting. In 1994, when Lott's hometown newspaper reported he was a CCC member, no one objected.
In 1997, Lott hosted a private meeting in his Senate office with Baum, Lord and Dover, who together are the chief leaders of the CCC. Baum keeps a photo of that meeting in his office that is signed, "Best Wishes, Trent Lott." Lott's uncle, former state senator and current Carroll County, Miss., CCC officer Arnie Watson, told The New York Times that Lott was, in fact, a CCC "honorary member."
"We're a rather large organization in Mississippi," Lott's home state, Baum said. "I would assume someone as astute as Mr. Lott would have a pretty good grasp of us."
According to the Informer, Lott concluded his 1992 Mississippi speech to the CCC with this: "The people in this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy. Let's take it in the right direction and our children will be the beneficiaries!"
'Don't Use the Word'
Baum has claimed great influence with many of these politicians. In 1994, the same year that Lott was honored at a Vaiden, Miss., banquet attended by CCC leaders, the Informer took credit for Lott's one-vote election as Republican majority whip, the No. 2 leadership post in the Senate.
Council leaders have also claimed responsibility for orchestrating the electoral demise last fall of former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley, a Republican who angered the group by opposing continuing to fly the Confederate battle flag over his state's capitol building because it was offensive to blacks.
Around the country, the CCC claims to have had members or supporters elected to courts, school boards, city councils, state legislatures and other government bodies. The council boasts of its power, circulating a flier with alleged endorsements from a dozen politicians, including Lott, whose writings have appeared for years in the Informer.
The structures of the CCC's chapters, and their political interests, vary from state to state — a function of the CCC's decentralized structure, which hearkens back to the strong states' rights stand of the CCA.
The best-organized state is Mississippi, with eight county chapters. Alabama and Tennessee have regional chapters, while most others have only general state chapters. In total, the Council has 33 chapters.
Now, the CCC may well be marginalized as more mainstream politicians draw away. Explaining a new CCC rule that leaders keep their own political views to themselves, Baum told The Washington Post in January that "we were just too dang candid" when being asked about their views of race and other matters. "That's what got us into trouble."
What is clear is that the Council is more and more openly courting the radical right. At a meeting of its Washington chapter earlier this month, attended by a representative of the anti-Semitic tabloid The Spotlight, hard-line white supremacists were plentiful.
One of them, describing himself as the best friend of George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, summed up his views for the audience from the CCC podium.
"Be a Nazi," DeWest Hooker enjoined them. "But don't use the word."