Racist Council of Conservative Citizens Finds Home in Mainstream Politics
Gordon Baum, leader of the racist Council of Conservative Citizens, struggles to portray his organization as mainstream.
Gordon Lee Baum was having a bad day. Standing in a Jackson, Miss., hotel meeting room in November, the 58-year-old lawyer and leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) was doing his best to portray his organization as mainstream.
Gov. Kirk Fordice was scheduled to speak the next day to more than 300 people attending the CCC's national board meeting, lending the group the kind of political credibility that Baum has sought continually during his 14 years as chief executive officer.
But then David Duke, the former Klan leader and unrepentant racist, showed up and spoiled the party.
"Hi, Gordon," Duke told Baum with a toothy smile.
"Damn you, Dave," Baum said, later threatening a local newspaper with a lawsuit if it reported that Duke was part of the CCC conference.
"Don't say you're involved with us," Baum said. "The politicians won't show up. We use these politicians. The main reason people won't become involved, they're afraid. But if they see important people, they'll become involved because they think the water's safe and there's no sharks out there."
In the end, Baum allowed Duke to sell his literature, but only until the politicians were to show up the next day. Duke on his own was not the problem. It was the bad press.
And how had the reporters known to show up? Who tipped the local black newspaper and others off that Duke had appeared at this "mainstream" gathering?
"One of the n------ at the front desk," Baum fumed.
White Citizens Councils Reborn
Baum's comment — which he denied in an interview with the Intelligence Report — was much more than the slip of an irate tongue. Despite the fact that his group has flirted with such politicians as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Gov. Fordice and Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), the CCC has racism at its core.
Indeed, the Council of Conservative Citizens is the reincarnation of the racist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s.
Formed by Baum in 1985, the CCC claims 15,000 dues-paying members. Like its predecessor White Citizens Councils, the CCC's greatest strength is in the South, primarily Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, where it claims 34 state legislators and 5,000 other members. The CCC has members in 22 states and its influence now reaches California and the East Coast from Florida to New York.
Its main publication, Citizens Informer, circulates to 20,000 subscribers. While its local chapters have taken up a variety of issues, the CCC in general has focused on national issues like support for the Confederate battle flag and opposition to affirmative action, school busing and non-white immigration.
But its chief interest remains race.
"Western civilization with all its might and glory would never have achieved its greatness without the directing hand of God and the creative genius of the white race," influential CCC columnist Robert "Tut" Patterson wrote in the Informer last fall.
"Any effort to destroy the race by a mixture of black blood is an effort to destroy Western civilization itself... ."
"Let us pray that our citizens will awaken and vote themselves out of this dilemma," Patterson wrote last spring. "There is still time. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 should be repealed!"
The Council's Predecessor
Robert Patterson is no stranger to the world of organized racism. He founded the original Citizens Councils of America (CCA) — commonly known as the White Citizens Councils — in the wake of the Supreme Court's May 17, 1954, Brown v. Board of Education ruling, outlawing "separate but equal" black and white school systems.
"Integration represents darkness, regimentation, totalitarianism, communism and destruction," Patterson, the great-grandson of a Confederate general, said at the time. "Segregation represents the freedom to choose one's associates ... the survival of the white race.
"These two ideologies are now engaged in mortal conflict and only one can survive. They cannot be fused any more than day can exist without night. The twilight of this great white nation would certainly follow."
Patterson's CCA organized private, whites-only schools, boycotted black merchants who supported school desegregation and black voting rights, flooded the South with segregationist literature and supported segregationist politicians.
But the group also came to be known widely as the "white-collar Klan."
While it sought a veneer of social respectability, the CCA membership had significant overlap with that of the Klan, and was tied in some instances to violence. In 1960, a segregationist riot followed a New Orleans CCA meeting where members were told, "These Congolese rape your daughters."
Byron de la Beckwith, murderer of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, was a key member of the Greenwood, Miss., CCA chapter, which raised money for his defense.
As a group, today's CCC has no similar record of violence.
But an alleged member, Marshall Catterton, flew into a rage last year when a black youth, 15-year-old Jason Riley, tried to tear down a CCC sign promoting the Confederate flag that Catterton had erected earlier.
Catterton shot and wounded Riley in the chest with a .38-caliber handgun. In an interview with The Press & Standard of Colleton County, S.C., Baum said he might react "just as Catterton did" in the same situation.
The links between the CCA and the CCC are not tenuous. In addition to Patterson, Baum was for years during the 1960s the White Citizens Councils' midwest field organizer. Bill Lord, the CCC's current Mississippi leader, was a regional CCA organizer. Baum and other CCC leaders have acknowledged that they built their group on the basis of the mailing lists of the old White Citizens Councils.
Four years ago, one leader boasted that the principles of the CCA had been successfully integrated into the CCC. Both groups have employed a strategy of surface respectability backed by open racism.
By the 1970s, the CCA had lost its battle against desegregation. But the 1980s brought new struggles for its former members, with increased immigration from Central America and Asia rekindling racist fears of white extinction.
In 1985, a group of 30 white men met in Atlanta to decide what to do about it. Many of them were old CCA members like Baum, former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox and John Rarick, a former four-term Congressman from Louisiana. The group hoped to build unity on the far right.
On March 7, 1985, the Council of Conservative Citizens was born. The CCC was set up on that day as a 501(c)4, meaning that it does not pay taxes but that donations are not tax-deductible.
The same day, Baum organized the Conservative Citizens' Foundation as a 501(c)3. Donations to the foundation, unlike the CCC, are tax deductible.
'A Slimy Brown Mass'
Over the last nine years, the Informer has featured a steady stream of anti-black and anti-gay columns, including attacks on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday; Black History Month; statues honoring blacks; African-American scholarship programs; non-white immigration; affirmative action; and AIDS research. It has also published many articles supporting the former apartheid regime in South Africa.
The Informer 's subscribers are continually encouraged to study biological determinism, eugenics and other racist views packaged as "scientific" (see Race and 'Reason'). Last fall, for instance, the magazine carried a glowing review of Gerald M. Spring's The Philosophy of Count de Gobineau, a book about a French 19th-century writer on race and biology.
"Despite its age, its theme is truly timeless because Gobineau was the first thinker to approach the race problem from a scientific viewpoint," the reviewer enthused. "His Essay on the Inequality of Human Races ... advanced the thesis that each of the three major races plays a distinct role in history. ...
"The whites were the creators of civilization, the yellows its sustainers and copyists, the blacks its destroyers. We need to know more about this great thinker. ... The enlightenment truly began in France."
The CCC's Web site also regularly publishes racist material. One of the group's featured columnists, who identifies himself as H. Millard, recently wrote there on his view on the likely effects of immigration and intermarriage. Millard, who refused to be interviewed, is a Costa Mesa, Calif., real estate agent whose full name is Martin H. Millard.
"What will emerge will be just be a slimy brown mass of glop," Millard wrote.
"The genocide being carried out against white people hasn't come with marching armies; instead, it has come with propaganda that is calculated to brainwash whites into happily and willingly jumping into the Neo-Melting Pot, and to their destruction. ...
"Genocide via the bedroom chamber is just as long-lasting as genocide via the gas chamber."
Race, Biology and 'Fetal Soup'
Other recent Web site articles have included a racially tinged piece on Chinese "fetal soup" and an attack on Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was actually homosexual, the CCC article said, and ugly and psychotic to boot. In fact, it said, Lincoln's only good idea may have been to deport blacks to Africa.
The CCC's tax-free think tank, the Conservative Citizens' Foundation (CCF), publishes sets of "Occasional Papers" for distribution to the CCC's members. Recently, these papers have been authored by such men as Samuel Francis, a syndicated columnist fired from the conservative Washington Times for racially inflammatory writings.
Other writers of these papers have advanced schemes to partition the United States into racial mini-states. Two recent articles were by Jared Taylor, the author of Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in America and a man who has argued that blacks are less intelligent than whites.
"Does America need Haitians, Mexicans, Cambodians and Guatemalans by the millions?" Taylor asked in a 1997 paper published by the foundation. "Where these people settle — be it in Miami, south central Los Angeles or Brownsville, Texas — these places cease to be parts of the United States and become parts of the Third World. ...
"We face ... a far greater threat ... than did our ancestors."
Links to Nazis, the Klan
The political histories of the CCC's members are another useful barometer of the group's views. At the top of the list are Patterson and Baum. These men have personally helped to bring the ideology of the White Citizens Councils directly into the CCC. But there are many others.
The names of CCC members are not public. But the Intelligence Report, after collecting the names of 175 members mentioned in council publications and elsewhere, was able to document ties to racist groups of 17 of those members — almost 10 percent of the total.
While the presence and degree of racism in the CCC varies from chapter to chapter, the Report found a significant number of members have been linked to unabashedly racist groups including the Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan; the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan; the National Association for the Advancement of White People; the America First Party; and the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
Others have ties to militant "Patriot" organizations such as the extreme-right-wing Populist Party.
What's more, such people have been actively recruited.
In early 1995, Baum invited Vince Reed, who Baum knew as the head of security for the openly neo-Nazi Aryan Nations organization, into his St. Louis home. Taking Reed into a basement office and locking the door, Baum tried to recruit him to join the CCC's national board.
Unbeknownst to Baum, Reed was a law enforcement informant who has testified in state and federal courts, most recently against a group of Illinois terrorists.
"He wanted to talk about me coming over to his side," recalls Reed. "He says, 'I know you're an ambassador for [Aryan Nations leader] Richard Butler, but I can really use a person like you.' He told me his organization was really going forward.
"He was very serious, saying, 'Vince, the Jews are going to fall from the inside, not from the outside, and the n------ will be a puppet on a string for us.' And I said, 'Well, I see you're on the same side we're on.' And he said, 'Oh, yeah.'
He said, 'The power is not out there in the gun, it is inside Congress. You can battle for the rest of your life with guns and explosives, and you aren't going anywhere. We've got to do it from the inside.'"
Baum, while conceding he knew Reed, described his story as a "total lie."
British Neo-Fascists and Youth
Wider-ranging recruitment efforts are currently under way. While the council has been largely made up of aging southern proponents of "the lost cause," last year it began an effort to recruit a younger generation of followers, setting up an education committee and a youth chapter.
The youth chapter was developed by Mark Cotterill, using the false last name Cerr, around Washington, D.C. Cotterill, a Briton, is said to have brought 100 young people into the CCC. What Cotterill doesn't boast openly about are his connections to the National Alliance — his friendships with Alliance founder William Pierce, and Pierce's chief deputy, Kevin Alfred Strom (see Inside the Alliance).
Pierce's novel of a future race war, The Turner Diaries, served as the blueprint for the deadly 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building (see The Alliance and its Allies).
Cotterill is well known in Britain, which he left three years ago. There, he was associated with the neofascist National Front and its successor, the British National Party, as well as American distributor of a far-right periodical, Right Now. He also has been linked to the Ulster Defense Association, a paramilitary Protestant group in Northern Ireland.
Shortly after the Southern Poverty Law Center exposed Cotterill's true identity in December, he resigned as the capital area CCC leader, although he remains a member of the chapter.
Baum told the Intelligence Report that members of Cotterill's chapter were angered by his public association with David Duke and his hosting of a December CCC meeting at which neo-Nazi DeWest Hooker spoke.
That is not the only connection of the CCC to international racists. In September, a delegation of Baum and other key council leaders — including Atlanta businessman Tom Dover, who is the president of the CCC — attended a Paris gathering sponsored by the National Front, led by anti-Semitic extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen.
And then there is David Duke.
The Duke Connection
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 flyer 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."