Republicans were incensed after Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) on Monday tweeted the names of 44 San Antonio-based top donors to President Donald Trump’s campaign.
The information is all publicly available through the Federal Election Commission’s website, which lists the name, location, employer, and occupation of every person who gives more than $200 to a federal political committee. Castro did not post any addresses, phone numbers, or any other personal information aside from their names and businesses.
Castro, whose grandmother emigrated from Mexico in the 1920s, wrote in the tweet that the campaign contributions were “fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders,'” referring to Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants that in part allegedly motivated the El Paso shooter to kill over 20 people in a primarily Latinx border town last weekend.
“Sad to see so many San Antonians as 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump,” he wrote.
Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’ pic.twitter.com/YT85IBF19u
— Joaquin Castro (@Castro4Congress) August 6, 2019
Regardless of the information being public data, Republicans and even some members of the mainstream press have called Castro’s list “dangerous” and compared it to doxxing — the act of publishing someone’s private information. The hashtag #ImpeachJoaquinCastro, amplified mostly by troll-bots, even began trending on Twitter Wednesday.
“Targeting and harassing Americans because of their political beliefs is shameful and dangerous,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “What happened to ‘when they go low, we go high?’ Or does that no longer matter when your brother [presidential candidate Julián Castro] is polling at 1%? Americans deserve better.”
McCarthy himself was actually forced to delete a tweet last October criticizing Jewish Democratic donors for supposedly trying to “buy” the 2018 midterm elections. The tweet had been posted days before a racist, anti-Semitic gunman opened fire at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 people.
“We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #MAGA,” the now-retracted October 24 tweet read.
The alleged shooter in the Tree of Life attack, which occurred on October 27, touted similar claims, summoning up several baseless conspiracy theories about liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros, whom McCarthy had mentioned in his tweet.
McCarthy later defended his comments, stating in March that he had simply been “pointing out … money that Republicans and Democrats were spending to defeat one another.”
Fellow Texan Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also claimed this week that Castro’s tweet about top Trump donors went against the Constitution and should be retracted.
“EVERYONE needs to tone the hateful partisan rhetoric way down. This is WRONG & Castro should retract it,” Cruz tweeted. “In our constitutional Republic, the People rightly hold their representatives accountable; elected representatives should not be vilifying & doxxing their own constituents.”
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise from Louisiana, who survived a shooting at a congressional baseball match two years ago, also called Castro’s tweet “dangerous.”
“People should not be personally targeted for their political views. Period,” he tweeted. “This isn’t a game. It’s dangerous, and lives are at stake. I know this firsthand.
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., took things a step further, appearing on Fox & Friends Wednesday morning and comparing Castro’s tweet to an alleged hit-list the Dayton shooter had compiled years earlier.
“That thing sort of screams, like, the Dayton, Ohio, shooter’s list,” he said. “It’s pretty scary.”
Donald Trump Jr. says Joaquin Castro's tweet about Trump donors "screams like the Dayton, OH shooter's list" of people he wanted to murder: "That was the same thing that the Dayton, OH shooter did." pic.twitter.com/miLu0mfOMg
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) August 7, 2019
On Tuesday night, Castro responded to his critics.
“No one was targeted or harassed in my post. You know that. All that info is routinely published,” he tweeted, sharing McCarthy’s post. “You’re trying to distract from the racism that has overtaken the GOP and the fact that President Trump spends donor money on thousands of ads about Hispanics ‘invading’ America.”
The sudden change in opinion is surprising coming from Republicans, who have routinely highlighted the identities of Democratic donors and advocated for funding disclosures in the past.
In early 2016, at the height of the Republican primary, Cruz posted a number of tweets identifying some of then-candidate Trump’s past political donations:
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 7, 2016
Happy to be in Illinois today to offer a bold contrast from beneficiaries of @realDonaldTrump contributions: Rod Blagojevich & Rahm Emanuel!
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 14, 2016
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 26, 2016
Trump Jr. has similarly tweeted “lists” of donors to Democratic campaigns that utilized public FEC data:
Imagine how much excessive regulation that bought and what it cost small and big business alike?Consumer Bureau execs, workers gave 593 donations to Democrats, 1 to GOP https://t.co/nJENPVkfyH via @dcexaminer
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) November 28, 2017
NBC Donated $5.6 Million To Democratic Party, Provided First Debate’s Moderator https://t.co/jCnb8E4PRU via dailycaller
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 28, 2016
Going after Democratic donors has been a pillar of the Republican party for decades, and using FEC data to expose an opponent’s contributions is a tried and true trope in most Republican attack ads.
“I don’t like it when a large source of money is out there funding ads and is unaccountable,” then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said in 2010. “To the extent we can, I tend to favor disclosure.”
And in October last year, a National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) attack ad against Kathy Manning, a former Democratic candidate in North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, cited FEC data to name the campaigns to which she had previously donated.
Another ad that same month, this time against Gina Jones, a former Democratic candidate in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, shamed Jones for accepting donations from “liberal trial lawyers.” The NRCC obtain information on those donors from the FEC.
This article has been updated to include Castro’s response to criticism of his initial tweet.