The House Ethics Committee could have a serious controversy on its hands if House Republicans get their way: Rep. Joaquin Castro’s tweets that targeted San Antonio residents who had donated to President Trump.
Whether or not it ever sees the light of day — given the fact the committee is controlled by the Democrats — remains to be seen.
The complaint was made in a Friday letter sent to Ethics Committee Chairman Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida, a Democrat, and ranking Republican Rep. Kenny Marchant of Texas, according to The Hill.
In the letter, several Republican representatives said that by choosing to publicly list the donors on his Twitter account, Castro was encouraging harassment of his own constituents simply for their beliefs.
“Posting a target list of private citizens simply for supporting his political opponent is antithetical to our principles and serves to suppress the free speech and free association rights of Americans,” the letter, signed by Reps. Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Jody Hice, Debbie Lesko, Jeff Duncan, Randy Weber, and Ted Budd, read.
“These acts must immediately be investigated to determine if Rep. Castro has violated the ethical rules of this institution.”
“By publishing a list of private citizens who donated to his political opponent, Rep. Castro sought to encourage harassment against those citizens simply on the basis of their political beliefs,” the letter continued.
“It cannot be fairly argued that Rep. Castro had any other purpose in posting that list and telling his activist followers that those individuals were inciting hate. Whether he intended to provoke physical violence or merely verbal harassment, his intent was to chill the free speech and free association rights of Americans.”
Rep. Castro, a Texas Democrat who also manages the presidential campaign of his brother Julián Castro, continues to defend his decision to post the names of 44 San Antonio residents who have given the federal maximum of $2,700 to Trump’s campaign.
The Monday evening tweet also identified the occupations of those donors; it included the owners of several prominent businesses.
“Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders,'” Castro said in the original tweet.
Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’ pic.twitter.com/YT85IBF19u
— Joaquin Castro (@Castro4Congress) August 6, 2019
“The information shared by Representative Castro is publicly available through the Federal Election Commission and the kind that’s routinely reported in media outlets of every political persuasion,” Castro spokeswoman Katherine Schneider said in response to Ethics Committee letter.
“Their letter is a disingenuous attempt by pro-dark money, far-right legislators to limit Americans’ ability to track money in politics. They would prefer large contributions to be kept secret so that there’s no meaningful transparency in political giving. We look forward to hearing from the Committee if the request is considered.”
There are several takeaways here. First, any attempt to hold Castro responsible for his actions is done by “far-right” legislators. “Far-right” once had a meaning; it no longer does. Now it’s just an epithet thrown around by liberals when they want to make those who oppose them look bad.
Second, this tweet wasn’t just about sharing information that was publicly available in the wake of the El Paso shooting. If it were, Castro could have simply tweeted that if his followers wanted to know who had donated to the Trump campaign, they could do so through the Federal Election Commission.
What Castro intended to do was to point and shame. Furthermore, there was a tacit undertone to the tweet: “Here’s the information. You do something about it.”
Precisely what was to be done about it remained unmentioned, but this was happening in the wake of a mass shooting. This isn’t to say that Castro was encouraging a rejoinder, merely that it was something he should have been cognizant of.
In any event, this was an invitation to harassment of some sort — and that harassment came as surely as the monsoon season to India.
“For many businesses, a sudden deluge of phone calls might signal an influx of new customers. But most of the 25 calls Justin Herricks received before noon on Thursday were from people who wanted to tell him he was a white supremacist for donating money to President Trump,” The New York Times‘ Katie Rogers and Annie Karni reported on Thursday.
“I’ve had people say, ‘Hey, we were going to use you for business, but we found out you’re a racist,’” Herricks told The Times. “‘We hope that you burn in hell and your business will go with you.’”
Guess what list Herricks was on?
Castro’s claims that he wasn’t attempting to dox or focus harassment on his constituents is clearly a lie. This is very obviously a matter for the Ethics Committee.
Whether it gets taken up in the Democrat-helmed House of Representatives is another matter, but if the Democrats want to talk the talk on rhetoric in this country, they need to walk the walk and hold Castro accountable.
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