Castro takes heat as outed Trump donors swing back

Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroHispanic Democrats demand flu vaccines for detained migrants Pelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills MORE (D-Texas), the chairman of his twin brother's presidential campaign, is taking heat for publishing the names and business interests of dozens of President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE’s campaign donors who live and make their livelihoods in Castro’s San Antonio district.

The names of donors who give more than $200 to a candidate are publicly available online for anyone to see, but it’s unusual for a lawmaker to broadcast that information in an effort to publicly shame another campaign’s contributors.

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Castro is defending his actions, accusing those who support Trump financially of “fueling a campaign of hate” toward immigrants that he said had provoked a shooter in El Paso, Texas, to kill 22 people last weekend.

Castro spokeswoman Katherine Schneider called the request for an investigation by the House Ethics Committee "baseless" and said that the information is regularly used as public information by media outlets.

"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,” said Schneider. “We look forward to hearing from the Committee if the request is considered.”

But Castro’s public naming of his own constituents, some of whom are older and retired or describe themselves as homemakers, was met with backlash from Trump, his campaign, Republican leaders, and even some on the left, who warned that the Texas Democrat was using his platform as a powerful lawmaker to target private citizens at a combustible moment in U.S. politics.

“People should not be personally targeted for their political views, period,” House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseGOP calls for minority hearing on impeachment, threatens procedural measures Lighthizer starts GOP charm offensive on Trump trade deal Pelosi announces support for new Trump NAFTA deal MORE (R-La.), who was shot and nearly died in a politically motivated attack two years ago, said over Twitter. “This isn’t a game. It’s dangerous, and lives are at stake. I know this firsthand.”

The Hill interviewed several of the 44 donors who Castro named, and all were shocked at having been dragged into the national debate over racism in the era of Trump.

Justin Herricks, who owns Precision Pipe Rentals, said he’s worried about the safety of his employees. Herricks said he and his company have been receiving harassing messages and phone calls, with strangers reaching out to call him a “racist piece of shit” and accusing him of supporting a “white supremacist.”

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Herricks this year donated the maximum $2,800 to the Trump reelection campaign, and he donated $15,000 to the Trump Victory Committee after attending a Midlands County Republican Party dinner with Vice President Pence.

Herricks said his company is about 70 percent Hispanic and that Castro’s tweet forced him to address the issue with his employees. He said his employees were supportive of him.

Herricks does not believe that the president is racist or is inciting violence against immigrants.

“In this country, you have the freedom of speech and the choice of who you are going to support and give money to,” Herricks said. “For me, supporting the Republican Party, I look at the things Trump has done for the economy. I’ll continue to support him and what he’s doing. It looks like Democrats are getting desperate in resorting to these tactics.”

The Trump campaign reported Castro’s tweet to Twitter, saying it violated the company’s harassment policy.

Castro insists it was not his intent to provoke harassment or protests of the individuals and their companies.

“I don't want anybody on the left or the right to be a target of any crazy person, of any person who means them harm at all,” Castro said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“What I would like for them to do is think twice about supporting a guy who is fueling hate in this country,” he added.

Tensions are running hot in Washington since the racially and politically motived shooting in El Paso that left 22 dead. The suspect reportedly told authorities that he was targeting Mexicans in the attack.

Democrats are blaming Trump’s rhetoric on immigration for inspiring the alleged shooter, who wrote in a manifesto that he was motivated by a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

That language mirrors rhetoric used by Trump. The president’s campaign has also warned in thousands of Facebook ads about an “invasion” at the southern border.

Castro’s argument is that those giving to Trump should be exposed for “fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’ ”

“When you make a political contribution, especially to a federal candidate, that's a public record. … These were prominent donors, most of them public figures — or many of them public figures, but their money is being taken and used to fuel these hateful ads. And it has put millions of people in this country in fear,” Castro said on MSNBC.

“There are people right now that are living in fear, and I don't think the president understands that,” he added. “I don't think those donors understand it, but they need to understand what their money is going to.”

Another donor on Castro’s list, Wayne Harwell, who owns a real estate company in San Antonio, has given nearly $10,000 this cycle to the Trump campaign and an associated committee.

But Harwell told The Hill that he has also donated in the past to Joaquin Castro, as well as to Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio who is now running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“I did give some money to him and his brother when his brother was mayor, a few years ago,” Harwell said. “I guess I should have known that was a mistake.”

Harwell said he had not received harassing phone calls, but rather had received a lot of supportive messages from people in the community.

“You bet I will give more to Trump,” he said. “He has provided this country with an economic revival from what occurred in the prior 10 years. I do not agree with each word he states, but the results of his policies are sound.”

A third donor, Van Archer Jr., who is retired, laughed the controversy off.

“I wouldn’t worry about anything those two piss ants do,” he said, referring to the Castro brothers.

“I thought it was kind of funny and I don’t think anyone on the list would be afraid,” he continued. “I’m worried for Trump because there are so many deranged people. I’m not afraid for myself.”

Many of Trump’s critics have come to Joaquin Castro’s defense, backing up his argument that the names were available online and that these donors should be outed for having contributed to a campaign that ran ads warning about a Hispanic “invasion.”

“If you were funding ads that do that … it would seem to me that Hispanics have a right to know who is funding these ads that the federal government itself would call white supremacy,” MSNBC anchor Joe ScarboroughCharles (Joe) Joseph ScarboroughScarborough rips GOP over Ukraine conspiracy theories It's the aggressive progressives vs. the pragmatic moderates Scarborough: Trump is either 'an agent of Russia' or 'a useful idiot' MORE said to Castro.

But others view it as punching down at small-time donors and local Republican activists.

The controversy comes as some of Trump’s biggest donors, billionaires such as Marvel Entertainment Chairman Isaac Perlmutter and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, are facing boycotts and pressure from activists and their own employees to stop raising money for the president ahead of a major fundraising event this weekend in the Hamptons.

The Trump campaign is leaning into the controversy with donors and seeking to raise even more money off it.

“Joaquin Castro shared personal info on Trump donors. Despicable!,” Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump Jr. blasts Time for choosing 'marketing gimmick' Greta Thunberg as Person of the Year White House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing MORE said in a text message to supporters. “Show the left we support President Trump now more than ever before. Donate now.”