House conservatives call for ethics probe into Joaquin Castro tweet

House conservatives on Friday called on the chamber's Ethics Committee to investigate Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroBlack, Latino communities suffering disproportionately from coronavirus, statistics show Lawmakers call on Trump administration to address Puerto Rico's vulnerability to COVID-19 Texas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order MORE (D-Texas) for tweeting the names of Trump campaign donors.

“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 lawmakers wrote in a letter to House Ethics Committee Chairman Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchOcasio-Cortez knocks Pence: 'Utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response' Father of Parkland shooting victim calls on Congress to take action Florida 'red flag' law has removed hundreds of guns: report MORE (D-Fla.) and ranking member Rep. Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantLatina underdog for Texas House seat picks up steam Texas kicks off critical battle for House control Gun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 MORE (R-Texas).

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“These acts must immediately be investigated to determine if Rep. Castro has violated the ethical rules of this institution,” they added.

The letter spearheaded by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) was signed by GOP Reps. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) Gaetz2020 on my mind: Democrats have to think like Mitch McConnell Harris knocks Gaetz for taking issue with money for Howard in relief package Critics hit Florida governor over lack of 'sweeping' coronavirus response MORE (Fla.), Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill GOP lawmaker requests information on release of inmates in New York Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition MORE (Ga.), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers House Republicans add Jordan to Intel panel for impeachment probe MORE (S.C.), Randy WeberRandall (Randy) Keith WeberTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill House Republicans press Trump officials on plans to contain coronavirus at border Overnight Energy: Trump credits economic progress to environmental rollbacks | Vote to subpoena Interior delayed by prayer breakfast | Dems hit agency for delaying energy efficiency funds MORE (Texas) and Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update Top conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill Boosting resource officers will help curb school violence MORE (N.C.).

The lawmakers argued that publishing donor lists suppresses free speech and the right to freely associate.

“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," they wrote. "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."

A spokeswoman for Castro dismissed the Republicans' request to the Ethics panel, calling it "baseless" and suggesting that "these Members of Congress know that."

"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 argued.

"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.” 

Castro, the brother of Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, came under fire this week from House GOP leaders and President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal Trump says he'll look into small business loan program restricting casinos MORE's campaign for tweeting the names and business interests of dozens of donors to Trump's reelection campaign.

On Monday evening, following that weekend's mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Joaquin Castro tweeted the names of 44 Texans who donated the maximum $2,700 to Trump, specifically calling out the owners of several prominent businesses in San Antonio, where the Castro brothers are from.

Federal candidates are required to disclose the names and employers of donors who contribute $200 or more in Federal Election Commission filings, which are publicly available online.

However, it is unusual for a lawmaker to publish the names and business interests of individual donors of another campaign.

“Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders’,” Castro tweeted.

At the time, there were reports that the suspected gunman had allegedly posted a manifesto online shortly before the attack that included anti-immigrant rhetoric and warned of a “Hispanic invasion.”

The suspect has since reportedly told police that he carried out the shooting and that he was targeting "Mexicans."

Julián Castro defended the tweet after Trump blasted the move.

"Joaquin and I will keep fighting. The American people will fight every day for our nation, against your hate, your corruption, and your ego. And we’ll win. #AdiósTrump," he tweeted.

Updated: 7:05 p.m.