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 CastroThe exhaustion of Democrats' anti-Trump delusions Juan Williams: Democrats finally hit Trump where it hurts Texas Democrats tap Joaquin Castro to deliver key address 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 DeutchHouse Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death House conservatives call for ethics probe into Joaquin Castro tweet Democratic leaders seek to have it both ways on impeachment MORE (D-Fla.) and ranking member Rep. Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantHouse conservatives call for ethics probe into Joaquin Castro tweet Texas faces turbulent political moment Democratic Party official: Texas is 'biggest battleground state in the country' 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) GaetzCapitol Police advised Gaetz against holding open events I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Gaetz cleared by Florida Bar after Cohen tweet probe MORE (Fla.), Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceHouse conservatives call for ethics probe into Joaquin Castro tweet Interior whistleblowers say agency has sidelined scientists under Trump Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess MORE (Ga.), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanHouse conservatives call for ethics probe into Joaquin Castro tweet Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess House passes annual intelligence bill MORE (S.C.), Randy WeberRandall (Randy) Keith WeberHouse conservatives call for ethics probe into Joaquin Castro tweet Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess Current, former lawmakers celebrate release of new book on Jack Brooks, 'The Meanest Man in Congress' MORE (Texas) and Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddHouse conservatives call for ethics probe into Joaquin Castro tweet Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess Conservatives ask Barr to lay out Trump's rationale for census question 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 TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems 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.