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 CastroSteyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Hispanic Caucus formally endorses George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Technical difficulties mar several remote House hearings 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 DeutchUS lawmakers call on EU to label entire Hezbollah a terrorist organization 189 House Democrats urge Israel to 'reconsider' annexation Partisan divide on annexation complicates US-Israel relationship MORE (D-Fla.) and ranking member Rep. Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantEthics Committee reviewing Rep. Sanford Bishop's campaign spending Minority caucuses endorse Texas Afro-Latina for Congress Latina underdog for Texas House seat picks up steam 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) GaetzHouse panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops House panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November MORE (Fla.), Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceHouse Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks Comer tapped to serve as top Republican on House Oversight This week: Democrats set to move health care, infrastructure proposals with eye on November MORE (Ga.), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanGOP lawmaker calls for Confederate portrait to be put back in Capitol Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman Republicans push for help for renewable energy, fossil fuel industries MORE (S.C.), Randy WeberRandall (Randy) Keith WeberHouse GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought Top conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill House Republicans press Trump officials on plans to contain coronavirus at border MORE (Texas) and Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddHouse Republican introduces bill to hold up members' pay if they vote by proxy House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update 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 TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops 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.