A Twitter account associated with the congressional campaign of Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) tweeted a list of President Donald Trump’s campaign donors in the San Antonio area on Tuesday, prompting condemnation from Republicans and even some journalists.
But few in the media complained when President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign did the same to several donors to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.
Castro’s campaign account tweeted: “Sad to see so many San Antonians as 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump — the owner of @BillMillerBarBQ, owner of the @HistoricPearl, realtor Phyllis Browning, etc. Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’”
Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’ pic.twitter.com/YT85IBF19u
— Joaquin Castro (@Castro4Congress) August 6, 2019
Republicans were outraged. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) tweeted: “This is disgusting. Inciting violence against private citizens for participating in our Democracy is beyond the pale. Your rabid hatred of @realDonaldTrump has made you deranged.”
This is disgusting. Inciting violence against private citizens for participating in our Democracy is beyond the pale. Your rabid hatred of @realDonaldTrump has made you deranged. https://t.co/vwj9a6EDiT
— NRCC (@NRCC) August 6, 2019
Some on the left applauded:
Finally! @Castro4Congress is a hero. Minute any Democrat starts to mention Republican (or corporate Democratic donors) they'll instantly become massively popular. People are sick of this corruption. That's why @GOP got so touchy about this tweet.The donor class runs this country. https://t.co/ywpnddyWZt
— Cenk Uygur (@cenkuygur) August 6, 2019
But some journalists expressed shock, such as Maggie Haberman of the New York Times and David Mastio of USA Today:
Don’t want to RT this because I don’t want to put these people’s names in my feed but this is dangerous, by any campaign.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 6, 2019
It seems profoundly unwise to drag regular people into such a charged political moment. Doesn't targeting retirees give you pause?
— David Mastio (@DavidMastio) August 6, 2019
Castro’s spokesperson, Sawyer Hackett, pushed back against Habermas, noting that the information was public and that journalists routinely used it in their reporting:
Dangerous? This is public information published by the FEC—information you and your colleagues have used for countless stories over the years.
— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) August 6, 2019
Hackett could have added that the Obama campaign did the same in 2012 without much objection from the media, except for a few conservative journalists, such as John Nolte of Breitbart News or Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal.
As Strassel noted in her 2016 book, The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech:
It was an election year, and Obama was already going in heavy against the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. The president’s reelection campaign erected a website, called “Keeping GOP Honest,” and had been using it to “truth check” Republican statements. But on that April 20, it broke new territory. In a post entitled “Behind the curtain: a brief history of Romney’s donors,” the president’s team publicly named eight private citizens who had given money to the Republican, accusing them all of being “wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records.”
The site bluntly claimed that all eight men were “betting against America.” They were then each singled out, subjected to slurs and allegations.
(The original list is still archived here.)
As Strassel documented at the Journal, one of those eight, Frank VanderSloot, soon found himself the target of private investigators — and the federal government:
Mr. VanderSloot has since been learning what it means to be on a presidential enemies list. Just 12 days after the attack, the Idahoan found an investigator digging to unearth his divorce records. This bloodhound—a recent employee of Senate Democrats—worked for a for-hire opposition research firm.
Now Mr. VanderSloot has been targeted by the federal government. In a letter dated June 21, he was informed that his tax records had been “selected for examination” by the Internal Revenue Service.
Two weeks after receiving the IRS letter, Mr. VanderSloot received another—this one from the Department of Labor. He was informed it would be doing an audit of workers he employs on his Idaho-based cattle ranch under the federal visa program for temporary agriculture workers.
Others, such as the voter integrity organization True the Vote, were also targeted. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service was also targeting conservative non-profit organizations — a fact that only became public after the election.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.