A tweet by Representative Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, has been furiously discussed by the media over the past couple of days. If you missed it, here is what he 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.— Joaquin Castro (@Castro4Congress) August 6, 2019
Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’ pic.twitter.com/YT85IBF19u
Rep. Castro’s point may have been to out Trump donors in his area, but his tweet offered another reminder: why our society should resist weaponizing donations, political or otherwise.
In the greater philanthropic world, donor privacy should be an open-and-shut case. I wrote this piece at Caffeinated Thoughts last year explaining why donor privacy is so important. The ability to associate with an organization through your financial support is one of the key ingredients to building a thriving culture of American philanthropy.
When we enter the world of politics, things get murkier. Laws regarding campaign finance have made the names of many political donors public knowledge. Even if this information is able to be searched, should we seek to weaponize it?
The answer is a resounding NO.
Rep. Castro claims that his tweet was a ‘lament’ over Texans willing to donate to President Trump. However, his responses to the public outcry were telling. One example:
Donald Trump has put a target on the back of millions. And you’re too cowardly or agreeable to say anything about it.— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) August 7, 2019
How about I stop mentioning Trump’s public campaign donors and he stops using their money for ads that fuel hate?
It doesn’t matter whether you find yourself on the left or the right side of the aisle. It doesn’t matter whether it bothers you if somebody gives to a political candidate you vehemently oppose.
No one should be afraid to donate for fear that their name will be targeted by the opposition. Just like speech, money is an important form of association. We vote with our dollars in the marketplace, and we use them to build the future we envision in the philanthropic world.
In calling out Trump donors in his area, Rep. Castro put a target on the backs of these donors (unintentionally or otherwise), isolated them from the rest of the community he serves, and presented an absolutely chilling attitude when it comes to freedom of association.
Rep. Castro, shame on you. You have given an example of what not to do – may the rest of us rise above it and allow people to spend their money as they see fit.