Political Donations and Openness

So, Joaquin Castro, the twin brother of Democratic Presidential candidate, Julian Castro, is getting criticized for tweeting out the names and employers of Trump donors in San Antonio.  Joaquin Castro is a member of Congress who represents a district in the House of Representatives that includes San Antonio.  He’s also the chairman of Julian Castro’s campaign for President.  Despite the criticism, predictably from Republicans, Joaquin Castro is standing by the tweet.

I think I’m with the Castros here.  The information he provided is publicly available in the FEC database of political donations.  He provided names and employers, but no other personal information in his tweet.  Seems to me that is the point of the law and the database.  These donors know in advance that their information is going into the database and that the information will be available to the public.  Having a little bit of sunlight into the issue of money in politics is a good thing.

And, I encourage everybody to go and give the database a whirl.  By using the database, I was able to find the 71 separate donations from people in my zip code (it looks like some people are in the results multiple times for multiple separate donations).  The time period for the search was for 2019.  Interested to see the results?  I was.  Joe Biden got, one, count’em, one donation in that period.  It was the only donation in my zip code for the maximum allowed for an individual donation – $2800.  Bernie got four donations. Warren got 28 donations and Trump got 38, but they both had multiple donations from the same people.  Read into the numbers what you will.

Now I’m not going list the names of the Trump donors in my zip code.  Heck, they’d probably be quite happy for everyone to know they donated to Trump’s campaign since this state is awash with Trump voters.  But maybe the one person who donated to Biden at the max amount wouldn’t want that info out around here.  Does this openness drive the money into PACs where donors don’t have their names disclosed?  I don’t know, maybe.  But then again those people who don’t want their donations known are probably already doing that.  I figure, if you support a candidate, then you should be OK with people knowing you’re giving that campaign money.  And if you don’t want people to know you gave money to Trump for his reelection, then don’t give him money.  I say this public database is the least we can do and I support the Castros, if for nothing else, that they’re bringing our attention to this.

3 thoughts on “Political Donations and Openness

  1. Not so sure about this one, in particular your statement that “I figure, if you support a candidate, then you should be OK with people knowing you’re giving that campaign money. And if you don’t want people to know you gave money to Trump for his reelection, then don’t give him money.”

    There is, after all, a long tradition in US History (and in England before that) of anonymity in political discourse. Consider the Federalist Papers, for example, or McIntyre vs. Ohio Elections Commission. From that case:
    Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

    I don’t think you can argue with a straight face that Castro is attempting anything other than to expose individuals to that very retaliation. Had it been otherwise, he could have approvingly listed, say, donors on his side. What he’s doing here is more along the lines of “Nice life/job/business you got here… be a real shame if somethin’ were to happen to it.” It’s demagoguery at best, an attempt to incite a mob at worst.

    From Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt today:

    We would think that no congressman would ever want to get a reputation for posting people’s employers and hometowns out of partisan spite, even if the information was in public Federal Elections Commission records. To do that would be like playing with matches around gasoline — not just the potential threat of harassment and violence to the named donors, but the potential for some nut to get outraged about it and start looking up personal information about the congressman in response. Because in an era where all kinds of personal information ends up on the Internet . . . it’s all out there; it’s just a question of knowing where to look. And we haven’t even gotten to the question of hacking and cybersecurity.

    We would think that any congressman, no matter how angered he was that some of his constituents were donating to a political figure he opposed, would recognize the extraordinary dangers of inaugurating a new form of partisan warfare by “doxing” the other side’s donors.

    We would think.

    Is this really the world you want, Mad Dog? “But the Trump administration is such an extreme case…” Rubbish. Every case is extreme in someone’s eyes. This sort of nonsense is not justifiable, even if it is permissible.

    1. I can see what you’re saying, but if I balance the need for more transparency in political contributions versus the precedent this sets, I’m going to side with the transparency. And if the outrage from Republicans is soooo great, I’m willing to bet that the Dems are open to debate in congress the issue of transparency in political donations. I’ll take it a little more seriously when Republicans aren’t just tweeting about something to take the heat off themselves on the gun issue.

      As for your last paragraph, I’m thinking of it more in terms of the future, rather than retribution for the poor choice that many made in 2016 and are making now. The question of the anonymity of the really big money that goes into Super PACs is what I’m really after. The FEC database is actually a small part of a bigger problem imo.

      There’s also an aspect of what I’ve talked about with how Dems v. Republicans play the politics game. I’ll bet that there are some Republicans who are kicking themselves for not pulling this one on Hillary in 2016. I’m all for civility in politics. But fool me once. I’ll wait and see if they can be civil first, thank you very much.

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