Senate Democrats go after Harlan Crow

Judiciary Committee members seek full list of gifts from Crow to Justice Clarence Thomas

From left: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Clarence Thomas, Crow Holdings' Harlan Crow, , Senator Richard J. Durbin and Senator Ron Wyden (Getty, George W. Bush Presidential Center)
From left: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Clarence Thomas, Crow Holdings' Harlan Crow, , Senator Richard J. Durbin and Senator Ron Wyden (Getty, George W. Bush Presidential Center)

Democrats of the Senate Judiciary Committee are pushing Harlan Clow to reveal a full accounting of gifts he provided to Justice Clarence Thomas.

The committee, led by Sen. Richard J. Durbin, sent a letter to Crow on Monday, urging the billionaire real estate scion and Republican mega-donor to hand over documentation of all gifts valued above $415 — the legal threshold for reporting such transactions among federal judges, the New York Times reported. An attorney for Crow fired back, saying he would not comply.

The request stems from ProPublica reports detailing the many luxury vacations that Thomas and his wife took on Crow’s private jet and megayacht, all of which was funded by Crow. The justice didn’t report the trips, which violated a federal law, according to many ethics experts.

Since then, more details have emerged. In 2014, Crow bought Thomas’ mother’s house in Savannah, Georgia for $133,000. The former Crow Holdings CEO allegedly performed tens of thousands of dollars worth of renovations, but the only renovation he admitted to was building a carport on the property, Crow said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News.

Most recently, ProPublica reported that Crow paid two years of private school tuition, amounting to about $100,000, for Thomas’ grandnephew, Mark Martin. The justice didn’t report those transactions either.

In the letter to Crow, the committee said they would use the information to correct shortcomings in the court’s current ethics and disclosure framework. 

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“We’re seeking information on whether individuals with interests before the Supreme Court were able to gain access to Justices through gifts, lodging, and travel from Harlan Crow and his companies,” Durbin said on Twitter. “If the Supreme Court won’t implement ethics reform itself, @JudiciaryDems will.”

The Senate Finance Committee also wrote a letter to Crow, seeking similar information. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon and chairman of the committee, asked for records of any benefits Crow provided to the justice, saying the panel wanted to assess whether tax laws had been followed, the outlet reported.

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Sen. Michael D. Crapo, a Republican from Idaho, said he would fight any effort to issue a subpoena.

In addition, Judiciary Committee Democrats are seeking records from Crow’s business interests. That includes Dallas-based Crow Holdings and its subsidiaries.

—Quinn Donoghue