By Matthew Vadum
Wealthy Republican donor Harlan Crow says that both he and his friend, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, are victims of a “political hit job.”
Crow, 73, was thrown into the national spotlight earlier this month when a left-wing media outlet reported that for years the conservative justice had been accepting luxurious vacations from the Texas billionaire without disclosing them in ethics reports. Thomas, 74, said April 7 he was advised he didn’t have to report the trips but said he will follow new reporting requirements imposed on the federal judiciary.
In recent days it was also reported that Thomas has been declaring income from a real estate partnership for years even though the business was shuttered years ago. Last week it was reported that Thomas sold his mother’s home to Crow but failed to disclose the transaction, as the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 is said to require. Crow has said his company, Crow Holdings, currently has about $30 billion in assets under management.
Democrats say Thomas’s acceptance of a friend’s largesse is corrupt in itself, even if the friend has no legal business pending before the Supreme Court, an argument rejected by legal experts consulted by The Epoch Times. Legal experts also say the fact that the Supreme Court was created by the Constitution, not Congress, means that only the Supreme Court can regulate the Supreme Court. If justices want to follow rules created by lawmakers, they can do so voluntarily, but forcing them to do so raises constitutional issues, the experts say.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has demanded that the justice be impeached and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s panel on federal courts, wants the Judicial Conference of the United States, the congressionally-created policymaking body for the federal courts, to refer Thomas to the U.S. Department of Justice for potential violations of ethics laws.
The full committee’s chairman, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), has said the committee will hold a hearing “regarding the need to restore confidence in the Supreme Court’s ethical standards.” Durbin also has said Chief Justice John Roberts should investigate the matter.
Critics also say that justices whose spouses are involved in political activism, like Thomas, whose wife, Ginni Thomas, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, is active in conservative politics, should have to recuse themselves from involvement in cases related to that activism. Despite pressure, the justice declined to recuse himself from the various challenges to the disputed 2020 presidential election that made it to the Supreme Court.
In an interview The Dallas Morning News published on April 17, Crow said he wanted to “set the record straight” about media coverage that is “factually incorrect and being written with a strong political agenda.”
“I think it’s a political hit job,” Crow said. “I don’t think the media cares really much about Harlan Crow, and I think they’re right. They shouldn’t care much about Harlan Crow.
“But I think that the media, and this ProPublica group in particular, funded by leftists, has an agenda to destabilize the [Supreme] Court. What they’ve done is not truthful. It lacks integrity. They’ve done a pretty good job in the last week or two of unfairly slamming me and more importantly than that, unfairly slamming Justice Thomas.”
ProPublica is a left-wing nonprofit funded in part by the preeminent Democratic Party donor, financier George Soros, through his Foundation to Promote Open Society. Soros has been widely criticized by conservatives and Republicans for funding the election campaigns of various district attorneys across the nation who are soft on crime.
ProPublica told the Dallas media outlet that Thomas and Crow were given an opportunity to comment before the publication published its articles. Thomas didn’t respond and Crow didn’t question the facts that were reported, ProPublica editor in chief Stephen Engelberg reportedly said.
Crow explained how he met Thomas 27 years ago in the nation’s capital. After learning that Thomas needed to get to Dallas for a speaking engagement, Crow offered him a ride on his private jet.
“I had never met him,” Crow said. “During that flight, we found out we were kind of simpatico. We’re the same age. We grew up in the same era. We come from absolutely polar opposite life stories, but we had a lot in common.”
A deep friendship between their two families ensued.
“A lot of people that have opinions about this seem to think that there’s something wrong with this friendship,” Crow said.
“You know, it’s possible that people are just really friends. It blows my mind that people assume that because Clarence Thomas has friends, that those friends have an angle.”
Crow acknowledged he is “pro-choice” even though Thomas is not.
“Do you think I would try to influence him about my point of view on that matter? No, of course not. That’s insane,” he said. “We have different points of view on that and probably other issues.”
When Crow and Thomas chat it is often about children and dogs, Crow said.
When asked if Crow would still be a friend of Thomas if he weren’t a member of the Supreme Court, the businessman said: “It’s an interesting, good question. I don’t know how to answer that. Maybe not. Maybe yes. I don’t know.”
Asked if he thought his friendship with Thomas would lead to a quid pro quo, Crow said, “Every single relationship—a baby’s relationship to his mom—has some kind of reciprocity.”
“Clarence Thomas is one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s a man of incredibly high personal and moral standards,” Crow said.
“For me to comment about what kind of reporting any judge is required to do legally or morally, is just not something I know about. That’s not my world. Justice Thomas is a man of integrity and the idea that he would do anything that’s not exactly correct is just not true.”
Crow said it bothers him that some people think it is inappropriate that he purchased the home of Thomas’s mother.
ProPublica reported that Crow purchased a single-story home and two vacant lots on the same road for $133,363 from Thomas, his mother, and the surviving family of Thomas’s late brother.
Crow told The Dallas Morning News he was thinking he might turn the home into a museum honoring Thomas one day.
“I assumed his mother owned the home,” Crow said.
“His life story is an amazing American life story: Born into deep poverty. Father gone. Mother—the lady whom we’re talking about—really not able to do a lot to help raise her two sons. Ultimately raised by his grandparents, who were illiterate. Growing up in Jim Crow Georgia.
“So I approached him with the idea that I might purchase that home for the purpose that in due course it could be the boyhood home of a great American.”
Crow said he made some improvements to the home.
Thomas’s mother “works as a greeter in the local hospital—a 94-year-old lady,” he said.
“When we made this purchase, she was just an 84-year-old lady, or something like that. I built a carport, so that she can park her car. It’s not an enclosed garage. That’s what I did. … I don’t remember any other rooms. However, if there was a commode that was terrible, I might have fixed it. I don’t know.”
The Epoch Times reached out to the Supreme Court and Thomas for comment through the court’s public information office but had not received a reply as of press time.
Whitehouse’s office has been contacted for comment but had not received a reply as of press time.