Bloomberg Law
May 23, 2023, 4:21 PM

Justice Thomas’s Benefactor Crow Rebuffs Senate on Ethics Probe

Emily Birnbaum

Harlan Crow, the Texas billionaire and GOP megadonor with close ties to Clarence Thomas, refused to answer questions from a Senate committee about his years of gifts to the Supreme Court justice.

Crow’s lawyers in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee argued that Congress does not have “the authority to investigate Mr. Crow’s personal friendship” with Thomas, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by Bloomberg News.

“The Committee has not identified a valid legislative purpose for its investigation and is not authorized to conduct an ethics investigation of a Supreme Court Justice,” wrote Crow’s lawyers, who are from the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. They added that the committee is “targeting Justice Thomas for special and unwarranted opprobrium.”

In response, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said in a statement that Crow “did not provide a credible justification” for his failure to answer detailed inquiries from the committee.

“Harlan Crow believes the secrecy of his lavish gifts to Justice Thomas is more important than the reputation of the highest court of law in this land,” Durbin said. “He is wrong.”

A Crow spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A ProPublica report last month said that Thomas and his wife traveled through Indonesia aboard Crow’s 162-foot yacht, vacationed almost every summer at his luxurious New York resort and flew on his private plane around the world on trips worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The outlet also reported that Crow bought three Georgia properties — including the home where Thomas’s mother resides — from the justice and his relatives, and paid private school tuition for a Thomas grandnephew. The disclosures about Thomas have set off a battle over the high court’s ethics.

Earlier: Senate Democrats Ask Crow to Detail His Gifts to Justice Thomas

Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month asked Crow to disclose any gifts or payments made to Thomas and his family. But Crow’s legal team has stonewalled the inquiries so far.

Crow previously refused a request by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden to detail the extent and tax treatment of luxury gifts he provided to Thomas.

Democrats have subpoena powers if Crow continues to refuse to answer questions from the Senate.

--With assistance from Laura Litvan.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Emily Birnbaum in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Sara Forden at

Elizabeth Wasserman

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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