Harlan Crow, the Texas billionaire who lavished expensive trips and gifts on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, donated more than $35,000 to Utah candidates and campaign committees for Republicans and Democrats since 1994. Almost half of Crow’s Utah-related donations were to Sen. Mike Lee, a stalwart defender of Thomas.
Thomas has come under fire after ProPublica reported that the justice had used Crow’s private jet and vacationed with him on his megayacht and at his private resort. Supreme Court justices are required to disclose gifts valued at more than $415. Thomas claims Crow is a close personal friend, and he was advised he was not required to reveal those gifts.
Crow has donated nearly $15 million to candidates and campaigns, most of which go to Republicans.
An analysis of Federal Election Commission financial disclosures by The Salt Lake Tribune finds Crow has donated $35,600 to Utah federal candidates since 1994.
Most of Crow’s donations found their way to Sen. Mike Lee. Crow donated $8,100 to Lee’s first reelection campaign in 2016 and $8,700 to Lee’s 2022 race against Evan McMullin. Crow’s financial support accounts for just over 47% of all donations to Utahns.
Crow’s donations to Utahns began in 1994 with a $1,000 donation to former Sen. Orrin Hatch. Crow gave another $5,000 to Hatch’s reelection effort in 2012.
In 2011, Crow gave $5,000 to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s unsuccessful presidential campaign.
Crow also contributed $5,400 to Mitt Romney’s 2018 U.S. Senate run and $5,000 to Romney’s 2012 presidential bid. Crow also hosted a fundraiser for Romney’s presidential campaign and donated $2.3 million to super PACs that supported his White House bid in 2012, according to Politico.
His Beehive State donations were not limited to Republicans. In 2019, Crow gave Democrat Ben McAdams’ campaign $2,800.
Crow’s impact on Utah politics is likely much more significant than the individual campaign donations alone. He co-founded the conservative Club for Growth, whose political action committee spent more than $5.4 million boosting Lee’s 2022 reelection campaign.
On his personal account, Lee made several posts defending Thomas, comparing the current situation to criticisms against him during his confirmation hearings and calling the justice an “American hero.”
Another intersection between the Texas billionaire and Lee comes through Thomas’ wife, Virginia.
In 2009, Crow gave $500,000 to the conservative activist group Liberty Central founded by Ginni Thomas. Liberty Central endorsed several tea party-affiliated candidates the following year, with Mike Lee being the first.
Lee was the only one from Utah’s congressional delegation to weigh in on Thomas after the ProPublica report. On his official U.S. Senate account, Lee called news reports about Thomas’ perceived ethical difficulties an “inexcusable and partisan attack” that aimed to “mislead the public and smear an honorable man.”