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Billionaire Son Of Trammell Crow Behind Lavish Gifts To Clarence Thomas

The scion of a global real estate giant is now at the heart of a historic scandal for the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, seen in October 2020

For decades, Justice Clarence Thomas has been a frequent guest and travel companion of Crow Holdings Chair and former CEO Harlan Crow, son of Trammell Crow. Over that time, Thomas accepted millions of dollars' worth of gifts that he did not publicly disclose, ProPublica reports.

Failure to disclose gifts, including travel expenses and some forms of lodging, is a crime and raises questions over the level of influence Crow had on Thomas' jurisprudence over the years.

Over the same period, Crow was a public supporter and follower of Thomas and the country's high court through legally disclosed gifts and charitable donations, ProPublica reports. One such contribution was a $500K gift to a Tea Party-affiliated group from which Thomas' wife, Ginni, drew a $120K annual salary. Thomas has been scrutinized for potential conflicts of interest related to Ginni Thomas' attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

In addition to his long-term and continued leadership at Crow Holdings, the family's wealth management office founded by Trammell Crow, Harlan Crow led Trammell Crow Co.'s Dallas office development operations from 1978 to 1986, according to his bio on Crow Holdings' website.

He purchased much of TCC's real estate upon leaving the company and assuming the top job at Crow Holdings after the industry's collapse in the 1980s prompted TCC to expand into the management business, The New York Times reported in 1996. By that year, Crow owned a significant stake in TCC and sat on its board.

TCC, a subsidiary of CBRE since 2006, has no present affiliation or relationship with Harlan Crow, a spokesperson told Bisnow in an email.

Crow released a statement in response to the ProPublica report claiming that the "hospitality" he showed for Thomas over the years was “no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends.” That friendship was memorialized in a painting commissioned by Crow (far right in the painting) of Thomas and other friends enjoying cigars at Crow's upstate New York vacation home.

Neither Crow nor his family's companies have brought a case before the Supreme Court since Thomas joined the bench in 1991.

In addition to over $10M in publicly disclosed political contributions, Crow has given additional sums to political action groups that conceal their donations. He serves as a board director on several organizations that work to shape the judicial branch and push it to the right, including the Hoover Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, which often submit amicus briefs to the Supreme Court, ProPublica reports.

Crow has also donated to the Federalist Society, a group that coordinates with Republican lawmakers to identify and promote judges friendly to conservative ideology for federal judgeships, per ProPublica  — including multiple recent Supreme Court appointees.