Billionaire Republican megadonor Harlan Crow rocketed into infamy on Thursday after an explosive ProPublica investigation found that he has been giving lavish gifts to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for decades now, as the Court, influenced by people like Crow, lurches further to the right.
But, as a search of public donation information shows, Crow has also been quietly funding another movement: conservative Democrats’s dogged mission in recent years to obstruct their own party.
A search of the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) data on individual campaign contributions finds that Crow has donated to a litany of conservative Democrats in recent years as they positioned themselves as major roadblocks to climate and social bills that their party sought to pass over the past two years.
During crucial months of negotiation over Democrats’ reconciliation bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, Crow also funneled funds to members of the “Unbreakable Nine,” a group of conservative Democrat House members who threw a major wrench into the negotiations.
Crow gave to eight out of nine members of the Unbreakable Nine, the group that would end up killing the bill. Between spring and fall of 2021, Crow maxed out his donations of $2,900 to Representatives Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-California), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Jim Costa (D-California), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) and Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon).
The bill included measures to reduce climate emissions, lower the cost of prescription drugs and grant workers guaranteed paid family and medical leave.
After lawmakers like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) worked to completely neuter the bill, the Nine, led by Gottheimer, ultimately dealt the killing blow. Democratic leaders had previously pledged to progressives that they would keep the reconciliation bill tied to conservatives’ infrastructure bill in order to ensure the former’s passage. But Pelosi caved to pressure from the Unbreakable Nine and allowed the infrastructure bill to pass without Build Back Better, causing the latter to die. These moves seemed to come directly as a result of conservative and corporate donations — donations that Crow had a hand in.
Sinema, who identifies as an independent as of this year, is another of Crow’s recipients. According to FEC data — which doesn’t show money given by individuals through “dark money” groups — Crow has given at least $5,800 to Sinema’s campaign and $5,000 to the Getting Stuff Done PAC, a leadership PAC affiliated with Sinema. About $2,900 of the donations had to be refunded after it appeared that Crow hit the limit for individual contributions. The donations to Sinema were first noted by Insider.
Crow also donated to Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-New York) in 2019, FEC filings show. Though not part of the Unbreakable Nine, Suozzi was instrumental in an effort to include a repeal of the cap on the state and local tax (SALT) in the Build Back Better Act — a move that would have handed millionaires an average tax cut of $16,000 a year. Gottheimer was also involved in this effort.
These donations didn’t stop after Build Back Better was killed, either. The campaigns of Gottheimer and Cuellar, two of the most prominent members of the group, received donations from Crow in the runup to the midterm election.
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