American Oversight has uncovered records that reveal Harlan Crow — the billionaire conservative donor who reportedly has for decades supplied Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his family with expensive gifts and travel — attended at least one of the controversial taxpayer-funded “Madison Dinners” hosted by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan at the State Department in 2019.
The records, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, are another indication of the level of access Crow has had with powerful conservative officials, including Trump administration cabinet members.
The Madison Dinners, which were not publicized or disclosed on Pompeo’s public schedules, were first reported on by NBC News in May 2020 and immediately raised concerns about the potential misuse of taxpayer funds to build a base of political supporters and donors for Pompeo.
The documents uncovered by American Oversight include an email from Susan Pompeo about the seating chart for a dinner on Sept. 12, 2019, which listed Crow and his wife among attendees, as well as former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, retired Lt. Col. Oliver North, and others.
Another email sent by Susan Pompeo in June 2019 indicated that Crow had also been invited to the dinner that month, but that he and Sen. Tim Scott would be unable to attend because of a conflicting retirement party.
Last month, ProPublica published a blockbuster report highlighting years’ worth of luxury gifts and vacations Crow provided Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his family, igniting calls for investigation, judicial ethics reforms, and even impeachment. In the weeks since, ProPublica has reported that one of Crow’s companies bought property from Thomas and his relatives in 2014 and that Crow paid tuition for Thomas’ grandnephew to attend private boarding school in Georgia for over a year.
The disclosure of Thomas’ cozy relationship with Crow has brought attention to the Supreme Court’s weak ethics rules. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center has called on the Justice Department to investigate Thomas for failing to disclose the luxury gifts from Crow, and this week the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Crow to provide full details about gifts and travel he provided Thomas. In a letter from his lawyer, Crow declined to answer the committee’s questions.
The emails were first obtained by American Oversight in March 2023, following a lawsuit brought in 2020 that sought the release of a wide range of records that could shed light on the role played by Susan Pompeo at the State Department.