Last week, independent presidential candidate Cornel West made national headlines for receiving a maxed-out campaign donation from billionaire Harlan Crow, whose close friendship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has alarmed ethics experts. Though West eventually declared he would return the donation, the episode offers an opportunity to take a closer look at Crow’s political activities:
- In addition to being a Republican megadonor, Harlan Crow has given tens of thousands to conservative Democrats, including top members of the No Labels Problem Solvers Caucus like Josh Gottheimer. Unlike Cornel West, these Democrats haven’t given the money back.
- Since 1995, Crow has given over $47,000 to the political action committee of the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), a corporate landlord lobby group led by Crow Holdings executive Ken Valach. NMHC-PAC spent over $3 million in the 2022 election cycle to advance Big Real Estate’s interests.
A Revolving Door Project review of Federal Elections Commission (FEC) filings reveals that Harlan Crow has made large individual donations to many conservative and corporate-friendly Democrats, including:
- Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05): Harlan Crow has given a combined $16,800 to Gottheimer since 2018, with his most recent contribution being in March 2023. This makes Gottheimer the largest recipient of Crow cash out of any currently-serving Democratic lawmaker.
- Gottheimer and eight of his corporatist colleagues helped doom Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) social infrastructure bill (which featured considerable investments in affordable housing, financed by closing loopholes and raising taxes on corporations and the ultra-wealthy) by severing its passage from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
- Gottheimer is co-chair of the so-called “Problem Solvers Caucus”, which is closely linked to corporate dark money group No Labels. Harlan Crow has given $5000 to No Labels’ effort to run a third-party spoiler candidate against Biden in the 2024 election.
- Gottheimer has spoken at several NMHC conferences.
- Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28): Harlan Crow has given at least $12,500 to Henry Cuellar since 2006.
- At least $8,600 of Crow’s donations to Cuellar were given to help Cuellar fend off primary challenges in 2020 and 2022 from progressive Jessica Cisneros. In the latter race, Cuellar prevailed by only a 289-vote margin after a bitterly-fought and expensive runoff.
- Cuellar joined Gottheimer’s effort to tank BBB and has a strongly anti-choice, pro-gun, and anti-union voting record—earning him the moniker of “Trump’s favorite Democrat”.
- Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ): The former Democrat turned independent (who still caucuses with Senate Dems) and her PAC have received at least $11,600 from Harlan Crow since 2021. Sinema’s campaign partially refunded Crow in November 2021 for exceeding federal campaign contribution limits.
- Sinema was a featured speaker at NMHC’s Fall 2022 conference.
- Sinema is a close ally of the private equity industry, which has celebrated her for protecting the carried interest tax loophole. Leading private equity firms are dues-paying members of NMHC and have helped fuel the rental housing crisis with large (government-backed) multifamily property acquisitions.
- Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): Harlan Crow has given $2800 to Joe Manchin, who torpedoed the Senate version of BBB, since March 2021.
- Manchin is a close ally of No Labels and rumored to be their top pick for a third party spoiler presidential candidate. Crow has given $5000 to No Labels’ effort to run a third-party spoiler candidate against Biden in the 2024 election.
- Rep. Jim Costa (CA-21): Costa has taken $5700 from Harlan Crow since 2019—more than half of which he received after joining Gottheimer’s effort to tank BBB.
- Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-34): Gonzalez has taken $5700 from Harlan Crow since 2019—more than half of which he received after joining Gottheimer’s effort to tank BBB.
- Rep. Jared Golden (ME-02): Golden, a co-chair of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition and whip for the Problem Solvers Caucus, has received $5700 from Harlan Crow since 2021.
- Golden was the lone Democrat to vote against the Build Back Better Act on the House floor.
- Rep. Ed Case (HI-01): Case, a vice chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, received a $2900 donation from Harlan Crow just two weeks after joining Gottheimer’s effort to tank BBB.
- Rep. Dean Phillips (MN-03): The Minnesota New Democrat and Problem Solvers Caucus member received $2800 from Harlan Crow in July 2019.
- Phillips is a primary challenger against President Biden for the 2024 Democratic nomination.
- Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-07): Slotkin, a former CIA officer who is currently running for Senate, received $2800 from Harlan Crow in June 2019.
- Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA-07): Spanberger, a former CIA agent and Problem Solvers Caucus member who has been vocally hostile to her progressive colleagues, received $2800 from Harlan Crow in June 2019.
- Rep. Susie Lee (NV-03): Lee, a Vice Chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus and whip for the New Democrat Coalition, received $2800 from Harlan Crow in June 2019.
- Rep. Lou Correa (CA-46): Correa, a former real estate broker and monopoly-friendly ranking member on the House antitrust subcommittee, received $2800 from Harlan Crow in June 2019.
- Rep. Scott Peters (CA-50): Peters, a New Democrat member whose politically-toxic opposition to drug price reforms cost him a recent bid to lead the Coalition, received $2800 from Harlan Crow in June 2019.
- Rep. Josh Harder (CA-09): The Problem Solvers Caucus member received $2800 from Harlan Crow in June 2019.
- Sen. John Hickenlooper (CO): The centrist Colorado Senator received a $2800 donation from Harlan Crow during his failed 2020 presidential campaign.
- Former Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01): The former Arizona Congressman and current senior advisor in the Department of Agriculture received $2800 from Crow in June 2019.
- Former Rep. Xochitl Torres-Small (NM-02): The former New Mexico Congresswoman and current Deputy Secretary of Agriculture received $2800 from Crow in June 2019.
- Former Rep. Tom Suozzi (NY-03): The former New York Congressman (whose failed run for governor allowed fabulist George Santos to clinch his House seat) received $2800 from Harlan Crow in May 2019. Suozzi is running against Santos for his former seat in 2024.
- Former Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-03): The anti-choice former Illinois Congressman received $2800 from Crow in his unsuccessful 2020 primary against progressive challenger Marie Newman.
- Failed Opponents Of “The Squad”: Crow maxed-out to Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and Don Samuels, who ran conservative primary challenges against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar in 2020 and 2022, respectively.
NMHC’s Political Action Committee (PAC), which Crow has given at least $47,000 to since 1995, has also given heavily to Democrats. Many current and former members of Democratic leadership received at least $10,000 in NMHC-PAC contributions last cycle, including Hakeem Jeffries, Pete Aguilar, Katherine Clark, Steny Hoyer, James Clyburn, and Nancy Pelosi (whose nephew Lawrence is a Senior Managing Director at Harlan Crow’s real estate firm).
READ MORE ABOUT NMHC: Harlan Crow’s Minions Are Keeping Your Rent High.