Or did someone throw the Washington Post a curveball? The White House released Brett Kavanaugh’s financial records yesterday as part of their disclosures for his eventual confirmation hearing, and the Post may have thought they’d found a diamond in the rough. Kavanaugh ran up some substantial credit-card debt, a potential hanging slider over the partisan plate. That is, until they found out what the charges were.
Can we call this a swing and a miss?
Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh incurred tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets over the past decade and at times reported liabilities that could have exceeded the value of his cash accounts and investment assets, according to a review of Kavanaugh’s financial disclosures and information provided by the White House.
White House spokesman Raj Shah told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh built up the debt by buying Washington Nationals season tickets and tickets for playoff games for himself and a “handful” of friends. Shah said some of the debts were also for home improvements.
In 2016, Kavanaugh reported having between $60,000 and $200,000 in debt accrued over three credit cards and a loan. Each credit card held between $15,000 and $50,000 in debt, and a Thrift Savings Plan loan was between $15,000 and $50,000.
The credit card debts and loan were either paid off or fell below the reporting requirements in 2017, according to the filings, which do not require details on the nature or source of such payments. Shah told The Post that Kavanaugh’s friends reimbursed him for their share of the baseball tickets and that the judge has since stopped purchasing the season tickets.
In other words, Judge Kavanaugh fronted the cost of season tickets for his friends by putting them on his charge cards, and paid it off after his pals kicked in their share. This foul pop-up led to much mirth and merriment on Twitter when the story first appeared, with some questioning whether any Nats fan could be said to have the requisite judgment necessary for a seat on the Supreme Court. The general consensus was that pointing out that Kavanaugh loves baseball, has the trust of his friends, and pays off his debts was not likely to be much of a political liability in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.
In fact, as CBS News notes in reviewing the same records, the real story is that Kavanaugh remains a man of relatively modest means — perhaps the most modest on the court he’s joining:
The vetting of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is just beginning, but his public financial disclosures make one thing clear: He’s not as wealthy as many already on the high court. Public disclosure forms for 2017 show that the federal judge would come to the nation’s highest court with only two investments, including a bank account, together worth a maximum of $65,000, along with the balance on a loan of $15,000 or less.
Separate from the disclosure forms, the White House said that between Kavanaugh’s retirement account balance of $400,000 to $500,000, and the equity in his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, he has about an additional million dollars in wealth. …
A 2017 report from the Center for Public Integrity said that at least six of the nine justices were millionaires, with Justice Stephen Breyer reporting a minimum net worth of $6.15 million in 2016 and Chief Justice John Roberts a minimum reportable net worth of more than $5 million. The report stressed that the disclosures are made in broad ranges, making it hard to know exact figures.
Regarding Kavanaugh being poorer than the others, many of whom had considerable earnings during years of non-government legal work, Shah said, “He’s devoted his life to public service.”
At the very least, it’s clear that Kavanaugh hasn’t cashed in on public service in the manner seen by some in Congress and other parts of the federal government. For a man who has spent his whole life in and around the Beltway, that’s pretty remarkable. And while it won’t get Kavanaugh an intentional walk from Senate Democrats, they might want to consider how Kavanaugh compares to their own records before putting a few pitches under his chin.