The Slatest

White House Says Supreme Court Nominee’s Personal Debt Due to Nationals Season Tickets

 Judge Brett Kavanaugh before a meeting in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 11, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Conservatives like baseball more than a friend.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, like the man who nominated him, appears to be a big fan of debt. Unlike the president, who has managed to foist his losses on passersby, Kavanaugh, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, had tens of thousands of dollars of personal debt on his books until last year when the conservative justice-in-waiting managed to pay it off. The nature of Kavanaugh’s liabilities is unusual compared to his Ivy League peers on the federal bench, many of whom spent time in private practice and have substantial personal assets as a result.

Kavanaugh’s 2016 financial disclosure shows “$60,000 to $200,000 in debt accrued over three credit cards and a personal loan” with each credit card carrying “between $15,000 to $50,000 in debt, and [the] Thrift Savings Plan loan [-] between $15,000 to $50,000,” according to the Post. “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.”

That’s some pretty serious Natitude from the potential swing vote on the Supreme Court. Particularly for someone whose most recent financial disclosure claimed assets between $15,000 and $65,000. Footing the bill for, say, a pair of season tickets could easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars for an 81-game plan. Meaning, by Shah’s calculus, Kavanaugh would have been taking on debt that could have amounted to more than his assets to front “friends” for Nats tickets. The financial disclosure excludes housing and pension assets, which would be significant, given where Kavanaugh lives and works. But still, for a household that brings in something in the $300,000 range, it’s a bit strange.

You don’t—or shouldn’t—have to be rich, however, to be a Supreme Court justice, but you do—or should—have to be honest. Honesty is not the Trump administration’s strong suit and small misdirections can add up quickly when it comes to a contentious nomination, particularly when the stakes are as high as the Supreme Court. According to the Post’s reporting, “Kavanaugh has carried significant credit card debt—on and off—for more than a decade,” which, again, is a fact of life for tens of millions of Americans, but “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.”

Kavanaugh’s nomination, of course, didn’t come out of thin air; with a Republican president in office, he surely knew he’d be in the mix if there was another opening on the court and could have paid down his household debt in preparation for a nomination hearing. If that’s the case, Kavanaugh should say so, as, in the era of Trump, more than ever, transparency is a value worth fighting for.