Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have attacked Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination from a number of angles during his confirmation hearings this week, suggesting that he twists the law to achieve right-wing ideological goals, has been propped up with the help of sleazy tactics that have hidden his record from the public, and has been nominated in part to protect Donald Trump from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. One thing Democrats haven’t asked Kavanaugh about—and don’t appear to plan to, given that their time to ask direct questions has run out—is the weird story of his personal debt.
As first reported by the Washington Post, Kavanaugh’s financial disclosure forms indicate that, as of 2016, he carried somewhere between $60,000 and $200,000 in debt on three credit cards plus a personal loan. The White House’s explanation for why a successful 53-year-old lawyer and judge would have that much credit card debt was that Kavanaugh really liked going to baseball games:
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.
A ProPublica piece about Kavanaugh’s tickets notes that he’s been seen at Nationals games in seats near first base. Season tickets at the “Dugout Premier” price level in that area would cost about $9,000 a year. The judge, therefore, would have had to have fronted the cost of seven such top-level season tickets just to reach the lower limit of what his debt was said to be.
In 2017, all of Kavanaugh’s debt besides his home mortgage was gone, which the White House says was because “Kavanaugh’s friends reimbursed him for their share of the baseball tickets.” The administration wouldn’t provide any more details.
Incidentally, in one of the previously undisclosed emails from Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House that was released Thursday, he apologizes to several friends for “growing aggressive after blowing still another game of dice” during a weekend trip and then instructs them “to be very, very vigilant w/r/t confidentiality on all issues and all fronts, including with spouses.”
To be fair to Kavanaugh, the dice comment could have been tongue in cheek, and the confidentiality could have referred to work-related discussions rather than personal chicanery. But we don’t know, because no one on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked him to explain it.
I’m not a master of jurisprudential ethics, but I’ve read a few thrillers, and it seems like having a Supreme Court justice who likes to gamble and racks up huge debts that he explains implausibly and which disappear mysteriously may not be the best idea, as far as preventing potential corruption or conflicts of interest, right?
One more thing
If you think Slate’s work matters, become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.Join Slate Plus