The White House has tried to portray President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, as a down-to-earth guy who engages in wholesome activities like watching sports and mentoring kids when he isn’t ruling against women’s reproductive rights or explaining why the president is above the law.
“Even though he has Ivy League credentials and a fancy job, he’s kind of a regular, all-American guy,” Helgi Walker, who worked with Kavanaugh in the George W. Bush White House, told the Washington Post. “He likes to play basketball and drink beer. … It’s very refreshing in a town like Washington.”
On Wednesday the White House revealed that Kavanaugh is actually so painfully “all American” that he racked up a large amount of credit-card debt due to his love of baseball. The Post reported that over the past decade, Kavanaugh incurred tens of thousands in credit-card debt, according to financial disclosures, and at times his reported liabilities might have exceeded his assets.
White House spokesperson Raj Shah claimed Kavanaugh went into debt by buying Washingon Nationals season tickets and playoff tickets for himself and a “handful” of friends. He said some of the debts were for unspecified home improvements. Per the Post:
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.
But there’s no need to worry about Kavanaugh’s spending habits, because that debt of up to $200,000 was suddenly paid off, or fell below reporting requirements, last year. Shah said Kavanaugh’s friends reimbursed him, and he’s no longer in charge of purchasing the tickets.
Kavanaugh’s required disclosure forms deal in broad ranges, so it’s hard to get an accurate picture of his financial situation (with good Nationals season tickets running as high as $6,000 Kavanaugh could have been buying tickets for ten friends, or nearly three dozen). But other details suggest $60,00 to $200,000 isn’t an insignificant sum for the Kavanaughs. Federal circuit judges make about $220,000 annually, and Kavanaugh also earned $27,000 from teaching at Harvard Law School last year. As the town manager of Chevy Chase, Maryland, Kavanaugh’s wife makes $66,000 annually. The Post also reported:
He lists just two kinds of assets — unspecified accounts held with Bank of America, and his wife’s retirement fund from her job in Texas — totaling between $15,000 to $65,000.
His public filing does not include his home, which he purchased with his wife, Ashley, in 2006 for $1.2 million. Public real estate filings indicate that the couple has refinanced their mortgage twice, most recently in 2015. Their current mortgage is $865,000.
It appears that if confirmed, Kavanaugh would be the least wealthy justice. Justice Clarence Thomas reported assets between $695,000 and $1.7 million, the least among the justices (the figures don’t include home values). Justice Stephen Breyer is the richest, with assets of $6.4 million to $16.6 million.
Conservatives on Twitter mocked the idea that the left was attacking Kavanaugh for a credit-card debt that he’s already paid off. Certainly, the focus should remain on the possibility that if confirmed, he’ll help overturn Roe v. Wade, gut Obamacare, and protect Trump from being held accountable for whatever the Mueller probe turns up. But there is something fishy about Kavanaugh’s spending habits, and the White House offering up an explanation that fits so neatly with the image it’s trying to paint. Presumably senators are going to want to know more.