As the likely battle over the nomination of conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court heats up, tickets have taken an unexpected place in the discussion. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Kavanaugh, who currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, incurred significant debt in recent years – debt tied to the purchase of Washington Nationals tickets.
The liabilities related to tickets and home improvements could have exceeded the value of his cash and investment assets, 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. 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.
As a circuit judge, Kavanaugh made an annual salary of approximately $220,000 per year. He also supplemented that with some $27,000 in teaching income from Harvard Law School.
Writing for NBC Sports, Craig Calcaterra pointed out the potential ethical questions that could stem from the somewhat murky issue of these ticket purchases and subsequent repayment from the friends he was purchasing the tickets with.
Washington Nationals jokes aside, I also happened to be a public ethics lawyer back in my past life, and I dealt with stuff like this. And I can tell you, dear readers, that shenanigans with respect to sports tickets reimbursements is a classic way for public officials to hide and/or launder inappropriate cash payments. A big one is golf outings and stuff, but professional sports tickets is another one too. Ohio’s former governor, Bob Taft, was convicted for ethics crimes in this general area, in fact.
Calcaterra is quick to add a caveat that he is not accusing Kavanaugh of any malfeasance, but does believe that the debt and quick repayment will likely be a line of inquiry at his future confirmation hearings, presumably led by Democrats who are hoping to forestall President Trump’s second appointment to the bench in his first two years in office.
One theory that we’re seeing posted in social media is that the prospective Associate Justice of the Surpreme Court, who prior to his appointment to the federal bench was among those who worked on the Starr Report on then-President Bill Clinton which recommended the Democrat be impeached, made money on the side as a ticket reseller.
Obviously there is zero proof to any of it, but there’s some interesting commentary on the Reddit.com thread related to the news:
It’s likely that the “will we appoint a ticket scalper to the Supreme Court” question will fizzle out. However, it’s worth keeping an eye on, at least, for those interested in the various legal questions surrounding the ticket resale industry, should an individual who is clearly well versed in the ticketing market (whether he resold or not) be named to the highest court in the land.