Ka­vanaugh piled up credit card debt

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - National - By Amy Brit­tain

WASH­ING­TON Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett 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 his fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sures and in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the White House.

White House spokesman Raj Shah told The Wash­ing­ton Post that Judge Ka­vanaugh built up the debt by buy­ing Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als sea­son tick­ets and tick­ets for play­off games for him­self and a “hand­ful” of friends. Mr. Shah said some of the debts were also for home im­prove­ments.

In 2016, Judge Ka­vanaugh re­ported 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. Mr. Shah told the Post that Judge Ka­vanaugh’s friends re­im­bursed him for their share of the base­ball tick­ets and that the judge has since stopped pur­chas­ing the sea­son tick­ets.

Mr. Shah did not pro­vide the names of the friends or ad­di­tional de­tails about the tick­ets. Judge Ka­vanaugh de­clined to com­ment.

Mr. Shah said the pay­ments for the tick­ets were made at the end of 2016 and paid off early the next year.

“He did not carry that kind of debt year over year,” Mr. Shah said.

Judge Ka­vanaugh’s most re­cent fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure forms re­veal re­portable as­sets between $15,000 and $65,000, which would put him at the bot­tom of the fi­nan­cial rank­ing of jus­tices, most of whom list well over $1 mil­lion in as­sets. The value of res­i­dences is not sub­ject to dis­clo­sure, and Mr. Shah added that Judge Ka­vanaugh has a govern­ment re­tire­ment ac­count worth nearly half a mil­lion dol­lars that also was notre­quired to be dis­closed.

“At this time the Ka­vanaughs have no debt be­yond their home mort­gage,” Mr. Shah said.

He said that Judge Ka­vanaugh has as­sets of nearly $1 mil­lion between the eq­uity in his home and his re­tire­ment ac­count.

Un­like some of the other jus­tices, Judge Ka­vanaugh has worked more than two decades in the pub­lic sec­tor and has not built wealth as a pri­vate lawyer.

“Judge Ka­vanaugh is a bril­liant ju­rist who has ded­i­cated his life to pub­lic ser­vice,” Mr. Shah said.

Prices for Na­tion­als sea­son ticket pack­ages can vary widely, depend­ing on their lo­ca­tion in the sta­dium. Seats a dozen rows be­hind the dugout in the lower area of the sta­dium can go for as much as $6,000 apiece for an 81-game sea­son pack­age.

Glean­ing fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion from pub­lic dis­clo­sure forms has lim­i­ta­tions. For in­stance, judges do not re­port pri­mary res­i­dences — mean­ing that es­ti­mates of net worth can be sig­nif­i­cantly un­der­val­ued. Dis­clo­sures are meant to pro­vide trans­parency to avoid con­flicts of in­ter­est in­volv­ing jus­tices and those who do busi­ness be­fore the high court.

Fed­eral law re­quires only broad ranges for dis­clo­sure forms, and such fil­ings in­clude as­sets for spouses, so it is dif­fi­cult to pin­point an ex­act fi­nan­cial snap­shot for an in­di­vid­ual.

But for Judge Ka­vanaugh, the dif­fer­ences are stark between his fi­nances and those of his would-be peers on the court. He lists just two kinds of as­sets — un­spec­i­fied ac­counts held with Bank of Amer­ica and his wife’s re­tire­ment fund from em­ploy­ment in Texas — to­tal­ing between $15,000 and $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.

His past fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure forms re­veal that Judge Ka­vanaugh has car­ried sig­nif­i­cant credit card debt — on and off — for more than a decade. He re­ported between $60,000 to $200,000 in debt among three credit cards and a loan in 2006, the same year he was con­firmed to the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the D.C. Cir­cuit.

With­out in­clud­ing homes, Judge Ka­vanaugh would rank at the bot­tom of dis­closed as­sets among the jus­tices by a con­sid­er­able mar­gin, ac­cord­ing to a re­view of 2017 dis­clo­sures listed on Fix the Court, a web­site ded­i­cated to greater trans­parency in the ju­di­ciary branch.

Jus­tice Clarence Thomas has as­sets listed between $695,000 to $1.7 mil­lion, which is the least among the jus­tices, not count­ing de­part­ing Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy, but still at least 10 times that of Judge Ka­vanaugh. The high-court’s new­est jus­tice, Neil Gor­such, re­ported as­sets worth between $3.6 mil­lion to $10.5 mil­lion in his most re­cent fil­ings. The jus­tice with the high­est re­ported as­sets was Stephen Breyer, who listed between $6.4 mil­lion and $16.6 mil­lion.

Fed­eral cir­cuit judges draw an­nual salar­ies of about $220,000 a year, and Judge Ka­vanaugh sup­ple­mented his salary with more than $27,000 in teach­ing in­come in 2017 from Har­vard Law School. As­so­ciate jus­tices on the Supreme Court make $255,300, while Chief Jus­tice John Roberts draws a $267,000 salary.

Judge Ka­vanaugh lives in the af­flu­ent Vil­lage of Chevy Chase, Sec­tion 5, where his wife works as the town man­ager and draws a $66,000 an­nual salary. She be­gan the job in 2015 and did not re­port any in­come for the prior four years.

The Ka­vanaughs send their two daugh­ters to the Catholic pri­vate school of Blessed Sacra­ment, where tuition costs $10,025 per child.

The perch of a Supreme Court seat can pro­vide ad­di­tional sources of in­come. Shortly af­ter her 2009 nom­i­na­tion to the Court, Jus­tice So­nia So­tomayor an­nounced plans for a mem­oir, which was pub­lished in 2013. Last year, Jus­tice So­tomayor re­ported more than $117,000 in in­come from publisher Pen­guin Ran­dom House. She re­ceived a publisher’s ad­vance of nearly $1.2 mil­lion.

Aca­demic trips and fel­low­ships can also bring in ad­di­tional in­come. For in­stance, Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg earned $25,000 for her con­tri­bu­tions as a vis­it­ing fel­low to Stan­ford Univer­sity last year.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/As­so­ci­ated Press

Supreme Court nom­i­nee Judge Brett Ka­vanaugh, left, stands with Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., be­fore the start of their meet­ing Wed­nes­day on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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