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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh went deeply in debt buying Washington Nationals tickets


The Washington Post reported this evening that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh went hundreds of thousands of dollars into credit card debt over the past decade. Which, hey, he who is without that sort of sin in this rigged-as-all-get-out economy should cast the first stone. Kavanaugh has been in the public sector his whole life and is not a rich man by any measure. He lives in an expensive city and stuff happens.

The way he went into debt, however, has some relevance to this corner of the internet:

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.

As my friend Jesse Spector pointed out over on Twitter, “at least he’s never had to splurge for NLCS tickets.” Zing!

Again, no harm in running up some credit card debt when you’re a relatively low paid public servant and you got that baseball monkey on you back. Heck, when I started working for NBC I was a public servant myself — in the Ohio Attorney General’s office — and I can tell you that I went a bit beyond my means to satisfy that America’s Pastime Jones.

All of that being said, there is at least one other piece to all of this, and that’s that the hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt all seems to have disappeared or, at the very least, has fallen below reporting requirements:

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. Shah told The Post that Kavanaugh’s friends reimbursed him for their share of the baseball tickets and that the judge has since stopped purchasing the season tickets. Shah did not provide the names of the friends or additional details about the tickets.

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.

Which is not to say for a moment that Kavanaugh has done a thing wrong. I am — quite sincerely, I must add given my obvious political leanings — not accusing him or even suspecting him of doing anything wrong. His debt and its sudden disappearance is, however, a fair and necessary line of inquiry for his confirmation hearings. Indeed, an inquiry into it all by the relevant ethics authorities would be called for even if he had not been nominated.

Which is to say that we can expect to hear at least some questions about the Washington Nationals at Kavanaugh’s upcoming confirmation proceedings.

Rays lose, clinching postseason berth for Athletics

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The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.

Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).


John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.

What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.

The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?