Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

ProPublica’s Kavanaugh Baseball Tickets ‘Investigation’

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh arrives for a meeting with Senator Joe Donnelly at Donnelly’s office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., August 15, 2018. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

On May 26, 2009, President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Standing in the White House’s East Room, he said: “Of the many responsibilities granted to a president by our Constitution, few are more serious or more consequential than selecting a Supreme Court justice.” He said the same one year later when announcing his nomination of Elena Kagan to the High Court.

Apparently, not everyone takes it quite so seriously.

Back in July, the Washington Post broke the story that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh used his credit card to purchase season and playoff tickets for Washington Nationals baseball games for himself and a group of friends. Those friends then reimbursed Kavanaugh for their share of the purchase.

A nation collectively yawned at this wannabe blockbuster.

More than a month has gone by with no further developments in what is clearly a non-story. Or is it? ProPublica has announced it is following up with its own investigation into what it says are the unanswered questions about “what happened.”

On its website, ProPublica claims to be an “independent, nonprofit newsroom” that covers “important issues, shining a light on abuses of power and betrayals of public trust” with the goal of “hold[ing] power to account.” They focus on “stories with the potential to spur real-world impact” such as “exposing corruption” and “informing the public about complex issues.” Theirs, they say, is “world-class” journalism.

The unanswered questions, say the world-class journalists, include: “Who did Kavanaugh buy tickets for?” and “How did they reimburse him?” Figuring out “who Kavanaugh brought to games,” after all, “could be relevant to his confirmation.”

While admitting to being “not sure [of] what we’ll find,” the corruption-exposers at ProPublica put out a call for anyone and everyone: “Did you see Judge Kavanaugh at a game? Did you attend a game with him?” Especially important for these investigative journalists is “where he sat, how many seats he bought and which friends attended games with him.”

This information, they say, “could perhaps offer a clue into where he likes to sit” at baseball games. ProPublica also notes, on a list of “what we know already,” that Kavanaugh has been photographed “wearing blue striped polo shirts.” Remember ProPublica’s mission: to hold power to account by informing the public about complex issues.

Clearly, ProPublica thinks its investigation could somehow rock the confirmation process or perhaps completely upend Kavanaugh’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next month. Hope, it seems, springs eternal in a newsroom with a political agenda.

Thomas Jipping — Thomas Jipping is deputy director of the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

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