Joel Kaplan is a Facebook executive who made headlines on Thursday when he and his wife showed up at Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate hearing. Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy, is a close personal friend of Kavanaugh’s. He sat in the crowd of Kavanaugh supporters, attracting plenty of notice during the politically explosive hearing.
A Facebook spokesperson said that Kaplan attended the hearing in his private capacity and that he wasn’t representing the company.
Here’s what you need to know about Joel Kaplan:
1. Kaplan’s Wife Is a Close Friend of Ashley Kavanaugh
Kaplan’s wife, Laura Cox Kaplan, attended the Kavanaugh hearing with Joel on Thursday, according to Tech Crunch magazine. Laura and Ashley Kavanaugh are old friends; the two grew up near each other in Texas. Laura was born and raised in Rising Star, a Central Texas town with a population of about 800. She has said that her parents “taught me the world was a very large place, even though we lived in a very small place. They encouraged me to dream big and to embrace opportunity. Despite their support, I still struggled with the insecurities that can come from growing up in a small town.”
Laura is an outspoken supporter of Kavanaugh. She has described him as an honorable and honest man, writing, in a recent tweet, “As a colleague, husband, father, judge & friend I have only known him to behave honorably. I am saddened by the accusation against him & the impact it has on his family, but I am confident that he is truthful.”
2. Kaplan and Kavanaugh Both Worked for the Bush Administration
Kaplan was a policy adviser on George W Bush’s 2000 campaign. He went on to work in the Bush administration, serving in different roles throughout both of President Bush’s terms. Kaplan started out, in 2001, as the Special Assistant to the President for Policy. By 2006, he was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. According to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Kaplan was “responsible for the development and implementation of the Administration’s policy agenda. He framed strategic decisions on a full range of policy matters and integrated the execution of legislative, communications, and external outreach and policy strategies on behalf of the President and Chief of Staff.”
Brett Kavanaugh served in the White House Counsel’s office during the Bush administration and was actively involved in the nomination of Justice Roberts to the Supreme Court. George Bush has been a steadfast supporter of Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
3. Kaplan Once Clerked for Antonin Scalia
Kaplan has a law degree from Harvard University. After graduation, he went to work as a law clerk for Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig. Afterwards, he clerked for the conservative icon, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Kaplan went on to work as a policy adviser on George Bush’s presidential campaign, and then worked for the White House throughout the Bush administration.
The New York Times has reported that Facebook hired Kapalan, back in 2011, because the company wanted to change its image. Facebook is widely seen as Democratic and liberal, and even as hostile to Republicans and conservatives. The company hired Kaplan to help counter that perception.
4. Kaplan Was an Officer in the Marine Corps
Kaplan spent four years as an artillery officer in the Marine Corps. He enlisted after graduating from Harvard, where he earned a BA. (After his honorable discharge, Kaplan went back to Harvard to get a law degree.)
Kaplan grew up in a middle class Jewish family in suburban Boston. One of his oldest friends, Nigel Jones, said that Kaplan joined the Marines as a way of breaking out of his comfortable upbringing and experiencing something new, and something broader, than he had known before. Others who served with Kaplan say he stayed connected to his religion and his faith even during military training.
5. Kaplan and His Family Live in Washington DC
Kaplan married Laura Cox (now known as Laura Cox Kaplan) in 2006. Laura, a former Price Waterhouse Cooper executive, is the creator of the She Said/She Said podcast, which bills itself as “a new conversation with and about women.”
Laura grew up in Rising Star, a town in Central Texas with a population of about 800. She eventually went to study at the University of Texas at Austin, but said she had to overcome a tremendous sense of insecurity when it came time to leave her small town and venture out into the broader world. She has talked about how one of her goals in empowering other women to expand their horizons.
The couple lives in Chevy Chase, a suburb of Washington DC.