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Kansas City Star on the Ever-Controversial Kris Kobach

by Van Le on 04/09/2012 at 6:31pm

The Kansas City Star today has an in-depth article on Kris Kobach, the sometimes-Kansas Secretary of State who is so passionately anti-immigrant that he works overtime in service of it.

Kobach is Kansas Secretary of the State by day, a job which the Star notes “should be one of the quietest jobs in government.”  But by night, Kobach is something of a nativist, extremist anti-hero, a Self-Deportation Man whose every working moment seems to be geared toward the expulsion of every single undocumented immigrant currently living in the United States.

He’s Mitt Romney’s top advisor on immigration, one reason why Romney has embraced the policy of self-deportation, which in turn is one reason why Romney is currently polling at 14% among Latino voters.  He is the author of anti-immigrant bills like SB 1070 in Arizona (which has been held up in courts ever since it became law and is now heading to the Supreme Court; two former solicitor generals today said it was likely substantial parts of it could fall) and HB 56 in Alabama (which could cost the state as much as $11 billion in economic output and might be revised by state lawmakers).  He unsuccessfully pushed for the passage of similar bills in California (failed), Mississippi (failed), and his home state of Kansas (failed).  He is affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the shadowy legislative ghostwriting group currently under so much fire for Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Kraft Foods have all recently dropped support of it.  Kris Kobach is a really busy guy.

According to the Star article, Kobach has plenty of people singing his praises:

He is “one of the most talented people I’ve ever encountered,” said former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a fellow Republican and close friend. “It’s in the interest of our country to have people of his integrity and quality.”

(Ashcroft, of course, is the former Bush Attorney General who defended things like torture and indefinite detention for undocumented immigrants.)

“God forbid he ever gets hit by a Mack truck or something. From our point of view, it would change the course of history,” said Mike Hethmon, general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which employs Kobach on the side and sees its job as protecting Americans from uncontrolled illegal immigration.

(The Immigration Reform Law Institute, or IRLI, is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a restrictionist organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

“He’s at the forefront of leading our nation on immigration reform,” agreed U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a Pennsylvania Republican and the former mayor of Hazleton, Pa., who worked with Kobach on drafting tougher laws controlling illegal immigration.

(First-term Congressman Lou Barletta is considered an up-and-comer among the anti-immigrant, extremist wing and has been questioned about his ties to neo-Nazis.)

As an immigration lawyer, Kobach gets high praise from the officials who have worked with him in other states, including former state Sen. Russell Pearce of Arizona.  “He’s national hero in my book for helping us to get this stuff passed and introduced in states all over America,” said Pearce, who co-wrote the law but was recalled by voters last year in part because of his work for the measure.

(Oh, Russell Pearce.  The former Arizona State Senator and sponsor of SB 1070 was so out there, even for Arizona, that he was soundly deposed in a first-of-its-kind recall election last year.  Last week he gave Mitt Romney a political bear hug by claiming that Romney’s positions on immigrant were “identical” to his; why Romney didn’t immediately run away from that is a mystery.)

Of course, Kobach also has his critics, namely Kansans who think that a State Secretary of State should, maybe sometimes, perform duties for the state.  Earlier this year a group of them called Kansans Count filed a Kansas Open Records Request for Kobach’s schedule and found serious discrepancies between what Kobach says he spends his time doing and what he actually spends his time doing.  Large chunks of his time—time paid for by Kansas taxpayers—are simply missing, while other chunks are spent on TV interviews discussing immigration or working with groups around the nation writing bills addressing immigration.  Democratic state legislators in Kansas mock Kobach’s far-ranging travels, putting out a weekly news release entitled “Where’s Kris Kobach?”

As Louis Goseland of Kansans Count said last month:

He is not making our elections a priority.  Instead, what he’s made a priority is establishing his political identity as a man who’s tough on immigration.  Well, immigration is not his responsibility.

For now, however, Kobach will continue a fairly lucrative career moonlighting for the anti-immigrant crowd.  According to the Kansas City Star, Kobach holds down his $86,000-a-year-job as secretary of state while collecting $424,000 in legal fees and expenses (over five or six years) from the various jurisdictions he works in.  In 2010, he reported income from ten different groups, including $2,000 or more from the Federalist Society, the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund, and Maricopa County, Arizona (home of another infamous anti-immigrant extremist, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.)

Apparently there’s even talk of putting him on the long list of possible vice presidential nominees for Mitt Romney and the GOP.  A moonlighter who is losing state immigration battle after state immigration battle, who lost a Kansas congressional race in 2004 and is defended only by the worst of the worst in the anti-immigrant world?

Yeah, good luck with that.

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