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Associates of Kris “Law And Order” Kobach Sentenced To Prison For Defrauding Donors As Part of “We Build The Wall” Scheme

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Meanwhile, Kobach is Stonewalling any Comment on His Legal Vulnerability

Two associates of Republican Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach were sentenced to prison this week for their roles in defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who had contributed to their cockamamie “We Build The Wall” project, a $25 million dollar scheme that purportedly sought to erect border private wall in New Mexico and Texas, the Justice Department announced

Founder Brian Kolfage had lured donors by pledging that he would “not take a penny in salary or compensation,” and that all funds would go to the project. But prosecutors said those “were lies,” and that Kolfage and financier Andrew Badolato were in fact “soliciting donations using false statements and then stealing the resulting donations.” Kolfage, in particular, swiped more than $350,000 and now faces four years in prison. Badolato faces three. 

“In imposing today’s sentences on Kolfage and Badolato, Judge Torres noted that ‘this was no ordinary financial fraud,’ because when victims donated to We Build the Wall, ‘they were expressing their views about a political issue that was important to them,” the Justice Department said. There was some major crooking going on, folks, and the justice system has, in this instance, prevailed. But emerging seemingly unscathed from all this (at least in the criminal sense) has been Kobach.

Kobach is an anti-immigrant zealot who masterminded Mitt Romney’s failed “self-deportation” agenda and followed that by a stint as the nativist movement’s traveling salesman, convincing small municipalities to pass junk anti-immigration legislation cooked up in partnership with a hate group that left taxpayers on the hook for millions in legal expenses. Then he spent most of his later political life losing elections until finally winning the attorney general’s race in Kansas last year. 

During some of this time he was also board member and general counsel to the We Build The Wall scheme. That is, until last fall, when he quickly resigned from the organization just one day after noted white supremacist and We Build The Wall board chair Steve Bannon was again indicted on allegations of money laundering, conspiracy and fraud in connection with the scheme. Bannon had previously faced federal charges in relation to the project, but was later pardoned in the final hours of Donald Trump’s presidency (who is himself now indicted on dozens of unrelated charges). 

“Conservative activists, like Mr. Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., appeared at an event for the group, which ultimately brought in $25 million in donations,” The New York Times reported at the time.

Kobach said following his abrupt departure from the “We Build The Wall” scheme that he didn’t believe he was in any “legal jeopardy,” the Associated Press reported at the time. Well, it’s not like crooks typically say, “sure, I did it.” But even as Kolfage and Badolato were facing their charges, Kobach was demanding he get paid tens of thousands of dollars he claimed were owed to him by We Build The Wall as its advisor. The issue — and it was a big one — was that a court had frozen the organization’s funds due to, you know, the serious allegations of wrongdoing. 

Kobach was seeking his questionable funds just as he was announcing his candidacy for Kansas Attorney General. Yet another side-eye moment, considering his long track record of failures in the courts and his 2018 contempt of court ruling after “repeatedly and willfully disobeying court orders that he comply with federal voting rights law.” While Kansas Secretary of State he was ordered to take remedial legal classes due to the criminal contempt order, and subsequently billed Kansas taxpayers for those classes. 

Maybe he needs to take some ethics classes too, unless he wants to keep challenging Texas’ Ken Paxton for America’s worst Attorney General.

The Kansas City Star reports that Kobach has been silent for two days straight following news that his corrupt associates were being sentenced to a combined seven years in prison for their roles in the “We Build The Wall” scheme. “Spokespeople for Kobach didn’t respond to a request for comments Wednesday and Thursday.” There are some big questions here that need to be answered. Has he been quiet for two days because he’s so inept that even though he was both board member and general counsel to this group, he had no clue about what was going on at his own organization? Or has he been silent because he knows much more than he’s claimed?

Either way, none of it bodes well for the people of Kansas, because Kobach’s now their Attorney General and is supposed to be the state’s top legal advisor. There are also rules that attorneys like Kobach are supposed to adhere to, and those rules speak against acts reflecting “adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer,” and conduct “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” 

That last one seems like a big one that could relate to this case. Whatever ethics entity oversees attorneys like Kobach might want to look into that.

By the way, the “We Build The Wall” operation was much more successful in enriching its staffers than in securing the southern border. It’s long been clear that walls just don’t work — and especially when they’re built by a shady, politically tied contractor. The Texas Tribune reported in 2020 that while Fisher Industries touted itself as the “Lamborghini” of walls, the barrier in Texas was so poorly constructed that it was in danger of collapsing into the Rio Grande.