Nativism Watch

Like Trump, Kris Kobach has a transparency problem

Imagine2050 Staff • Dec 01, 2016
Kris Kobach
Kris Kobach

When Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach met with President-elect Donald Trump recently, media outlets quickly publicized a photo in which Kobach is seen holding a document titled “Department of Homeland Security Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days.”

Kris Kobach may have let everyone see his draconian Muslim registry plans. But he has other documents of public interest that he seems to want to keep secret.

Much like Trump, who ignored political precedent and refused to disclose his tax returns for public examination, Kobach has similarly refused to let voters view his tax documents. Releasing such records may not be expected from candidates for lower offices like secretary of state. Kobach, however, is not like other candidates: he has become nationally known for his work moonlighting as an anti-immigrant lawyer outside of Kansas.

Since becoming Kansas Secretary of State in 2011, Kris Kobach has consistently traveled across the country like a nativist Johnny Appleseed encouraging other states and localities to adopt extreme anti-immigrant policies. Arizona’s draconian SB 1070 is perhaps the best-known example of Kobach’s work outside of Kansas. Other examples of his work include discriminatory, anti-immigrant housing ordinances which he not only drafted, but also unsuccessfully defended in court—costing residents millions of dollars in places like Hazleton, Pennsylvania and Farmers Branch, Texas.

In other words, work unrelated to the Kansas Secretary of State’s chief duties of overseeing business records and the state’s elections-duties Kansas voters elected Kobach to fulfill for an approximately $89,000 salary.

Read More: The Immigration Reform Law Institute and the anti-immigrant origins of Texas v. United States

It is unclear how much Kris Kobach has earned from his activities outside of Kansas, which he has unconvincingly claimed only consume 4.9 hours of his time each week. In 2012, The Kansas City Star obtained records revealing Kobach had “been paid at least $424,000 in legal fees and expenses during the last five or six years for work he’s done in various jurisdictions.”

In early 2011, Kobach incorporated a private law firm, Kobach Law, LLC, which further conceals who has paid him and how much.

As an elected official in Kansas, Kobach must annually file a Statement of Substantial Interests form disclosing any commissions or fees received that are equal to or greater than $2,000. However, he is required only to disclose the source of these fees, not their total amount. Kobach’s forms indicate he has received a minimum of $26,000 from other parties since April 2012. The total figure is likely much larger, given that Kobach has received payment related to litigation surrounding anti-immigrant legislation in Farmers Branch, TX, and those legal bills have now soared above $6 million. Kobach also reported receiving at least $2,000 from his private law firm every year since 2012.

Kobach has also steadfastly declined to disclose further information. While Kobach was running for re-election in 2014, his opponents in both the primary and general election called on him to release his tax returns. Their calls for transparency were dismissed by Kobach as a “political stunt,” according to The Wichita Eagle.

Since the 2016 election, numerous political outlets have reported that Trump may offer Kobach a cabinet position. With Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) already tapped for attorney general, a position in the Department of Homeland Security seems most likely for Kobach. For years, Kobach’s legal work has supported racial profiling, housing discrimination, and nativist sentiment. The prospect of him as a top-ranking administration official presents a demonstrable threat to communities of color.

Much like Trump, Kris Kobach has enriched himself while saddling working class Americans with the significant financial costs and other destructive consequences of his policies and rhetoric. His unwillingness to disclose how much he has personally profited from this is both shameless and wholly characteristic of what many unfortunately expect from the Trump administration.

It comes as little surprise that Kobach, an early booster of Trump’s campaign, is now being considered for a potential cabinet position. Trump and Kobach are so concerned with everyone else showing them their papers, the question is, when will they show us theirs?

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