|31st Secretary of State of Kansas|
January 10, 2011
|Preceded by||Chris Biggs|
|Chair of the Kansas Republican Party|
January 2007 – January 2009
|Preceded by||Tim Shallenburger|
|Succeeded by||Amanda Adkins|
|Born||Kris William Kobach
March 26, 1966
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Education||Harvard University (BA)
Brasenose College, Oxford (MA, PhD)
Yale University (JD)
Kris William Kobach (born March 26, 1966) is the Secretary of State of Kansas, serving since 2011. He is a former chairman of Kansas Republican Party and city councilman in Overland Park, Kansas. He ran unsuccessfully for Kansas's 3rd congressional district in 2004. He is currently of counsel with the Immigration Law Reform Institute, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Kobach has come to prominence over his hardliner views on immigration, as well as his calls for greater voting restrictions and a Muslim registry. Kobach regularly makes false or unsubstantiated claims about the extent of voter fraud in the United States. As Secretary of State of Kansas, he has implemented some of the strictest voter ID legislation in the nation and has fought to remove nearly 20,000 properly registered voters from the state’s voter rolls. After considerable investigation and prosecution, Kobach has only secured six convictions for voter fraud; all were cases of double voting and none would have been prevented by voter ID laws. According to election-law experts, Kobach is intentionally trying to make voting more difficult for minority voters who tend to vote Democratic.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Education
- 3 Legal career
- 4 Political career
- 5 False claims about voter fraud
- 6 Other involvements
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Electoral history
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Kobach was born in Madison, Wisconsin, the son of Janice Mardell (née Iverson) and William Louis "Bill" Kobach. His great-grandparents were Bohemian and German on his father's side and Norwegian on his mother's side; they came to Wisconsin in the 1890s, where they were mostly farmers. At the age of seven, in 1974, Kobach moved to Kansas with his parents and two sisters, and grew up mostly in Topeka where his father owned Bill Kobach Buick GMC, a car dealership.
In 1984, Kobach graduated from Washburn Rural High School in Topeka, Kansas, where he was co-valedictorian and class president. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Government from Harvard University, graduating summa cum laude and first in his department. He then received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Politics at the University of Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar. He then attended Yale Law School, where he earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1995 and was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. During this time, he published two books: The Referendum: Direct Democracy in Switzerland (Dartmouth, 1994), and Political Capital: The Motives, Tactics, and Goals of Politicized Businesses in South Africa (University Press of America, 1990).
From 1995 to 1996, Kobach clerked for Judge Deanell Reece Tacha of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Lawrence, Kansas. He began his professorship at the University of Missouri-Kansas City shortly thereafter.
In 2001, President George W. Bush awarded him a White House Fellowship to work for Attorney General John Ashcroft. At the end of the fellowship, he stayed on as Counsel to the Attorney General. Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, he led a team of attorneys and researchers who formulated and established the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. In addition, he took part in work to reshape the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2002. After his government service ended, he returned to UMKC to teach law until running for and winning election to Secretary of State. Upon winning election, Kobach left his position at UMKC.
Immigration and the 2012 Republican Party Platform
The 2012 Republican Party platform included self-deportation as a response to illegal immigration to the United States. Kobach proposed the measure, stating "If you really want to create a job tomorrow, you can remove an illegal alien today."
While running for Congress, Kobach represented out-of-state students (on behalf of Federation for American Immigration Reform) in a lawsuit against the state of Kansas, challenging a state law which grants in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. The suit was dismissed for lack of legal standing for the plaintiffs.
In 2005, Kobach filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, challenging a similar law in California. In September 2008, the California Court of Appeal held that California's law granting in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants was preempted by federal law. (Martinez v. Regents, 166 Cal. App. 4th 1121; 2008). In November 2010, the California Supreme Court unanimously reversed, finding that the law was not preempted by federal law. In 2010, Kobach filed a third lawsuit, this time in Nebraska. The case was dismissed in a Nebraska district court in December of that year, for plaintiffs' lack of legal standing.
Kobach has also litigated several lawsuits defending cities and states that adopt laws to discourage illegal immigration. He served as lead lawyer defending the city of Valley Park, Missouri in a federal case concerning an ordinance that requires businesses to use a federal worker verification program known as E-Verify in order to maintain a business license. The ordinance was upheld by Missouri federal judge E. Richard Webber on January 31, 2008 (Gray v. Valley Park, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7238). The ACLU, representing the plaintiff, appealed the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kobach prevailed in the appeal, and the Court allowed the Valley Park ordinance to stand (Gray v. Valley Park, 567 F.3d 976 (8th Cir. 2009)), saying that the ordinance “addresses the employment of illegal aliens, not Hispanics.”
Kobach is also the lead attorney defending the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, whose ordinances prohibiting employing and renting to illegal immigrants had been struck down by a federal judge in Pennsylvania and again before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. In June 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Third Circuit's decision and remitted the case back to the Third Circuit for reconsideration. Sup. Ct. No 10-722. In July 2013, the Third Circuit concluded again that both the employment and housing provisions of the Hazleton ordinances are pre-empted by federal immigration law.
He was involved with another lawsuit, involving a Farmers Branch, Texas ordinance that prevents landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. That case is on appeal before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. It was originally heard by a three judge panel, then the Fifth Circuit granted rehearing en banc before the entire Court. Case No. 10-10751.
Arizona immigration law
||This article needs to be updated. (August 2012)|
Kobach played a significant role in the drafting of Arizona SB 1070, a state law that attracted national attention as the country's broadest and strictest—at the state level—illegal immigration measure in a long time, and has assisted in defending the state during the ongoing legal battle over SB 1070's legality. On February 7, 2008, Federal Judge Neil V. Wake ruled against a lawsuit filed by construction contractors and immigrant organizations who sought to halt a state law that imposes severe penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The plaintiffs appealed the ruling, but Arizona prevailed (with Kobach's assistance) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Chicanos por la Causa v. Arizona, 558 F.3d 856; 2009). The case was further appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5–3 decision to strike down three out of the four challenged provisions of Arizona SB 1070. Three key provisions of the law were struck down on the grounds that they were preempted by federal immigration law, and one provision was upheld. The first provision to be struck down was Section 3 of the bill, which made it a misdemeanor under state law for immigrants to fail to seek or carry federal registration papers. The second struck down provision, Section 5(C), made it a crime in Arizona for immigrants to work or solicit work without employment authorization. The third provision struck down was Section 6, which gave local police the authority to make warrantless arrests of immigrants suspected of being removable. This provision would have provided state officers with greater arrest authority than federal immigration officers, and could be exercised with no instruction from the Federal Government. Section 2(B), one of the most controversial provisions, was upheld, as it was found to be too early to determine how the provision would be applied in practice. 2(B) requires local law enforcement to investigate into the immigration status of anyone stopped or arrested when "reasonable suspicion" exists that the person is in the U.S. unlawfully. This was nicknamed by its opponents the "racial profiling" provision. A recent ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, to the effect that Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his department have engaged in unconstitutional racial profiling, may, as a practical matter, limit the effectiveness of the lone provision of SB 1070 upheld as constitutional.
Alabama immigration law
Kobach was also credited as a primary author of Alabama HB 56, passed in 2010, which has been described as tougher than Arizona's law. Alabama State Senator Scott Beason and Representative Micky Hammon met Kobach at an Eagle Forum of Alabama conference in Birmingham. They worked closely with Kobach to draft the bill so that it would survive judicial review.
In the 2004 election cycle, Kobach was the Republican nominee for Congress in the 3rd District, besting primary opponents Adam Taff and Patricia Lightner (Taff had previously lost the 2002 election for the same office to Dennis Moore, and Lightner was a six-year state legislator).
He lost to incumbent Dennis Moore, 55%–43%. The victory was the largest of Moore's congressional campaigns.
The campaign thrust Kobach onto the national stage, mostly due to his stance on illegal immigration. He was given a speaking role on the opening day of the 2004 Republican National Convention and used his slot to call for the U.S. military to be sent to the Mexican border to block illegal immigration.
Chairman of Kansas Republican Party
On January 28, 2007, Kobach was elected Chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, serving until January 2009.
Kobach's chairmanship was noted for the broad changes he introduced to election efforts. As Chairman, he raised money for targeted statewide and legislative races and instituted a direct-role policy for the state party in those races. He also pushed the State Committee to create a "loyalty committee", which was charged with sanctioning Republicans who assisted Democratic candidates in contested races. This led to several party officers being stripped of voting rights in party matters as punishment for giving campaign contributions to Democratic Candidates.
After Kobach left office, a Federal Elections Commission audit strongly criticized Kobach's financial management of the Kansas Republican Party. The FEC audit found that when the Kobach served as chairman, the state party failed to pay state and federal taxes. It was also discovered that illegal contributions were accepted.
Kansas Secretary of State
On May 26, 2009, Kobach announced his candidacy for Kansas Secretary of State. His opponents in the Republican primary were Shawnee County Election Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley and J.R. Claeys, former president of the National Association of Government Contractors. Kobach won the Republican nomination with 50.6% of the vote. Ensley and Claeys finished with 27.0% and 22.4%, respectively.
On November 2, 2010, Kobach defeated incumbent Democrat Chris Biggs, 59%–37%. Kobach was endorsed by former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, as well as former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (his former boss at the Dept. of Justice). Arizona's controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio campaigned for Kobach as well.
Kobach's treasury secretary, Tom Arpke, was found to have underreported contributions and expenditures in his 2010 campaign, resulting in the maximum $5,000 fine. Kobach complained that he was being discriminated against because former Republican Governor Bill Graves received a much smaller fine for similar violations. Kobach alleged, "The only real distinction I can see is that I'm a conservative and he's a moderate." The Kansas ethics commission chair replied the fine was justified because, "The commission does not condone lack of candor before the commission." 
In response to a caller on his March 1, 2015 radio show, Kobach agreed that it would not be “a huge jump” for the Obama administration to call for an end to the prosecution of all African-American suspects. After the Kansas Democratic Party decried Kobach's comment as "hate speech" and called it "a new low" and the Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, the only African-American woman in the Kansas Senate, called Kobach’s comments ridiculous, Kobach said that he stands by his statements saying, “My point was to bring attention to the Obama Justice Department’s position that some civil rights statutes can’t be enforced against people of color,” Kobach said. “For example, one of the Obama administration’s first actions it took in 2009 was to drop the slam-dunk charges against the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation." Subsequently, the Kansas Senate Minority Leader, Anthony Hensley, called Kobach "... the most racist politician in America today" and called upon him to resign from office.
In August 2015, a former employee of his office filed suit because she alleged she was terminated by Kobach's second in command, Eric Rucker, as a result of her unwillingness to attend fundamentalist religious services in the state capitol building. Attorney General Derek Schmidt hired outside counsel to defend against the suit. Kobach called her claim "ridiculous," and alleged she was fired for "poor performance."
On September 2, 2015, representatives of groups most likely to be disenfranchised by Kobach's plan to shorten a deadline for tens of thousands of suspended voters to produce proof of citizenship, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and the National Organization for Women, all testified against Kobach's strategy. Kobach did not appear for the hearing but he was supported by an official whom Kobach had appointed to a government post. In response to criticism from the campaign staff of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Kobach called them "left-wing knuckleheads," and remarked that Clinton was getting her "pant suit in a twist," over his stance in favor of implementing some of the toughest voter ID legislation in the nation. Clinton had claimed Kobach's interventions were an attempt to make voting more difficult for key Democratic constituencies, such as young people and racial minorities.
While speaking on February 20, 2016, to a committee of the Kansas 2nd Congressional District delegates, regarding their challenges of the proof-of-citizenship voting law he championed in 2011, Kobach said, "The ACLU and their fellow communist friends, the League of Women Voters — you can quote me on that, sued," making sure that reporters in the room heard him.
In February 2016, Kobach endorsed Donald Trump in his campaign for the U.S. Presidency, citing his stance on immigration. Kobach has proposed a halt to what he claims to be $23 billion in annual remittances by Mexican nationals illegally living in the U.S. unless Mexico makes a one-time $5–10 billion payment for Trump's proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Election ruling in 2014 U.S. Senate race
In September 2014, Democrat Chad Taylor announced he was withdrawing from that year's U.S. Senate race in Kansas. Kobach ruled that he had improperly filed his withdrawal, and his name had to remain on the ballot. Taylor claimed to have followed the instructions of Assistant Secretary of State Brad Bryant on his filing, which was completed within the appropriate time frame. Citing concurrence from Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Kobach's move was cheered by the Kansas Republican Party. Both Kobach and Schmidt were members of Republican U.S. Senator Pat Roberts' honorary campaign committee. Taylor's attempt to withdraw left the race more open for independent Greg Orman, strengthening his challenge to Sen. Roberts.
On September 18, 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that Taylor's withdrawal was proper and that Kobach had to remove Taylor's name from the ballot. On October 1, 2014, a panel of three Shawnee County judges ruled that the Kansas Democratic Party were not required by state law to fill the vacancy on the ballot, and Kobach ordered the ballots to be printed the next day.
Kobach was a member of the Platform Committee of the 2016 Republican National Convention. He was rumored to be on the short list of possible Attorney General nominees in President-elect Donald Trump's administration. Trump ultimately chose Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.
It was later reported that Kobach was being considered for Secretary of Homeland Security, and was photographed carrying a document entitled "Department of Homeland Security, Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days" into a meeting with Trump. This plan reportedly included a register of Muslims as part of a suite of proposals, which also included the "extreme vetting" of immigrants. Around the same time, Carl Higbie had cited the internment of Japanese Americans as a historical precedent for a register of Muslims. The suggestions were met with fierce criticism, with former internee George Takei describing the idea as "dangerous" and declaring that "[r]egistration of any group of people, and certainly registration of Muslims, is a prelude to internment." President-elect Trump’s transition team have since issued a statement to the Huffington Post denying that Trump supports a Muslim registry, which is inconsistent with Trump statements from 2015, though how this might effect Kobach's candidature is unknown.
False claims about voter fraud
Kobach regularly makes false or unsubstantiated claims about the extent of voter fraud in the United States. As Secretary of State of Kansas, he has implemented some of the strictest voter ID legislation in the nation and has fought to remove nearly 20,000 properly registered voters from the state’s voter rolls. After considerable investigation and prosecution, Kobach has only secured six convictions for voter fraud; all were cases of double voting and none would have been prevented by voter ID laws.
In February 2017, Kobach complained that CNN ran text on the screen during one of his appearances, which said that Kobach's claims that millions illegally voted in the 2016 election were "false".
Richard L. Hasen, the Chancellor's Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine, and election law expert has described Kobach as a "charlatan", "provocateur" and "a leader nationally in making irresponsible claims that voter fraud is a major problem in this country",
While at Harvard, Kobach served as Republican Club President. In that capacity, he supported the Afghan Mujahideen in their war against the Soviet Union, stating, "[T]he Afghan rebels' cause gets the least amount of attention and support in this country". Kobach served as a missionary to Uganda in 2005 and 2006. Previously, he had volunteered to help build a school in a South African township through the Get Ahead Foundation. He has also served as a Big Brother. He was a national rowing champion (men's pair event, master's division in 1998; men's double event, master's division, 2001, 2002). He is also an Eagle Scout.
Kobach was married on June 23, 2001 at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Kansas to Heather Mannschreck. His wife is a native of Fairbury, Nebraska and a former environmental systems engineer who now has a part-time photography business in addition to homeschooling their four daughters: Lilly, Reagan, Molly and Charlotte. They reside in the Piper neighborhood and attend Open Door Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas.
|Kansas's 3rd Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 2004|
|Kansas's 3rd Congressional District Election, 2004|
|Democratic||Dennis Moore (inc.)||184,050||54.8|
|Kansas Secretary of State Republican Primary Election, 2010|
|Republican||Elizabeth "Libby" Ensley||83,275||26.9|
|Republican||J. R. Claeys||69,039||22.3|
|Kansas Secretary of State Election, 2010|
|Libertarian||Phillip Horatio Lucas||17,336||2.0|
|Kansas Secretary of State Republican Primary Election, 2014|
|Republican||Kris Kobach (inc.)||166,793||64.7|
|Kansas Secretary of State Election, 2014|
|Republican||Kris Kobach (inc.)||508,926||59.2|
|Democratic||Jean Kurtis Schodorf||350,692||40.7|
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- Secretary of State's website
- UMKC Faculty Biography
- Washburn Rural H.S. Alumni Hall of Fame
- New York Times profile, 2009
|Secretary of State of Kansas