Kris Kobach

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Kris Kobach
31st Secretary of State of Kansas
Assumed office
January 10, 2011
Governor Sam Brownback
Preceded by Chris Biggs
Personal details
Born (1966-03-26) March 26, 1966 (age 50)
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Heather Kobach
Alma mater Harvard University (A.B.)
Magdalen College, Oxford
Yale Law School (J.D.)
Religion Baptist

Kris William Kobach (born March 26, 1966) is the Secretary of State of Kansas.[1] He is also currently of counsel with the Immigration Law Reform Institute,[2] the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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. In 2010, Kobach was elected Secretary of State of Kansas.


Kobach graduated from Washburn Rural High School in Topeka, Kansas in 1984. Four years later, he earned his bachelor of arts degree in Government from Harvard University, graduating first in his class in that department with summa cum laude. He was awarded a Marshall Scholarship, which allowed him to study politics at Oxford University and earn a Master of Arts degree in 1990 and a Ph.D. in 1992. He then attended Yale Law School, where he earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1995[1][3] 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).[1]

Legal career[edit]

Early years[edit]

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[edit]

The 2012 Republican Party (United States) 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.”[4]

Immigration lawsuits[edit]

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.[5]

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 aliens 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.[6]

In 2010, Kobach filed a third lawsuit, this time in Nebraska.[7][8] The case is still pending.

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 sanctioned employers who hire unauthorized aliens. 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).[3][9] 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)).

Kobach is also the lead attorney defending the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, whose anti-illegal immigration ordinances had been struck down by a federal judge in Pennsylvania and again before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.[10] In June 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Third Circuit's decision and remanded 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 is currently involved with another lawsuit, involving a Farmers Branch, Texas ordinance that prevents landlords from renting to illegal immigrants.[3] 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[edit]

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—anti-illegal immigration measure in a long time, and has assisted in defending the state during the ongoing legal battle over SB 1070's legality.[11][12][13] 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.[3][9] 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.[14]

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 the so-called “racial profiling” provision.[15] 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[edit]

Kobach was also credited as a primary author of Alabama HB 56, passed in 2010, which has been described as tougher than Arizona's controversial 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.[16]

Political career[edit]

2004 election[edit]

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,[17] 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 issues.[9][18][19][20][21] 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.[22]

Chairman of Kansas Republican Party[edit]

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.[23] 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.[24]

In December 2007 Kris Kobach sent an email saying, "[T]o date, the Kansas GOP has identified and caged more voters in the last 11 months than the previous two years."[25]

Kansas Secretary of State[edit]

On May 26, 2009, Kobach announced his candidacy for Kansas Secretary of State.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28]

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." [29]

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.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32] Kobach called her claim "ridiculous," and alleged she was fired for "poor performance."[33]

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.[34] 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.[35]

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.[36]

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 "illegal aliens" 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.[37]

Election ruling in 2014 U.S. Senate race[edit]

In September 2014, Kobach ruled that Democrat Chad Taylor had improperly filed to withdraw from the US Senate race and hence must continue to have his name on the 2014 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 US 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.[38]

On September 18, 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that Taylor's withdrawal was effective and that Kobach must strike Taylor's name from the ballot.[39][40] Some sources[who?] are beginning to cite the original allegation by Kobach as evidence that he, and by extension, Roberts' campaign, attempted to secure the election via dubious uses of official channels.[citation needed].

On October 1, 2014, a panel of three Shawnee County judges ruled that the Democrats were not required by state law to fill the vacancy on the ballot and Kobach said the ballots had to be printed on October 2.[41]

Kobach was re-elected in November 2014 over moderate former Republican State Senator and Democratic candidate Jean Kurtis Schodorf by a margin of nearly 19%.[42]

Other involvements[edit]

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".[43] 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.[44] 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).[45] He is also an Eagle Scout.[46]

Personal life[edit]

Kobach and his wife Heather have four daughters: Lilly, Reagan, Molly and Charlotte.[47] They reside in the Piper neighborhood and attend Open Door Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas.

Electoral history[edit]

Kansas's 3rd Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Kris Kobach 39,129 44.0
Republican Adam Taff 38,922 43.7
Republican Patricia Lightner 10,836 12.1
Kansas's 3rd Congressional District Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Dennis Moore (inc.) 184,050 54.8
Republican Kris Kobach 145,542 43.3
Libertarian Joe Bellis 3,191 0.9
Reform Richard Wells 2,956 0.8
Kansas Secretary of State Republican Primary Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Kris Kobach 156,462 50.6
Republican Elizabeth "Libby" Ensley 83,275 26.9
Republican J. R. Claeys 69,039 22.3
Kansas Secretary of State Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Kris Kobach 489,640 59.0
Democratic Chris Biggs 308,641 37.2
Libertarian Phillip Horatio Lucas 17,336 2.0
Reform Derek Langseth 13,896 1.6
Kansas Secretary of State Republican Primary Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Kris Kobach (inc.) 166,793 64.7
Republican Scott Morgan 90,680 35.2
Kansas Secretary of State Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Kris Kobach (inc.) 508,926 59.2
Democratic Jean Kurtis Schodorf 350,692 40.7


  1. ^ a b c "Kris W. Kobach". University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law. Archived from the original on June 21, 2009. Retrieved July 20, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Immigration Law Reform Institute Attorney's Page". Immigration Law Reform Institute. Archived from the original on June 7, 2009. Retrieved July 20, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d Lawyer Leads an Immigration Fight, Monday, July 20, 2009, Online edition
  4. ^ "New Republican Party Platform Calls for Mandatory E-Verify and Self-Deportation". The National Law Review. Greenberg Traurig LLP. 2012-09-03. Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  5. ^ Maines, Sophia; Rothschild, Scott (September 28, 2006). "Immigrant tuition law on trial". Lawrence Journal and World News. Retrieved July 25, 2009. 
  6. ^ California Supreme Court Upholds § 68130.5’s Resident Tuition Payment for Illegal Aliens; Deems Federal Immigration Statutes Non-Preemptive, November 15, 2010, accessed January 11, 2012
  7. ^ Don Walton, "Immigration lawyer says lawsuit isn't politics" Lincoln Journal Star, January 10, 2010, accessed February 23, 2010
  8. ^ Mary Sanchez, "Kobach is still at it on tuition crusade" The Kansas City Star, January 27, 2010, accessed February 23, 2010
  9. ^ a b c "The Nativists: Kris Kobach, 41 – Kansas City, MO". Southern Poverty Law Center. Spring 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2009.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  10. ^ New York Times, Sunday, February 10, 2008, p.(A)22
  11. ^ O'Leary, Kevin (April 16, 2010). "Arizona's Tough New Law Against Illegal Immigrants". Time. 
  12. ^ Schwartz, John; Archibold, Randal C. (April 28, 2010). "A Law Facing a Tough Road Through the Courts". The New York Times. p. A17. 
  13. ^ "Why Arizona Drew a Line" OpEd by Kobach, The New York Times, April 28, 2010 (April 29, 2010 p. A31 NY ed.). Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  14. ^ "Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on Arizona SB 1070". Fowler White Boggs P.A. 2012-05-23. Retrieved 2012-09-20. 
  15. ^ "Supreme Court Rejects Key Parts of Arizona's Immigration Enforcement Law". The National Law Review. Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. 2012-06-29. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  16. ^ Talbot, George (16 October 2011). "Kris Kobach, the Kansas lawyer behind Alabama's immigration law". Mobile Press-Register. 
  17. ^ Humphreys, Zachary; Kropf, Martha (May 2, 2005). "The Road to Congress 2004 – Ch 3: Hustle, Attention, And a Little Bit of Luck: Moore Defeats Kobach in Kansas Third Congressional District". Nova Science Publishers. Retrieved July 25, 2009. 
  18. ^ Election 2004 Coverage, The Washington Post (November 4, 2004). "Election 2004 State Roundup – The Plains". Washington Post. Retrieved July 25, 2009. 
  19. ^ Moon, Chris (October 24, 2004). "Iraq war, taxes and health care drive 3rd District race". Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved May 28, 2009. 
  20. ^ Zeskind, Leonard (September 23, 2004). "Kris Kobach loads up with anti-immigration ammo". Kansas City Pitch. Archived from the original on September 6, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2009. 
  21. ^ Bulkeley, Deborah (February 25, 2006). "Foe of immigrant tuition denies supremacist links". Deseret News. pp. B.01. ISSN 0745-4724. 
  22. ^ Blumenthal, Max (October 18, 2004). "Backlash on the border". Retrieved July 25, 2009. 
  23. ^ Carpenter, Tim (2007-07-31). "Kansas GOP forming 'loyalty committee'". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  24. ^ "The Hutchinson News Online Edition". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  25. ^ Rothschild, Scott (December 27, 2007). "Democrats accuse GOP of vote 'caging'". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved 10 November 2012. 
  26. ^ Carpenter, Tim (May 26, 2009). "GOP primary assured". Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved May 28, 2009. 
  27. ^ "2010 Kansas Republican Primary election results for Kansas Secretary of State", KMBC-TV Channel 9, Kansas City, August 4, 2010.
  28. ^ "Arizona sheriff Arpaio stumps for Kobach", Wichita Eagle and, July 14, 2010.
  29. ^ "Kobach Campaign Fined $5,000", Wichita Eagle, John Milburn, 27 October 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  30. ^ "Kobach stands by remarks to radio show caller about Obama", Brian Lowry, The Kansas City Star, March 5, 2015, Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  31. ^ "Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley calls on Kris Kobach to resign over radio remarks", Justin Wingerter, The Topeka Capital-Journal, March 8, 2015, Retrieved March 18, 2015
  32. ^ Kobach Employee Allegedly Fired for Lack of Religious Fervor Lawsuit Claims, Topeka Capitol-Journal, Tim Carpenter, August 19, 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  33. ^ Kobach rebuts lawsuit claim employee was fired for not going to church], Topeka Capitol-Journal, Tim Carpenter, August 21, 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  34. ^ Kris Kobach's plan to delete more than 30,000 voter registration applications in Kansas draws dissent, praise, Topeka Capitol-Journal, Tim Carpenter, September 2, 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  35. ^ Kris Kobach: 'Knucklehead' Hillary Clinton 'getting her pantsuit in a twist' over voting change, Topeka Capitol-Journal, Justin Wingerter, August 26, 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  36. ^ Kansas Republicans hold to hard-right stance; ACLU and League of Women Voters ‘communists,’ Kobach says, Lawrence Journal-World, Peter Hancock, February 20, 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  37. ^ McCaskill, Nolan D. (February 29, 2016). "Kris Kobach endorses Donald Trump". Politico. Retrieved April 25, 2016. 
  38. ^ Lowry, Bryan, "Kobach: Democrat Chad Taylor’s name will remain on ballot for U.S. Senate", Wichita Eagle, September 04, 2014. Retrieved 2014-09-04.
  39. ^ Helling, Dave (18 September 2014). "Kansas court scrubs Democrat Chad Taylor from ballot for U.S. Senate". The Kansas City Star. 
  40. ^ Smith, Mitch (18 September 2014). "Kansas Justices Back Senate Candidate's Withdrawal". The New York Times. 
  41. ^ "Kansas: Democrats Win Right to Skip Race", Associated Press via New York Times, October 1, 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-04.
  42. ^ New York Times 2014 Kansas election results
  43. ^ [1] to the Harvard Crimson
  44. ^ "Don MacRobert knows how to get ahead of the game", by Ronnie Apteker and John Vlismas, Business Report, May 25, 2007. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  45. ^ "President Bush Appoints His First Class Of White House Fellows", White House Press Release, June 19, 2001. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  46. ^ Campaign bio, Campaign Web site. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  47. ^ Official website, Extended biography

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Chris Biggs
Secretary of State of Kansas