The gubernatorial campaign of Republican Kris Kobach pushed back Wednesday against news stories and commentary by other candidates about the secretary of state's moonlighting around the country on behalf of cities trying to thwart illegal immigration.
Reporting in Kansas and national publications has for years documented Kobach's role in lawsuits, ordinances and legislation centered to immigration, but ire of Republican and Democratic campaigns was raised by a story from ProPublica and The Kansas City Star less than a week before Tuesday's primary involving Kobach, Gov. Jeff Colyer and five other GOP candidates.
Kobach spokeswoman Danedri Herbert released a nine-point statement challenging facts and conclusions in the collaborative article asserting Kobach earned at least $800,000 from advocacy and legal work on immigration since 2005. The report said $150,000 was paid to Kobach since sworn into office as secretary of state in January 2011.
"As a former reporter," Herbert said, "I would be embarrassed to have my name on a so-called news story so rife with lies, omissions and editorial comment."
Costly implications of Kobach's legal counsel on illegal immigration were highlighted in 2011 by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Kobach, a former professor of law at University of Missouri-Kansas City, in some instances collected hefty attorney fees while city officials from Pennsylvania to Arizona were left to deal with expensive implications of his advice.
"Kobach claims he wants to shake up the system, but it looks like he's been shaking it down for years," said Kendall Marr, spokesman for Gov. Jeff Colyer's campaign.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Carl Brewer, a two-term mayor of Wichita, said Kansas couldn't afford incompetence illustrated by Kobach's "ill-conceived anti-immigration beliefs."
"It is disgusting that Kobach seeks financial and political profit from others' fear of immigrants. We won't tolerate a Music Man, a peddler of hate and intolerance, at the helm of our state," Brewer said.
U.S. cities that employed Kobach -- Hazleton, Pa., Valley Park, Mo., Farmers Branch, Texas, and Fremont, Neb. -- adopted versions of city ordinances he designed to sanction employers, landlords and immigrants. As local governments spent millions of dollars in court to defend those policies, communities were forced to increase taxes and cut budgets while also grappling with heightened racial tensions.
Last year, with Kobach appointed to oversee President Donald Trump's now-defunct federal voter fraud commission, The Washington Post added Riverside, N.J., and Escondido, Calif., to the list of towns where targeting "the illegals" didn't go as planned. In all six places, Kobach's strategies were foiled by court rulings, settlements or other challenges.
Additionally, Arizona in 2010 passed a bill largely drafted by Kobach that authorized police to check the residency status of individuals based on "reasonable suspicion." Critics said the law encouraged racial profiling. As boycotts intensified, the state lost an estimated $141 million from canceled events by the end of the year. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually struck down most of the Arizona statute.
Kobach has routinely shared his expertise on immigration policy with Kansas voters and national television audiences. He made it a cornerstone of his successful 2010 campaign for secretary of state by suggesting non-citizens were undermining integrity of Kansas elections. He has referred to his involvement with illegal immigration policy throughout the 2018 campaign for governor.
Marr, the spokesman for Colyer, said Kobach's strategy of fleecing taxpayers by performing shoddy legal work wasn't "surprising given his history of paying personal fines with a state credit card and bankrupting the Republican Party during his time as chairman."
He referenced Kobach's decision to pay a U.S. District Court sanction with a credit card issued to an employee in the secretary of state's office rather than pay the penalty out of his own pocket. A judge later issued a contempt finding against Kobach in the same case, which was about his proof of citizenship requirements for voter applicants.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Wednesday ruled Kobach's office would have to pay $26,214 to the American Civil Liberties Union for his failure to comply with her orders after she blocked enforcement of the law. After a trial in March in which Kobach failed to prove claims of widespread voter fraud, she determined the law was unconstitutional. ACLU asked for $51,646, but Robinson adjusted the figure based on market rates and other factors.
While Kobach served as chairman of the Kansas GOP, the Federal Election Commission faulted the organization's illegal mingling of state and federal campaign accounts.
On Wednesday, the mayors of Leawood, Merriam, Overland Park, Edgerton and Lenexa in Johnson County endorsed Colyer in the governor's race.