Kobach completes mandatory schoolwork
Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has completed his court-ordered back-to-school work and severed ties to voting rights litigation he defended in federal court.
Kobach, a notorious proponent for controls on illegal immigration, also has embraced a campaign born from an online fundraiser to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and signaled his interest in running for the U.S. Senate.
Last year's trial between Kobach and the American Civil Liberties Union featured heated skirmishes in the courtroom, frequent admonishments from Judge Julie Robinson and a failure by Kobach to show existence of widespread voter fraud. Exaggerated claims of nonresidents casting illegal ballots served as the basis for a state law that required new voters to produce a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship before registering.
Robinson rejected Kobach's reasoning, held him in contempt of court and chided him for "repeated and flagrant violations" of court procedures. She ordered him to take six hours of continuing law education as a remedy.
Kobach on Friday notified the court that he had complied with the mandate by completing the "Civil Trial: Everything You Need to Know" course offered by the National Business Institute.
"Have you perfected your process of trial procedure into an art of war?" the program description reads. "In this guide, you'll learn how to smoothly apply the state and local rules to your case and take your civil courtroom presentation skills to the next level. It doesn't matter whether you're plaintiff or defense, seasoned or aspiring; this guide will hone your trial skills and give you the competitive edge."
The $99 course book includes a chapter on how to get evidence admitted, something Kobach and his assistants, Garrett Roe and Sue Becker, struggled with at trial.
Also on Friday, Kobach, Roe and Becker notified the court they were withdrawing as counsel in the case, handing duties over to Toby Crouse, solicitor general for the attorney general's office. That office already is handling the appeal.
Kobach's legal wrangling over immigration-related issues served as a backdrop to his gubernatorial campaign. The Republican lost in November to Laura Kelly, who took office last week.
He may not be ready to set aside political ambitions, however. In an interview with the Associated Press, Kobach confirmed he was "seriously considering" entering the race to replace U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in 2020.
Also last week, a federal judge in New York ruled the government can't place a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Kobach was entangled in the litigation because he lobbied for the question, and the ACLU unsuccessfully tried to depose Kobach on the conversations he had with officials in President Donald Trump's administration. The judge's ruling makes 22 references to Kobach.
As a columnist for Breitbart, Kobach said the question is necessary because illegal immigrants count toward congressional appointments, creating a "perverse incentive" for states to invite illegal aliens.
Immigration is at the heart of the partial federal government shutdown over the president's demands for money to build a border wall. Brian Kolfage, an Iraq war veteran, launched a GoFundMe campaign to assist in the efforts.
Although the campaign fell short of its billion-dollar target, Kolfage planned to redirect the $20 million in donations intended for the federal government into a nonprofit called We the People Will Fund the Wall. Kobach signed on as a board member for the organization.
In an interview with KCMO-AM radio, Kobach explained he has grown impatient with the lack of progress toward securing the border. He predicted the wall could be built privately for a quarter of the cost estimates for the federal government and that construction could start within two weeks.
"Let's think of it this way," Kobach said. "You own a mile along the border. I own a mile. We're both ranchers down there. We get the first few miles built in our section of the border, then our neighbor Sue, she says: 'Hey, wait a minute. You guys have secured your land and now the traffic coming across my land is increased. How do I get this done?'
"Well, maybe she goes to webuildthewall.us and says, 'I really want you guys to build next on my property. Can I chip in $10,000 and encourage you to build here?' There will be an incentive for people."
GoFundMe said Friday it would return the $20 million in donations to donors who will have to decide whether to support the nonprofit.
Meanwhile in Lawrence, a grand jury is scheduled to hear testimony this week about whether Kobach's office failed to properly register voters in 2016.