Kobach's questionable outstate work on immigration
The Kansas City Star
This time Kris Kobach may have stepped over the line.
Until now, the Kansas Secretary of State was nibbling around the edges of questionable double-dipping. As reported in previous columns, Kobach has been earning thousands of dollars on the side, writing anti-illegal immigration laws for several states, including the infamous Arizona law SB1070 that was mostly struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But we gave him the benefit of the doubt, when he told National Public Radio’s KCUR reporter Laura Ziegler a year ago that he was writing these laws on his own time. He told Ziegler he spent between five and ten hours a week “on nights and weekends” doing immigration business. He even claimed he wrote an Alabama law on his laptop while at a turkey shoot.
Now, we know that claim may be false. Kobach is not limiting his efforts to nights and weekends. He may, however, have been on vacation.
Last week, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., Kobach was in the courtroom of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, arguing a case on behalf of Farmers Branch, Texas, a suburb of Dallas whose population of 29,000 is about the same as Leawood’s.
He was there defending an ordinance he had written which would ban undocumented immigrants from rental housing.
Farmers Branch reportedly has spent nearly $6 million in pursuing the legality of this ordinance, which was found to be unconstitutional. The court said in March the ordinance impermissibly interfered with the federal immigration system.
However, in a rare occurrence, the very conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals –one of the most conservative in the country – agreed to re-hear the case.
The city of Farmers Branch engaged Kobach to make the case before the 15 judges. It is unknown when they will make their ruling.
His fees were paid by the Dallas law firm Strasburger & Price, which will then be reimbursed by the city of Farmers Branch. When asked what the fees were for Kobach, an attorney at the law firm responded by email, “The firm does not believe it is appropriate for us to release information about our co-counsel’s fees.”
Eventually, when the city does reimburse the firm, those fees should become public record.
That was true earlier, before Kobach became Secretary of State, when Farmers Branch paid Kobach $100,000, according to a former city council person who researched the receipts paid by the city for legal work for this case.
There may be no laws restricting a statewide elected official from carrying on a sideline business, although there probably should be.
But Kobach was very careful, even emphatic, to make the case that he has conducted his immigration business on his own time.
He claims now he was on vacation during the hearing. A call was made prior to the publication of this column to ascertain whether Kobach was on vacation. When told the reason for the call, assurances were made that the call would be returned. It was not.
Subsequent to the publication of this column, a law clerk in the Secretary of State’s office said that vacation information would only be made available if a request was made under the Kansas Open Records Act, for a fee.
If the taxpayers were paying Kobach to be Secretary of State at the same time he was arguing an immigration case in New Orleans, they are due a refund.
Kobach says now he was on vacation. It has not been independently verified, but the Secretary of State says this is so.
To reach Steve Rose, a Johnson County columnist, send email to email@example.com.