Watchdog group says Kris Kobach is exploiting the “voter fraud commission” for political gain

Watchdog group says Kris Kobach is exploiting the “voter fraud commission” for political gain
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach
Source: Orlin Wagner/AP
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach
Source: Orlin Wagner/AP

A government watchdog group has filed two federal complaints against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who it alleges exploited his role on the president’s new “election integrity commission” for personal gain.

Kobach “appears to be using his official role as head of the so-called Election Integrity Commission to promote his candidacy for governor of Kansas,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement announcing the filings.

The Lawyers’ Committee says Kobach may have violated the Hatch Act, which limits political activity by government employees in their official capacity.

The good-government group says the Kansan qualifies as a federal employee by merit of his vice-chairmanship of the election integrity commission, which President Donald Trump created after months of claiming, without evidence, that millions of illegal votes were cast in last year’s election.

The group also separately filed an ethics complaint against Kobach.

The committee, which has called the federal panel a “dog whistle for voter suppression,” said Monday that there’s ample evidence that Kobach is using his role on the panel, which is led by Vice President Mike Pence, to boost his 2018 run for governor.

In a statement, the Lawyers’ Committee explained its stance:

[Kobach’s] Twitter and Facebook pages collectively contain at least 28 different posts in which Mr. Kobach has described his work on the Commission. These include three Twitter posts on June 30 promoting or recapping Mr. Kobach’s interviews on Fox News and MSNBC that same day, and a June 30 Facebook post embedding video of the Fox News interview. 

The filings note that Kobach’s Twitter feed states it’s “Paid for by Kansas for Kobach” and that his Facebook page carries his gubernatorial campaign logo.

“Kobach, who recently announced his candidacy for the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial election, has repeatedly exploited his commission role to promote his candidacy and to solicit campaign contributions,” including in television news appearances and public appearances linked to his campaign, the lawyers’ group said.

They produced screenshots of Kobach’s website as proof that he’d mingled his federal voting panel work with appeals for campaign cash.

That wasn’t all.

“For instance, Mr. Kobach appeared on a local ‘let’s have a beer and talk’ television segment the day he launched his campaign,” the Lawyers’ Committee noted in its release.

“In the course of the interview, he referenced his position as Vice Chair of the Commission and described the work he expected the Commission to perform.”

Attorney Daniel Jacobson — who formerly served in the Obama White House and whose firm, Arnold and Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, is handling the case — told Mic, “This commission could impact the voting rights of every American, and it is critical to know that those leading the commission have the right motivations and are not simply using the commission for personal or partisan gain.”

Kobach has not returned numerous Mic requests for comment about the election integrity commission.

Both the Hatch Act complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel, and the ethics complaint, filed with the Office of Government Ethics, finish with similar, scathing wording:

“Mr. Kobach explains on his own campaign website that he served as a senior attorney in the United States Department of Justice for several years, and therefore he surely is aware of the legal requirements under the Hatch Act,” the OSC letter reads.

“Given that awareness, and the sheer number of apparent violations in this case, there are serious questions whether Mr. Kobach knowingly disregarded the law, and the appropriate disciplinary measures if he did. In Mr. Kobach’s own words, ‘respect for rule of law [is] essential to our country.’”