The Legislative Coordinating Council just before lunch on Friday, June 30, unanimously approved a motion to order Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican candidate for governor, to outline just what he means in his campaign materials that assert the Legislature is corrupt.
House Speaker pro tem Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, at the end of the meeting, said, “I’m concerned that Kobach calls us corrupt, and if there is corruption, we need him to tell us what he means. Is it criminal corruption? If so, we need to know what it is, and if it isn’t, then we need to take steps to protect the reputation of members of the legislature.”
This is no trifling matter. The seven-member Coordinating Council, composed of House and Senate leadership, is empowered to act for the state legislature when it is not in session. (At least two members of the LCC, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, have been mentioned as possible candidates for governor.)
Kobach has for weeks referred to a “corrupt” state government, and Schwab wants Kobach to explain his allegations, provide some form of evidence against other suspicions that his claims are merely malicious campaign talk.
“I think it is part of our duty as leadership of the Legislature to find out whether he is talking about criminal corruption, and if he is, to deal with it. If it isn’t, then, well, we ought to know that, too,” Schwab said.
The Revisor of Statutes was instructed to write a letter to Kobach that all members of the LCC apparently have agreed to sign.
The Council’s action came on the heels of another, more serious incident on June 23 in which Kobach was fined $1,000 for lying to a federal judge about the contents of a document he had taken into a November meeting with then president-elect Trump.
Kobach has been in a Wichita federal court to answer a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that claims, among other things, that the state’s two-tiered voter law – written by Kobach – is Jim Crow reincarnate: one ballot, with state and federal candidacies, for people with proper citizenship, and another federal-only ballot for voters who haven’t registered with all citizenship documents including birth certificates, naturalization papers, passports, among others.
Claiming Kobach’s Kansas law is unconstitutional, the ACLU (which Kobach has called “a bunch of communists”) sought documents, such as the one Kobach had taken to
Trump, as part of their case. Kobach insisted the documents were not relevant. Two federal judges who examined them
said they were, indeed, relevant and U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara fined Kobach for repeatedly lying to the
“The court agrees that the defendant’s (Kobach’s) deceptive conduct and lack of candor warrant the imposition of sanctions,” O’Hara ruled.
Nevertheless, the Kobach papers remain sealed, for the time, although speculation is that they were the outline for creating Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on
Election Integrity, the now-infamous panel run by Kobach with vice-president Mike Pence its ceremonial chairman. That panel is composed mostly of Kobach sympathizers who share his unsubstantiated claims that the country is under threat of widespread voter fraud. The commission recently incited a national outcry when it asked states for detailed information about every voter, including party affiliation, digits from social security numbers, votes cast, among other personal and confidential data. Forty-four states have declined to provide the data.
It is unusual for a Kansas attorney, charged with lying to a federal judge and then fined for that deception, to escape disciplinary action by the state’s judicial administrator – from a warning and suspension of his law license, to disbarment proceedings. But Kobach, a fearsome and relentless bully, apparently is immune from such scrutiny, punishment reserved for the lesser ranks among attorneys.
It took the gumption of a Washburn University student – Keri Strahler – to file a complaint against Kobach, citing “ethical questions surrounding Kobach’s behavior as an
attorney.” Strahler cited O’Hara’s decision last month to fine Kobach for lying to him about his Trump meeting documents. Thus, the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator will investigate Kobach’s involvement in voting cases, including his lies about the content of papers he took into that Trump meeting.
It’s all coming undone ever so slowly, perhaps even never for Kobach, but the questions have begun to rise – the man’s unbridled lust for power, his pursuit of glory, his claims that hordes of Mexicans, or Arabs, or other dark or dark-skinned people are slithering into our wards and precincts undocumented and unchallenged, desperate to steal our elections, thwart our freedom, claim our country. (To which end, though, is never explained.)
Kobach’s folly is unmatched in modern times, reminiscent and resurgent, as though Kansas and America longed for more of Jim Crow and separate but unequal, and Joe McCarthy, the commie-hunter – as though we need someone to rescue us from ourselves, and that personal freedoms are now a matter for other guardians to manage.
The late Walter Lippmann predicted a time when the nation would become so terrified we would “willingly put manacles on our wrists to stop our hands from shaking.”
That’s not quite what is happening. The manacles are going on while we’re sitting on those hands, yet unconcerned about threats to the citizens, threats crafted from the whole cloth of our indifference, our imagination and superstitions, a time when goblins seemed real and those timeworn ghosts had the staying of power poll taxes and literacy tests, enforced by the fire hose and the police dog.
‒ JOHN MARSHALL