The Harvard-, Yale- and Oxford-educated lawyer, former constitutional law professor and ex-chief immigration law adviser to Attorney General John Ashcroft has now established himself as, in effect, the “lead attorney” for the increasingly active states’ rights movement across the country. Both in his capacity as secretary of state and as a private attorney, Kobach has drawn national notice for developing strategies, legislation and legal arguments for pushing back against the federal government on matters ranging from voter identification to gun rights to immigration.
“You know, 10 years ago, if you gave a talk on states’ rights, people would fall asleep … but now things have changed,” Kobach said in an interview.
In fact, in recent years states have been pushing nullification-style bills, with 20 of them passing laws rejecting some or all of Obamacare and gun law-nullification bills being introduced in 37 states in 2013 alone.
“It’s a combination of factors,” Kobach continued. “One is the Obama administration’s assertion of federal power, and then on top of that, you’ve got these scandals, and there’s several of them, the NSA scandal, there’s also the abuse of power with regard to the DREAM Act amnesty which the Obama administration did in violation of federal law. So many people are looking at the federal government and saying, ‘There’s a real problem here.’”
Kobach’s work on immigration is well-known: He authored the Arizona immigration bill that ended up before the Supreme Court, he advised Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign on immigration, and is credited with developing the candidate’s much-maligned “self-deportation” position, and in his work as an attorney he has represented states and cities in courts across the country on a range of immigration cases.
But Kobach has expanded his portfolio well beyond that. And with his rising profile, he is drawing increasing criticism. Civil liberties advocates call his policies dangerous, and some charge he’s been getting shot down in the courts on case after case.
“He’s always touting how successful he is, but it’s because he’s distorting his record,” said Gary Brunk, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “On immigration issues, I think that clearly his time has passed. … I don’t know how far he’s going to get on voting issues. In Kansas he’s also jumped on Second Amendment issues. When people saw that, the reaction among people I’m familiar with was, ‘Well, Kris is jumping on another issue because his old issues are not working for him anymore.’”
Kobach filed a lawsuit with Arizona in August asking the federal government to require proof of citizenship on voter registration forms in Kansas, the first action of its kind after a Supreme Court decision on voting registration forms last year invited such a lawsuit from states who wished to require citizenship proof. The move came after he successfully advocated for tough voter ID laws in Kansas that require voters registering to prove they are citizens.
Earlier this month, Kobach announced that if the state loses its lawsuit, it would move ahead with a system that would allow voters who use the federal form and don’t prove their citizenship to vote only in federal elections, whereas voters who registered with the state form and offered proof of citizenship could vote in statewide and local elections, as well. He said the state is not spending money on implementing the “contingency plan” because it is confident its lawsuit will succeed, but if fails, the state would be forced to go ahead.
And Kobach has spearheaded an effort called Interstate Cross Check, by which states submit their voter rolls to a database that checks for duplicates and can then follow up to purge ineligible voters from the rolls. Late last month, Nevada became the 25th state to join on to Kobach’s effort.
Kobach also helped draft a bill signed into law this summer nullifying federal gun laws on weapons that never leave Kansas borders, an effort that was tried with varying levels of success in nearly three-quarters of states in 2013. He defended the law after Attorney General Eric Holder wrote the Kansas governor warning it was unconstitutional, with Kobach saying the law was drafted to withstand legal challenge and he would “happily meet Mr. Holder in court.”
Kobach, who was born in Wisconsin but moved to Kansas at age 7, lives in Piper, Kansas, with his family. His wife, Heather, is a former environmental systems engineer who now has a part-time photography business in addition to homeschooling their four daughters. Kobach grew up mostly in Topeka, where is father owned a car dealership.
His allies say Kobach brings a number of qualities that make him a valuable leader on their side.
“He’s clearly one of the brightest people in the room on a number of these issues — on voting issues and states’ rights issues, he still does a good bit of work on immigration issues around the country — and he is exceptionally well thought of intellectually,” said Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. “He knows the law, he knows what the courts are doing and different states are doing: He’s a wealth of knowledge.”
Kobach is quick to admit that the influence of a university professor on national politics is limited, while a statewide elected official can often make a more immediate impact. He says while some of his work fits with his role of secretary of state, the position also allows him to advance issues outside of that office’s traditional purview.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/kris-kobach-states-rights-98879.html#ixzz2itM8yvyo