The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Nativist Lawyer Kris Kobach Plays Dumb About His Employer’s Racism

By Heidi Beirich on February 23, 2012 - 11:42 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Latino

Anti-immigrant law drafter extraordinaire Kris Kobach continues to play dumb about the racist organization bankrolling his efforts, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and its founder John Tanton. In a piece published by Salon yesterday, Kobach, who is also the Kansas secretary of state, was quoted claiming that he is “not familiar with [Tanton’s] writings or his views.” He also said: “I have not done any legal work for any organization that expresses or supports racial discrimination, nor will I ever do so in the future. ”

Really, Kris?

Kobach is “of counsel” at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of FAIR, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists as a hate group. The reasons are multiple: FAIR has taken money from a foundation described as “neo-Nazi”; the group has employed and put on its boards members of hate groups; and its president, Dan Stein, has said that many immigrants hate America. Stein has also attacked the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, which ended years of racist immigration quotas, as retaliation “against Anglo-Saxon dominance.”

As to Tanton, his long list of racist comments includes questioning the “educability” of Latinos and arguing that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” Tanton has dabbled in anti-Semitism and even expressed hopes of taking a “politically incorrect” tour of Atlanta with a Holocaust denier. Tanton, who founded FAIR in 1979 and was long its principal ideologue, remains on the advisory board of FAIR today.

It’s not like these facts have been hidden from Kobach. The SPLC has been reporting on Tanton and FAIR’s extremism for more than a decade. Staff members at SPLC, including myself, have repeatedly contacted Kobach for comment about his relationship to FAIR and Tanton, most recently with a series of E-mails in 2010. At the time, Kobach told the newspaper at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where he taught constitutional law, that “neither he nor members of the Immigration Reform Law Institute or Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) had been interviewed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).”

Well, he is a lawyer, and it is technically true Kobach hadn’t been interviewed. But that’s only because he refused to respond to our requests for comment. And he was just plain wrong about FAIR; I have repeatedly interviewed Dan Stein.

It seems ridiculous that Kobach would play coy like this. The fact of the matter is that many others besides SPLC have asked Kobach about his relationship to FAIR and Tanton. In a 2009 interview with The New York Times, reporter Julia Preston asked him about his work with FAIR and the SPLC’s contention that the group has ties to white nationalists. Kobach reportedly called the allegations slander and said, “I would immediately disassociate myself from any litigation that was racist in nature.” So let’s be clear here: Kobach tells Salon that he’s “not familiar” with Tanton’s views, but when he talks to the Times three years earlier, he’s familiar enough with Tanton’s views to denounce our allegations about them as slander. Hmm.

In February 2010, a reporter with the Phoenix FOX affiliate asked Kobach: “Are you troubled by any of the statements or beliefs or activities of anybody at all in FAIR?” His response: “No, I’m not.” “And,” he added, “if I encountered anyone who was in any way involved in that organization who had engaged in any kind of discrimination, I would immediately disassociate myself.”

Ah, promises, promises.

Kobach has even been pressed about his connections to FAIR by lawmakers. In a February 2010 hearing in Nebraska regarding an anti-immigrant law Kobach was pushing there, State Sen. Bill Avery asked Kobach whether he knew that the SPLC had classified his umbrella group, FAIR, as a hate group. According to immigrant rights activist Paul Olson, who was in the audience, “Kobach replied that he was indeed aware of SPLC’s classification of FAIR as a hate group—but that it was wrong.”

The connections between Kobach and Tanton run even deeper. As Politico pointed out earlier this month, a PAC run by Tanton’s wife Mary Lou has been giving Kobach money for some time. The online news source reported that Federal Election Commission files show that the U.S. Immigration Reform PAC (USIRPAC) gave Kobach $10,000 in 2003 and 2004.

And what has Kobach done for his salary at FAIR’s legal arm? He’s worked as hard as he can to throw the undocumented out of the country. Kobach wants immigrants to “self-deport” and he has gone about it by pushing legislation in several localities and states that have made life hell for legal immigrants, citizens and the undocumented alike.

The SPLC has documented the devastating results of Kobach’s activities, in terms of sowing racial divisions and bankrupting communities with legal fees, in its report, “When Mr. Kobach Comes to Town.” The latest casualty of Kobach’s efforts is Alabama, where a law he wrote, H.B. 56, was passed last year and has led to massive human rights violations as well as economic devastation. His track record is so heinous that his own state of Kansas in the last week has rebuffed his attempts to pass anti-immigrant legislation there. Kansas House Democratic Leader Paul Davis told the Lawrence paper that the more people learn about the effects of similar Kobach laws in Arizona and Alabama, “the more people shy away from the direction he wants to go.”

Let’s hope Davis is right. And maybe it’s time Kobach made good on his oft repeated promise to dissociate himself from activities and groups motivated by racism and discrimination?

  • Reynardine

    Ruslan, Deep Ecology is pretending to be intelligent. How cute!

  • Deep Ecology

    Ruslan and other reasonable, rational commentators. You either buy into the assertions made above, or you don’t. If you agree, then you believe our current liberal democracy can quickly and easily transition into an authoritarian police state run by and for one ethnic group to the lethal detriment of other minority ethnic groups. I believe its nonsense and of the same ilk as the incredulous conspiracy theories that dominate the lunatic fringe on the left and right. It would be a lot more fun if it didn’t have serious consequences for public policy and discourse.

  • Deep Ecology

    Ruslan, not pertinent and a skillful dodging of the question at hand. We are discussing the assertions made by Ruben and echoed by Reynardine. A strawman is a position not held by your opponent. I repeated and answered the position accurately.

    Ruben: “as a person of mexican decent i can honestly tell you that the gop is now more and more to us what the kkk is to blacks or what the nazi party is to people of jewish decent….i truly believe that if the gop wins the presidential election people of mexican decent are going to be faced with ethnic cleansing,civil rights abuses and possibly even genocide all condoned by the right wing elements in this country and carried out by the extremist wn groups…”

    Reynardine: ” I bet that’s how “rational” Germans were talking to Jews in 1932. This is not Eisenhower’s Republican party. Pay attention to how the current crop are instigating hatred.”

    No strawman Ruslan, I mean really, you are a pretty bright guy.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “One, there is a vast right wing conspiracy that exists and is plotting harm to specific minorities in the US and Two, that ethnic cleansing and organized, state sanctioned genocide is the ultimate political goal of the Republican Party once or if they achieve power.”

    That’s a fine strawman there. Right-wing or not, plenty of sociological, economic, historical, and other data exists to support the idea that minorities have grave disadvantages in US society.

  • Deep Ecology

    While waiting for reasonable and intelligent commentors to respond to the fears and allegations stated by Ruben (sorry about the earlier spelling error) and Reynardine, have to point out the misuse of the logical fallacy of the strawman argument.

    The Straw Man is a type of Red Herring because the arguer is attempting to refute his opponent’s position, and in the context is required to do so, but instead attacks a position—the “straw man”—not held by his opponent. In a Straw Man argument, the arguer argues to a conclusion that denies the “straw man” he has set up, but misses the target. There may be nothing wrong with the argument presented by the arguer when it is taken out of context, that is, it may be a perfectly good argument against the straw man. It is only because the burden of proof is on the arguer to argue against the opponent’s position that a Straw Man fallacy is committed. So, the fallacy is not simply the argument, but the entire situation of the argument occurring in such a context.

    I directly questioned the two assertions made by Ruben and Reynardine, one, there is a vast right wing conspiracy plotting harm to selected ethnic minorities that is both overt (open right wing extemists) and their intellectual covert supporters, white members of the powerful elite intelligentsia who provide the ideas/themes to support and fuel open extremists. Two, the United States and current anti-immigrant isolationist wings of the Republican Party parallels the same economic, cultural, and political conditions that led to the rise of National Socialism in Germany and the genocide of the Jews and other ethnic groups in Europe.

    Where is the strawman in my counter-position?

  • Reynardine

    Woland, I have been the same person for most of seven decades.

    Dobzhansky and Montagu were in fact not field anthropologists, but geneticists, who applied their sciences to human inheritance. I note, however, that the instant your appeal to anthropology was challenged, you must needs say that anthropology isn’t good enough. I will look up your “expert”, of whom I have never heard (and I suspect there is a reason) at my leisure. It’s curious that you never tumbled to my inserting two geneticists into the sequence, but I never expected you to, since I believe you never read a one of them.

    I would point out that, though anthroplogists necessarily study multiple cultures, living and dead, “multiculturalism” is a coinage that has nothing to do with anthropology – not even cultural anthropology, let alone physical anthropology. Your dismissing all these people as “multiculturalists”, including Dr. Broom, who began his work in the 19th century, is a clear indication you never read anyone you don’t know in advance will support your views. Now, that is surely irrational, and I have seen you be vitriolic as well. Try putting a little less DARVO on the stuff you cook up.

  • Woland


    You asked me to name my experts (in quotations); allow me to name just one – Derek Freeman.

    On reflection, it stuck me as odd but enlightening that you choose to appeal to a branch of the humanities (anthropology) that is populated by the most devout true believers in the multicultural orthodoxy. Can we not also look to history, sociology, philosophy, or are these sciences not ideologically pure enough?

    Also, I attempted to respond to one of your insults hurled at me, Ah, and lest we forget, Woland, your last resort is that whoever disagrees with you is really a Jew.

    With a simple rhetorical question “Is the term “Jew” intrinsically pejorative?” I also dared to invite you to take a brief trip over to the dark side by reading a certain controversial new book by a former Israeli jazz saxophonist now residing UK. The moderators of this site did not approve – we shall see if they allow this comment to be posted.

    Lastly, are you the same person that is commenting on the Arizona petty criminal turned mentally unbalanced sovereign citizen. In those comments, you are poised and articulate, but here you are vitriolic and irrational. Are you the same person?

  • Reynardine

    And by the way, Deep, if you’re dead set on badgering Ruben, at least have the decency to spell his name properly.

  • Reynardine

    Get the Hindenburg ready for fuelling.

  • Deep Ecology

    Ruslan, that is fair enough. My beginning premise was to refute two things that Reuben stated: One, there is a vast right wing conspiracy that exists and is plotting harm to specific minorities in the US and Two, that ethnic cleansing and organized, state sanctioned genocide is the ultimate political goal of the Republican Party once or if they achieve power.

    On one, I can only repeat the observations of a fellow professor (psychology and sociology) who studies conspiracy theories, but have devoted a significant portion of my academic and government work to study of ethnic conflict to include genocide in the modern world, 19th and 20th century.

    Where do you stand on these two issues before I begin?

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “if research and ideas, the seeking of cause/effect is inherently biased, then knowledge and understanding itself is unrealiable and cannot be trusted as a means of understanding our world.?”

    Strawman. Seeking knowledge is not inherently biased, PEOPLE have biases. That is why we have things like peer review. That is why science and even fields like history give us new information every year. Someone finds new evidence, and old theories are refuted. Instead of talking about these things, maybe you should show your data and we’ll see how well it did in peer review.

  • Deep Ecology

    So Ruslan, Aron, and Moderate Mike and other thoughtful commentors, do you subscribe to the reason and fears of Reuben and Reynardine or reject them? If you do, why and if not, why not?

  • Reynardine

    Woland, name your “experts”.

    Ruslan, I don’t think vaporizers like this can even be responded to- do you?

  • Woland


    You ask for my reliance on and appeal to anthropology – would you accept that I do not believe in the wisdom of Boaz, or Mead, or Montagu, but would instead point to earlier evolutionary theorists and modern day sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists for understanding who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going as homo sapien sapiens? And I do not consider you or anyone else to be untermenschen.


    I hope that you have the courage to respond.

    I would like to hear your thoughts on Deep Ecology’s , “if research and ideas, the seeking of cause/effect is inherently biased, then knowledge and understanding itself is unrealiable and cannot be trusted as a means of understanding our world.?

    How should we (humanity) strive to find knowledge and wisdom? – Faith? Identity? Reason? Strife?

  • Reynardine

    Hey, Deep, as long as it makes you happy to think that and you don’t act out and hurt anybody, well, have a nice trip.