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?

  • Deep Ecology

    I graciously surrender and give up the floor. I concede that in a liberal democracy the Republicans are indeed planning and capable of organized genocide, black is about to become really fashionable and that if I really want to get that awesome Mexican Plate special at our favorite hole in the wall cantina I’d better hurry before they organize the American version of Kristallnacht.

  • Reynardine

    Deep Ecology, DARVO. And I hope you have a huge zeppelin to collect all that gas you just uttered. Just don’t try to land it at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

  • Deep Ecology

    Reynardine, not an answer but points for deflection and obfuscation. Like a few of my freshman every year, you confuse opinion and emotion with facts and objective observation.

    You’re quick to label anyone who questions your conclusions with stereotypical tags, saves thinking about what you believe and why.

  • Reynardine

    I hope, Deep, that you have plenty of cows to eat your huge straw man.

  • Deep Ecology

    Ruslan, Reuben, and Reynardine, focus on the issue being discussed. Is the United States in fact evolving into a state that parallels the National Socialist Germany 1933-1945 and will the Republican Party once in power initiate state sanctioned ethnic cleansing and/or genocide against specific ethnic elements within the border.

    Is there now in existence a vast right wing conspiracy embracing this vision with the goal of acquiring political power, abrogating representative government, and relying both on elements that operate openly as extremists and those that operate secretly within the intelligentsia, government, and business to make this a reality in the near future.

    Which ethnic groups do you believe are targeted for elimination and why?

    If you start to feel pretty silly answering these types of questions you might start to get it.

  • Reynardine

    You know what, Ruslan? I *am* “white”, and you have so identified yourself as well. I think we can both certify “it” isn’t *our* fault. Nor is anyone here playing the victim except these moral cretins, but cretins do that so consistently that psychologists have a name for it. It’s DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “To answer your question, I suspect most of the persons reading these posts have internalized the “revolutionary” idea that “all truth is relative”, and that their “truth” can never be questioned because they and their fellow enlightened progressives “know it to be true”.”

    Ha ha…..No.

    “Specifically to the area of human knowledge that you study, ethnic-conflict and the evolution of the nation-state and its role in international conflict, their collective wisdom can be easily summed up as “It’s all Whitey’s fault!”””

    Please, show us who actually says this.

  • Deep Ecology

    Woland, thank you for your spirited defense and appreciate the kind thoughts and encouragement.

    Reynardine and Reuben, this has been an a really strange and troubling exchange. Mostly for how quickly the discussion moves to perceived racial victimhood versus staying on topic as to whether or not the United States could, under certain circumstances, replicate the same social, economic and political conditions of National Socialist Germany 1933-1945, including ushering in state sanctioned, industrial genocide. My contention is that it would be impossible, for many reasons. Yours seems to be that if I disagree, I must be a closet white nationalist (thank God for tenure or I’d be out of a job!) and that all my writings and research (peer reviewed), is in fact, vouchsafed by fellow secret white nationalists in order to deceive and lull the non-white underclass into complacency, in order to make same said National Socialist America a possibility in the near future. Pretty close?

    My ideological filter so to speak is that I am passionate about Deep Ecology, am a pan-nationalist (worked with many indio populations in Central America to assist them with saving their cultures from assimilation and the ecosystems they rely on to survive from corporate-capitalist exploitation). If you’d like to stop assuming what I believe but hear it straight up, just ask.

  • Reynardine

    Ah, and lest we forget, Woland, your last resort is that whoever disagrees with you is really a Jew.

  • Reynardine

    Ad hominem attacks, slander of the crudest kind, and facile witticisms? Exactly what do people like you propagate against whole classes of people you have never even met? Do any of you ever answer honestly? Has even one of you, in your reliance on “anthropology” cited a Broom, a Boaz, a Meade, a Montagu, a Dobzhansky? No: speaking of “circle jerks”, you resort only to jerks from your own circle, bigots and charlatans who have never been in field and whose credentials are, to put it mildly, questionable. Your arguments do not hold up, you are snotty and abusive, especially to those you consider Untermenschen, and those of you literate enough to do so then squirt clouds of formless ink that are supposed to deceive your readers into thinking you’re too intelligent for Fruehmenschen like us to understand. Then, when you are greeted in the spirit which this deserves, you cry like piglets getting your little nuts nipped off.

  • Aron


    I appreciate your apology. That’s the nicest anybody from your camp has ever been to me. And I’m also well aware of your intent in using ‘circle jerk.’ It was simply very crude, even for a double entendre.

  • ruben

    woland…we have heard that rhetoric before and it is most often used to justify the status quo by the white right….and the world that we as humans live in is multicultural!….arguing against that is like trying to catch the air with your bare hands….futile….the white right just has a hard time coming to terms with this.

  • Woland


    I would hope that Deep Ecology denounces and disavows me and any perceived “WN” taint, and would in fact encourage him or her to do so in order to maintain his/her credibility here among you.


    My apologies for my earlier disrespect towards you and your parents – that was unacceptable. By way of pitiful excuse, I believe that was an unfortunate case on my part of BUI – “blogging under the influence”. Again, my sincere apologies.

    Lastly, the term “circle jerk” can also mean “preaching to the choir”; however, the double entendre was intended for shock value.

    But I think that any honest assessment is that commentators who express dissenting opinions to multicultural dogma of this site are routinely meet with ad-hominem attacks, slander (often of the crudest kind), and pompous, facile witticisms.

  • ruben

    woland….sounds like you are the pot calling the kettle black my have enlightened us with your words of wisdom! lol!

  • Aron


    Just for your information, I am about as far from post-modern as one could possibly get. I subscribe to William James’s Pragmatism, thank you very much.

    There is absolutely one genuine truth out there, though there are an infinite number of interpretations. You also can’t expect me to have very much respect for you as you went and insulted my life situation and brought up my beloved parents. That’s not exactly how you go about winning arguments, here.

    Also, I love how you refer to general consensus on issues to be a ‘circle jerk.’ Do you refer to conferences as ‘orgies?’ Really quite immature.

  • Reynardine

    Well, Woland, if Deep Ecology hadn’t already blown his own cover, you’d sure have finished the job.

  • Woland

    Deep Ecology,

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for anyone to stand up in your defense. The “enlightened ones” who frequent this site come here for the mutual stroking and re-validation of their collective self-righteousness. I suspect not one has the courage to speak out against the circle jerk (and I’m calling you out Ruslan, Aron, Kiwiwriter, … Reynardine has already proven my point)

    To answer your question, I suspect most of the persons reading these posts have internalized the “revolutionary” idea that “all truth is relative”, and that their “truth” can never be questioned because they and their fellow enlightened progressives “know it to be true”.

    Specifically to the area of human knowledge that you study, ethnic-conflict and the evolution of the nation-state and its role in international conflict, their collective wisdom can be easily summed up as “It’s all Whitey’s fault!”

    As for myself, the truth does not need to be protected from debate, which has led me to abandon much of the politically correct propaganda and indoctrination produced in and by post-modern America.

    PS, although Ruslan, Reynardine, Aron, Kiwiwriter, etc. will be quickly try to change the subject by slandering yours truly as a crazed white nationalist or other nefarious boogeyman, I am not. For what it’s worth coming from “an evil doer”, you are one of the most elegant commentators here. Please continue, even if some persons that you must engage in debate at this forum demonstrate poor education and ill-manners.

  • Reynardine

    By the way, Ruben, don’t bother with him. Only invertibrates squirt ink like that.

  • Reynardine

    Dammit, Deep, you remind me of a squid. Every time you feel challenged, you surround yourself with a formless blob of ink.

  • Deep Ecology

    Reuben, 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.

    Am curious as to the opinions of others that regularly contribute to these forums, is academia inherently biased? Can “truth” ever be ascertained through an application of the scientific method and rigorous peer review? Or is it impossible to for the researcher to be objective in any way due to the filter his own experience and prejudice might bring to his or her conclusions?

  • ruben

    deep ecology….sometimes things are just as simple as “black and white” it sounds like you are trying to put some kind e=mc2 spin to primitive burning hatred cuz you don’t look like me,speak the same language or not the same religion… academics can research all you want but at the end of the day it will only be your opinion and often times biased….in past history of ethnic cleansing or genocide the victims of these crimes were often times portrayed as less than human and not fit to live in the same society with the ethnic majority by the educated leaders of the perpetrators….and this is the green light that the uneducated grunts like the topeka bomber use as justification to carry out there terrorist acts….research of this kind is mostly biased and can be used as an instrument to further a political agenda.

  • Aron


    So YOU’RE the one that drove my horse from fits of laughter and then tears!

    (Totally unrelated dirty joke references FTW.)

  • Reynardine

    Basically, Deep, you are setting up a straw man and knocking it down. And just because you’re showing us yours doesn’t mean we’ll show you ours, but caution: mine is bigger.

  • Deep Ecology

    Reuben, so I am not misunderstanding, just the process of analyzing ethnic conflict and publishing that research pose an insidious threat to social order and race relations? (in that extreme groups might use one or more of the conclusions to further their respective causes)

    Are all academics who research and publish about controversial subject matter closet bigots with disingenuous motives, possibly even secret fellow travelors with the open extremists?

  • Deep Ecology

    I apologise if I came across as pretentious Reynardine, it often seems that way when an academic goes on about his interest.

  • ruben

    deep ecology…. many closet bigots and wn’s pose a greater threat than open bigots cuz they will try to pass themselves off as neutral yet preach and teach the venom that is usually false and this is the hate fueled ammo right wing extremist groups take as gospel.

  • Reynardine

    I bet not half so overawed as you are, though.

  • Reynardine

    Oh, sure, Deep, we are overawed by your superlative credentials.

  • Deep Ecology

    Reynardine and Reuben, Ok, I am going to bite. I teach and research ethnic-conflict, evolution of the nation-state and its role in international conflict, and the role of geography in shaping man’s cultural evolution. Exactly how is it that I represent a greater threat than an “open bigot”?

    The sovereign citizen example was used to show how in a nation as large and complex as the United States, they represent a miniscule and extremely marginalized sub-set of the far right, anti-government movement, but we lavish attention on them thereby inflating their real impact and threat.

  • tryn to _stand

    sooo, does “zero immigration” mean only those born in country would remain and all others leave? So who’s in charge of verifying (fairly) all documentation fo birth records. Based on the country’s history, wouldnt there be a good chance of the process being sold to the highest bidder? I mean, votes are sold, why not birth records? on who’s backs would the privelaged stand on for self proclaimed righteousness once all the “non-people” we’re gone? why not just let the “American Indians” decide who stays and who goes.

  • ruben

    deep ecology you are so wrong…..its the same stream with people like you that turn it into a treacherous river….and you are playing dumb just like kobach if you think that its only the sovereign citizen movement that is the threat….how about all the white right,neo nazi, wn groups that have sprouted up like weeds lately…..and what happened to the jews in europe was just the culmination of what can and does happen when an ethnic group is blamed for everything that goes wrong in a society….people like kobach would have been card carrying members of the nazi party if he lived in germany 70 years ago.

  • Reynardine

    No, Deep, but it’s the same old s*t. And frankly, I consider people like you a greater threat than open bigots.

  • Deep Ecology

    Small numbers of extreme individuals, left or right, do not constitute a conspiracy, nor do they represent a serious threat to the status quo. A classic example would be the FBI’s current focus on the sovereign citizen movement. 18 “incidents” within a population of 300 million plus over a year is simply not a broad based threat to our society or government.

    What happened to the Jews and other segments of the European population had precedent in their history, ethnic makeup, economic circumstances and unresolved Imperial/ideological conflicts dating back to before WWI.

    Again, the US is not the same stream, nor the same man.

  • Jane Schiff

    Heidi, should the Kansas Attorney General,
    Derek Schmidt, Esq. be contacted about this apparent conflict of interest? The conflict of interest is there because Mr. Kobach, Esq. is a Secretary of State which means he’s running elections. Their State Bar Association needs a nudge. When it comes to attorneys and ethics, generally State Bars do not like their attorneys to even possibly give the appearance of engaging in activities that present conflicts of interest for compensated and non – compensated actions as well. Mr. Kobach is one of many poster – boys representative of the damage to be done to public confidence courtesy of the Help America Vote Act, a law that makes xenophobes and haters of poor people – happy.

  • ModerateMike

    Patience does not appear to be among Mr. Kobach’s virtues when it comes to undocumented immigrants. After all, the federal government has already done so many things that should please him; a huge increase in the rate of deportations, the border fence, more border patrol employees, and Secure Communities come to mind. Moreover, he cannot honestly believe that the current Congress would ever pass any legislation favorable to immigrants; even the pre-2011 Congress, which was able to get the Dream Act through the House of Representatives, could not muster enough votes for cloture in the Senate. Of course, for reasons that I have already given in other posts, I stand by my belief that the current enforcement-only immigration policy is not only inherently cruel, but a major social and economic policy blunder. Time, the government, and much of the public are on Mr. Kobach’s side, not mine.

  • Reynardine

    Deep, silvery laughter has never prevented anything. Whoever doesn’t learn from history repeats it.

  • ruben

    deep ecology….thats what the jews thought just before ww2…or the armenians etc….the history of man kind is filled with ethnic cleansing,genocide.and ethnic dicrimination and abuses and it ALL STARTS with irrational,paranoid and poisonous rhetoric from the perpetrators.once you dehumanize a people it is easier to abuse them…..look at the topeka bomber this lunatic was egged on by the right wing and he was all to willing to blowup anyone who looked mexican to him…and he was allowed to go free because “it was no big deal he was just going to kill mexicans” and this is what the extremists of the right would like to do to us….the right wing should change there names from the gop to the hypocrite party…they are the ones that scream the loudest to send our military to free other countries of the world from dictators,tyranny and humanitarian abuses but then they are all to willing to do the same here to certain segments of the population. they are beyond disgusting

  • Deep Ecology

    The appeal to the irrational and unreasonable is a human trait that crops up throughout history.

    Comparing this historical and cultural epoch to Germany under National Socialism belies the enormous cultural, historical, and economic differences that led to its rise.

    As a very wise Greek philosopher once said: No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

    The same is true for unique historical events. The cultural and political conservatism of the US constrains extreme change and movements. American’s as individuals versus highly identifiable and cohesive racial, religious, or cultural groups don’t tend to act in cohesive group fashion in the way other tribal or high unity, mono-ethnic population groupings do. Agreement is difficult to achieve under these circumstances and our system is characterized by compromise in seeking policy consensus.

    Of course, appealing to reason is not likely to convince those who can easily conceive of vast groupings of conspiracy minded individuals who they are convinced exist to do them harm.

  • Reynardine

    See here, Deep, 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. It’s not a good sign.

  • Deep Ecology

    Reuben, that is as irrational and paranoid as the far right extremist elements exposing dark, left wing, one world government conspiracy plots.

    They exist as an extension of our fears, not reality. The idea that one can equate Republican political rhetoric with genocide is just silly.

  • Supersonic250

    Don said,
    This country is overpopulated, and 21 million Americans are out of work. Both legal and illegal immigration should be reduced to zero.

    Spoken like a guy who has NO idea how the world works. Congratulations. Your plan, when implemented, will not only ruin our economy by reducing the amount of new money being brought into our nation from outside, but will also put our culture into stagnation from lack of new ideas. Thanks a bunch, you just ended American Civilization.

  • Aron


    Good luck with that. While you’re at it, you can round up all of the ‘undesirables’ and put them in camps.

    You’re a fool.

  • Reynardine

    Ruben, it wouldn’t confine itself to people of Mexican descent. You can’t convince these people that Puerto Ricans are American citizens. My jurat brother, Joe, went on an expedition about that. He’d go to clerks at McDonald’s, Walgreen, etc, and ask them if they’d take Puerto Rican money. Just as they were getting all excited and about to call the manager, he’d show them…greenbacks.

  • Don

    This country is overpopulated, and 21 million Americans are out of work. Both legal and illegal immigration should be reduced to zero.

  • Hugh

    There’s also a good, long NPR story about a year old that details how Arizona’s Prison industry moguls had a hand in drafting the immigration laws. As if your going to have to house all of these legal-illegal aliens, somebody needs a contract right? The week before all heck broke loose on the Arizona Immigration bill I noticed an article on the US News page on CNN’s website for the Western United States where an 18 year old citizen second generation citizen, Hispanic, had been turned away in Arizona when she went to get her drivers license because they did not believe her social security card (the actual card issued) was valid. No proof, on other reason, just that they thought she might have falsified information to get an SSN. Turned away by a clerk without an appeal. We always seem to go two steps forward then take four steps back .

  • ruben

    and now kobach is consulting romney on immigration issues….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…..people of mexican decent are literally being thrust back to the dark ages by these bigots…it is coming to a point where we are going to have to fight back to defend ourselves or perish at the hands of these goons.

  • Sam Waxler

    It seems to me he’s not admitting to anything at all, so how can he claim “Befehl ist Befehl?” He’s not saying “Yes, I know about it, but Tanton is my boss.” He’s denying that he knows anything about Tanton’s racism on one hand, and he’s denying knowledge of any racism at FAIR on the other. He has NO culpability, according to Kobach himself. Of course, if he thinks anyone with knowledge of his history believes him…..

  • scribbij

    Did not the milgram study show that subjects were willing to inflict shocks if they thought they were doing it for the greater good but once they were required to do so no matter what, most declined to continue. The point is Befehl ist Befehl is a copout for those who were willing but did not want to pay for their actions.

  • Aron


    I think in this case it may be ‘the fool is the fool.’

  • IludiumPhosdex

    How do we know he’s not playing the Nuremburg patsy (“Befehl ist Befehl;” i.e., “Orders were orders,” more commonly meaning “I was only following orders”) here?