Yesterday Kansas secretary of state and noted racist lawyer-for-hire Kris Kobach was found in contempt of a U.S. district court for failing to notify thousands of state residents that they were, in fact, quite eligible to vote. He was ordered to pay attorney’s fees for the litigation of yesterday’s motion after being found in non-compliance with a block on his own 2016 proof-of-citizenship voting law.
Those fees, the exact amount of which have not yet been announced, will mark a rare moment in which Kobach is held financially responsible for his own legal racket. His nativist crusades have come at the price of millions of dollars for taxpayers across the country over the course of his career.
For the last 15 years, Kobach has been the architect and chief litigator of scores of anti-immigration and voter suppression lawsuits in several states, most famously SB1070, Arizona’s “show me your papers” provision. He is a member of the legal arm of FAIR, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group. The group advocates “Anglo-saxon dominance”; prominent members donated more than $10,000 to Kobach’s failed Congressional campaign. He was also contracted by Joe Arpaio to train the Maricopa County sheriff’s department in immigration legislation Kobach helped author himself, at a cost of $300 an hour, plus air fare and expenses, to Arizona taxpayers.
And, as you may recall, Kobach recently headed the president’s short-lived and ill-fated voter fraud commission, which found zero evidence of mass voter fraud in the U.S, though it was the subject of multiple lawsuits before it suddenly dissolved. He has managed since then, however, to spend more than $200,000 on salaries for Kansas staffers ostensibly investigating voter fraud in the state. They have prosecuted nine people—mostly batty older white Republicans who voted twice by mistake—all of which comes out to about $22,000 per case.
But these are trivial numbers compared to the financial damage Kobach has done over the years. The man has a habit of plunging headfirst into constitutionally questionable skirmishes, and for a “telegenic” lawyer educated at both Harvard and Yale, he’s not great at winning in court. “Kobach comes to town with big ideas and a can-do attitude,” wrote the SPLC a few years ago, “but leaves behind a trail of tears—huge legal bills and unworkable laws.”
Two separate federal judges have berated him for misrepresenting or entirely misunderstanding case law, and for “word-play meant to present a materially inaccurate picture” or documents submitted to the court. For the latter, the attorney himself was docked a mere $1,000.
In 2011, the Center for American Progress estimated Kobach had run up $6.6 million in fees when towns threw racist laws, many authored by the man himself, on the books and then had to defend them in court. Fremont, Nebraska, for example, had to increase its property taxes to soften the blow of such extensive legal bills when it enacted an anti-immigrant housing law pushed by the attorney.
Since the 2011 report, the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, was ordered to pay $1.4 million to civil rights attorneys after losing a Kobach-defended suit over an immigration law, which brings the cost of Kobach’s (mostly) failed and (certainly) hateful campaigns closer to $8 million. If you add in all those frivolous voter fraud suits in Kansas, we’re closing in on $8.2 million, and that’s not even counting what Arpaio shelled out for those trainings in 2010.
On one hand, Kobach will now have to put down some of his own money for ignoring a court order. On the other, that money will probably come either from his executive-level state salary, or maybe from the crowdfunding campaign the people of Hazleton started to pay the man for his failed defense.