Steve Rose | Two jobs may be too much for Kobach

Is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach splitting his attention between two jobs?

In addition to serving in his state post, which pays a salary of $86,000 a year, Kobach is also the legal counsel for Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) in Washington, D.C., and has been since 2004.

That is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

Kobach’s most recent involvement with FAIR was as the primary author of Alabama HB 56, passed last year, which is among the toughest anti-illegal immigration legislation in the nation. Some of it, however, has been held up by a temporary injunction.

Kobach claims he did not author this legislation during normal office hours. As a matter of fact, he claims to have written it on his laptop computer during a weekend turkey shoot. Kobach has said he spends up to 10 hours a week on nights and weekends on immigration issues.

There is no evidence that Kobach is using any of his normal hours as secretary of state to pursue immigration reform across the country (although we don’t know what’s going on in his mental world during the normal work week).

The question is, does Kobach earn anything from this effort? Does he get paid by FAIR, as it goes from state to state legislating immigration reform?

One hint comes from Farmers Branch, Texas. Kobach, working with FAIR, authored legislation in 2010 that cost the city $4 million in legal fees, according to the former mayor pro-tem of the city, Carol Dingman.

Dingman wrote to a newspaper: “I have researched Kris Kobach. Our mayor said he was an expert in immigration law who would help the city on a pro-bono (free) basis.”

Continues Dingman, “Mr. Kobach was paid $100,000. So much for pro-bono.”

FAIR, by the way, is known as a strident anti-immigration organization that wants to substantially decrease both legal and unauthorized immigration to the United States.

If Kobach is holding down two jobs, receiving legal fees for his work with FAIR, he is violating no Kansas laws. Theoretically, our attorney general could try cases on the side that have nothing to do with his job. Our governor could, if he chose, consult for agri-business or any organization and accept payment on the side. But both instances would seem to be inappropriate.

The issue isn’t whether Kobach has the right. The issue is, is this right? Is there a latent abdication of responsibility in trying to do two unrelated, highly complex jobs — one public and one private — at the same time? Is there something wrong if Kobach is leveraging his secretary of state position to enrich himself? I think so.

I called Kobach and identified myself to his secretary, who said he would call me back as soon as he was off a conference call. A few minutes later the secretary called back and asked me what this was regarding.

I said I wanted to ask Secretary Kobach about any compensation he may be receiving outside his work as secretary of state. I did not get a return phone call.

The only way any of us will know is if Kobach makes public his personal tax return each year.

The public may or may not care how much he makes on the side, or whether he does. But at least the citizens of Kansas deserve to know the extent of his extra-curricular activities.