Posts Tagged ‘Kris Kobach’

‘Oppo’ men break silence on Kris Kobach

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Two seasoned opposition researchers who recently published a tell-all on the ‘oppo’ business have come forward to identify Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as a subject of their investigations, citing his connection to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign as the reason that they are breaking their silence.

“We’re not here to name names,” Alan Huffman and Michael Rejebian write in “We’re With Nobody,” which was published by HarperCollins last month, explaining why they do not disclose their subjects’ identities in the book.

But Huffman and Rejebian now tell me that they have decided to identify Kobach — an unpaid adviser to Romney who they say received funding from a “notoriously racist group” and once justified apartheid — because “it is actually important now.”

“If Mitt Romney were elected president, Kobach could assume a leadership role,” they said.

Kobach, who drafted Arizona and Alabama’s controversial immigration laws, told the Associated Press last week that he has been advising Romney on immigration policy since the beginning of the year. He endorsed the candidate on January 11.

“Kobach is a well-known immigration hardliner,” Huffman and Rejebian said in a written statement. “But we wanted to make sure that all the dots get connected, and that the whole story – the documented, true story — gets presented to the voters.” Kobach calls their story “a complete fairy tale.”

In their book, Huffman writes that “the Kansas candidate” received “significant funding from a notoriously racist group” while running for the state’s 3rd congressional district in 2004. He also writes that Kobach once wrote “that apartheid could be justified in the name of political stability.”

Following Huffman and Rejebian’s research, conducted in the summer of 2004, incumbent Democratic congressman Dennis Moore made a campaign commercial suggesting that Kobach had received campaign contributions from “people with ties to white supremacists.”

The Kansas Democratic Party and others have also pointed to a quote from Kobach’s Harvard thesis as evidence that Kobach “authored a book that provides a defense of Apartheid in South Africa.”

But in our conversation yesterday, Kobach told me that those allegations were “ridiculous.”

“That’s just flat out wrong,” he said. “It’s a smear campaign and it’s completely inappropriate.”

The donor organization in question is the U.S. Immigration Reform PAC (USIRPAC), which gave Kobach $10,000 in 2003 and 2004, according to the Federal Election Commission. USIRPAC President Mary Lou Tanton is the wife of John Tanton, the founder and board member of the Federation of American Immigrant Reform (FAIR), an organization that has been labeled a “nativist hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its hard stance against illegal immigration. Since 2004, Kobach has also worked on contract on a variety of cases for FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Law Reform Institute.

In 2009, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a report stating that FAIR was part of a network of “restrictionist organizations conceived and created by John Tanton, the ‘puppeteer’ of the nativist movement and a man with deep racist roots.”

Tanton “has met with leading white supremacists, promoted anti-Semitic ideas, and associated closely with the leaders of a eugenicist foundation once described by a leading newspaper as a ‘neo-Nazi organization,” the report states. “He has made a series of racist statements about Latinos and worried that they were outbreeding whites. At one point, he wrote candidly that to maintain American culture, ‘a European-American majority’ is required.”

But Kobach says that any suggestion that the USIRPAC is a “hate group” is inaccurate.

“The Immigration Reform PAC is not a notorious hate group,” he said. “It is just an organization that supports stronger enforcement against illegal immigration. The way the political operatives attempted to claim that it was a hate group was by six degrees of separation.”

According to the FEC, USIRPAC made donations to 36 House candidates in the 2003-2004 cycle, six of whom were Democrats, though no candidate received the five-figure donation given to Kobach.

Kobach also said that the quote used by the Kansas Democratic Party was “ripped out of context,” a move he described as “outrageous.”

On their website, the Kansas Democratic Party quotes the following passage from “Political Capital: The Motives, Tactics, and Goals of Politicized Business in South Africa,” Kobach’s Harvard thesis which won an award from the school and was published in 1990 by University Press of America:

“Clearly, reform has become the clarion call of so many businesses because it is seen as a means of achieving stability. Yet, strict Verwoerdian apartheid enforced with an iron fist can also be seen as a route to a more stable South Africa.”

Huffman confirmed that this was the passage he referred to in “We’re With Nobody” when he wrote that Kobach had written in defense of apartheid.

But it appears that Kobach’s words were indeed taken out of context. Kobach was citing the opinion of others who believed apartheid would lead to stability, but went on to point out that “many [businesses] gradually concluded after witnessing racial unrest that apartheid was unable to guarantee stability.”

“In that quote I am describing the views held by others, not views that I would hold,” Kobach told me. “I’m presenting that point of view and then suggesting why it’s wrong.”

“It would be ridiculous to think that the Harvard Center for International Affairs would give its award to a thesis that endorsed apartheid,” he added.

Huffman and Rejebian saw it differently.

“Michael and I are always excited to point the finger at racists,” Huffman writes in their book. “We were pleased, therefore, to discover that the Kansas candidate was also linked to the leader of a radical group that denigrated the region’s growing Latino population. Even more exciting was that the candidate himself had written that apartheid could be justified in the name of political stability.”

I reached out multiple times to multiple spokespeople with the Mitt Romney campaign to ask for their comments on Kobach’s history and on Huffman and Rejebian’s decision to come forward. They did not respond.

But Kobach was notably upset by Huffman and Rejebian’s work.

“This kind of dishonest — I’m not sure what you call it, it’s not journalism — this kind of dishonest stuff really pisses me off,” he said. “If they say what they’re doing is opposition research, they’re doing very shoddy opposition research. They should at least read the end of every paragraph they quote.”

Huffman and Rejebian, both Mississippi based journalists and political consultants, have been working in the ‘oppo’ trade for over 18 years, and reiterate frequently that they have no say in how campaigns or other organizations use the information that they are hired to unearth.

‘Oppo’ guys “find out everything there is to know about someone seeking higher power, and we turn it over to someone else and let them run with it,” they told me.

UPDATE: After reading the piece, Kobach writes:

Racism is a very serious thing. To me, calling someone a racist is one of the worst things that you can say about a person. Especially when it is a complete lie.

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The Politics of Immigrant Scapegoating: Not Just an American Pastime

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Around the world, as long as people keep moving, politicians will continue to talk breathlessly about the immigration “crisis.” It’s a campaign trail standard in the U.S., but in Britain and Western Europe as well, political figures waste no opportunity to project voters’ deepest fears and wildest misperceptions onto whatever group of newcomers is most visible—whether they’re Egyptian, Roma or Polish.

Here in the U.S., all the GOP presidential hopefuls are racing to brandish their nativist street cred. But Mitt Romney has pulled ahead in the meme-fest coming out of South Carolina’s primary. Despite his own immigrant lineage (due to his Mormon missionary roots), Romney has checked off all the boxes: supporting E-Verify, promising to beef up border security, and smacking down the DREAM Act for undocumented students. Appealing to law-and-order types, Romney touts the endorsement of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped craft Arizona’s SB1070 law. (South Carolina, too, boasts an SB1070 copycat bill.)

Not to be outdone, Rick Santorum has argued that once you’ve crossed the border illegally, regardless of what you do or the family you raise thereafter, “everything you’re doing while you’re here is against the law.”

The resurgent Newt Gingrich has touted a relatively “humane” reform plan based on a vaguely defined screening process that might legalize “about 1 million” undocumented immigrants. Though the plan would expel roughly “7 or 8 or 9 million” to their home countries before they can apply to return, even this proposal was immediately decried by rivals as “amnesty.”

But immigrant-bashing isn’t just an American pastime. Although Europe’s far-right movements have generally laid low since Anders Breivik’s murderous rampage against “multiculturalism” in Norway, the hard right remains a vocal minority in several countries.

France—the country the GOP vilifies as a bastion of wine-swilling egalitarian liberals—has stepped up deportations, according to the Washington Post. President Nicolas Sarkozy, himself a descendant of immigrants*, has pushed for more deportations as he approaches a tough election. Squeezing the president even further to the right is the hardline National Front party, trumpeting a fiercely anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant platform.

Sakorzy’s government sparked international outrage last year with the so-called “burqa ban.” The criminalization of veiled Muslim women reflects a general stereotype, promoted by the political class, that Muslims are unwilling to “assimilate.”

Racial hostility has also intensified against communities of ethnic Roma, who have been systematically expelled or displaced by the government’s bulldozers.

Revealing misplaced economic anxiety, Italian conservatives have proposed to kick out immigrants who have been unemployed for six months, and their families.

British politicians play a similar tune, the UK Independent reports:

Government ministers have implied a link between immigration and joblessness. “Controlling immigration is critical or we will risk losing another generation to dependency and hopelessness,” said Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in a speech last July.The Coalition has imposed a cap on immigration from outside the European Union and has pledged to reduce net migration to “the tens of thousands” a year by the end of this parliament in 2015.

Nevermind a recent study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research that shows “no link between rising immigration and rising unemployment.” But the debate rages on with yet another controversial study suggesting some correlation between native-born unemployment and “non-European” immigration.

Such political tensions are kindling for violence. Germany’s Turkish immigrant community has been shaken by neo-Nazi murders, as well as incensed at the center-right government’s perceived failure to adequately investigate the crimes. Still, Peter Grossman at Public Affairscontends that politicians’ concerns about “right wing terrorism” is really a red herring that obscures extremist elements embedded within the state. Mainstream conservatives, Grossman suggests, might just be keeping Nazi-affiliated groups around on the margins to keep the public tense, which in turn strengthens the political centrists as guarantors of stability.

But there’s a fine line between containing the ultra-right and validating them. The far-right actually picked up 6 percent of the state parliamentary vote in Mecklenburg. According to Der Spiegel, strong support has come from economically depressed rural communities, where slogans like “Criminal Foreigners Out” resonate with disaffected voters.

Switzerland’s recent election saw a surge in votes for the Swiss People’s Party, which has deployed chillingly familiar propaganda tropes, such as, according to the Associated Press, “striking posters of black boots stomping on the Swiss flag with the message ‘Stop Mass Immigration’ ” and graphics of “white sheep kicking out a black sheep or dark hands grasping for Swiss passports.”

In a 2011 essay in The Nation, author Ian Buruma observed that, in contrast to the vintage image of “neo-Fascists pining for black shirts and military marches”:

Europe’s new populists are smartly dressed modern men and women who claim to be defending our freedoms. And they are persuasive because people are afraid and resentful, blaming economic and social anxieties on “liberal elites.” But if the fears are vague and various, the focal point is Islam.

On both sides of the Atlantic, political scapegoating attests both to prevailing ignorance as well as to the political establishment’s delusions of power. Politicians exploit social frustrations by peddling the belief that passing racist laws or building higher fences can turn back a demographic process set in motion by centuries of global capitalism, war and imperialism—and save their pension in the process.

Ordinary people, however, seem to be discovering that maintaining empire is the province of officialdom, not democracy. A recent Pew study of public opinion reveals that in today’s economic climate, “conflicts between rich and poor now rank ahead of three other potential sources of group tension—between immigrants and the native born; between blacks and whites; and between young and old.”

But no savvy politician would highlight the widening gulf between the masses of poorer people on one side, and the elite seeking their votes on the other. For the would-be rulers of prosperous advanced democracies, it’s always safer to stick to the traditional dividing line between Us and Them: the border.

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