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Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach may not be a very good lawyer -- his precious Kansas voter suppression law got overturned, and he was found in contempt, too. But when it comes to fabulously expensive bad ideas, he's one heck of a salesman, as a new investigative piece by ProPublica and the Kansas City Star documents in hilarious detail. Hilarious, of course, if you're not a taxpayer in one of the several small cities Kobach grifted into a hefty consulting fee to write anti-immigrant laws, almost all of which have been thrown out in court. Oh, yes, and he also got paid to help defend the laws when the cities were sued. It's a good racket if you're not the one paying for it!


Kobach, who's now running for Kansas governor -- the primary against incumbent Republican Jeff Colyer is next Tuesday -- made at least $800,000 on his consulting work for the towns and from two anti-immigration think tanks. The laws made for great publicity, too, making Kobach a national star in the anti-immigrant and anti-"voter fraud" movements. Which is rather odd, since almost all of his brainchildren have been overturned or gutted by litigation.

The ProPublica piece --which you really have to read for the sake of enjoying just how carefully the reporting team nails down what terrible laws these were -- looks at the laws Kobach helped craft for four cities, to protect them from a supposed scourge of undocumented migrants bringing financial ruin from using city services, not to mention turning the places into third-world shitholes of drugs and crime. Surprise, surprise: It turns out defending the stupid laws was a huge financial drain on all four, and not a one of them has an enforceable law at the end of the day.

"This sounds a little bit to me like Harold Hill in 'The Music Man,' " said Larry Dessem, a law professor at the University of Missouri who focuses on legal ethics. "Got a problem here in River City and we can solve it if you buy the band instruments from me. He is selling something that goes well beyond legal services."

Ah, but all the publicity brought Kobach far more than 76 tromboners at Dead Breitbart's Old White Anxiety Boutique, which made him a National Figure. Further, the laws -- and Kobach's unsuccessful defense of them -- allowed the suckers municipalities a chance to serve as legal petri dishes in which Kobach's Culture War panic could germinate, so honestly, it was fair value for services rendered.

In 2006, Kobach helped (for a fee) Valley Park, Missouri, to write an anti-immigration law that allowed the city to punish landlords and employers who rented to or hired undocumented immigrants. The ACLU sued, of course, and eventually, after $300,000 in litigation that gutted the original law, the city "won" the right to keep a revised ordinance requiring employers to verify new hires are eligible to work in the US. Which happens to already be US law, but hey, victory, kind of. Oh, yes, and about that flood of Messicans that was surely going to bankrupt Valley Park, population 7,000? It was pretty much nothing, ProPublica notes: an increase from 2 percent of the population in 2005 to 3 percent in '06. Like, 50 people.

But definitely Latino people, so very scary. Enough for then mayor Jeff Whitteaker to go on talk radio and fret loudly about the illegal immigrant invasion that would destroy Valley Park's heritage!!!

"You got one guy and his wife that settle down here, have a couple kids, and before long you have Cousin Puerto Rico and Taco Whoever moving in," Whitteaker told the Riverfront Times.

When you think about it, a third of a million dollars to win an unenforceable law to maybe prevent that was a bargain. They really do have a heritage to protect, after all; the source of all knowledge informs us Valley Park was "the site of the first lynching in St. Louis County."

Kobach then touted his "success" in pushing his legal expertise to other cities, like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where in 2006, then-Mayor Lou Barletta had pushed through his own anti-immigrant law penalizing landlords and employers, and declaring English the official language while he was at it. Pointing to Valley Park, Kobach urged Hazleton to carry on the fight, because beating the ACLU was standing up for America, and besides, look at the win (which wasn't much of a win at all). Hazleton lost even bigger: It also had to pay $1.4 million in legal fees to the ACLU. The city is now in receivership, but it was good for Barletta, who by then had been elected to Congress. Now he's running for the US Senate and bragging how tough on immigration he is.

Oh, there's so much more, including one smart Alabama town where a council member had the good sense to call Valley Park, leading to a conversation that convinced the town not to hire Kobach. But rather than going on and on, let's just take the long view, with Kris Kobach, shall we? After the two years of litigation and all the money in legal fees, as we say, Valley Park ended up with an ordinance that simply restates federal law, and under which no one has ever been charged. Waste of time and money? Not to Kris Kobach!

Kobach said the lack of citations isn't proof that the fight was fruitless. "Quite the contrary, it means that the ordinance is working because people are complying with it," he said.

And look, he may as well have added, do YOU see any tigers around here?

But wait, there's even MORE Big Picture stuff for Kobach. You see, all that money blown on overturned or unenforceable laws was actually the very model of small-government conservatism!

"If you are a small government conservative, you have to acknowledge the fact that illegal immigration results in a burden on taxpayers," Kobach said. "So it is entirely consistent, in fact. If you weren't concerned about illegal immigration then I would say you are not a particularly effective small government conservative because illegal immigration adds a massive burden to government."

What's a little bankruptcy compared with knowing you've saved millions in imaginary welfare fraud, huh?

Even the former mayor of Valley Park, Jeff Whitteaker, thinks the whole epic fail was a terrific idea. Whitteaker was voted out of office in 2008 because locals were disgusted with the expense of defending the lawsuit, but he says Kobach and his experiment in making a very expensive statement will one day be hailed, perhaps even with a distinctive salute:

"Where was Donald Trump 10 years ago?" Whitteaker said. "I think Valley Park was 10 years ahead of its time on that issue."

It must have worked, obviously. We Googled "Taco Trucks in Valley Park Missouri" and didn't find a single one. No MS-13 daycare centers, either. Kris Kobach is gonna be such a kick-ass governor.

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[ProPublica]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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