Joe Arpaio has found a new friend who is just as controversial as the sheriff himself. Kris Kobach and Arpaio appeared together at a press conference yesterday afternoon to unveil a new program that trains officers to target immigrants. Kobach, a GOP candidate for Secretary of State in Kansas, works for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). According IRLI’s website, it is the “public interest law affiliate of the Federation for American Immigration Reform” aka FAIR, designated as a hate group by the civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center.
Before detailing FAIR’s controversial relationships with white nationalists, let’s first examine Kobach’s colleague at IRLI, Mike Hethmon. Hethmon has worked with John Tanton (the founder of FAIR) for nearly nine years. Just last fall he attended Tanton’s annual Writers Workshop. In fact, Hethmon began his “legal overview” presentation by personally thanking “Dr. Tanton for hosting and sustaining what is now I believe 33 years of the Writers Workshop.” Hethmon also added that he has “had the privilege of attending for several years.”
What is even more disturbing is Hethmon’s association with two other attendees: Peter Brimelow, the founder of VDARE, a website dedicated to “race-betterment,” and Wayne Lutton, editor of The Social Contract, a quarterly white nationalist journal published by John Tanton. According to a recent article Lutton also writes for the anti-Semitic publication Occidental Quarterly and was scheduled to give a presentation on immigration issues during an anti-Black annual conference sponsored by American Renaissance.
After reviewing the long list of these troubling relationships, it’s hard to tell if immigration is the only issue of concern for Kris Kobach and the Immigration Reform Law Institute.
But the Immigration Reform Law Institute’s attorneys don’t just rub elbows with hate groups and far-right extremists, both Kobach and Hethmon have received significant financial support from FAIR. According to tax documents, FAIR has paid Hethmon over $400,000 and Kobach $125,000. In 2004, Kobach also accepted $10,000 from the U.S. Immigration Reform PAC, formerly known as the FAIR PAC. Perhaps IRLI’s legal counselors are merely following in the footsteps of their financial backers.
Arpaio’s office has not disclosed where it got the funds to pay Kris Kobach. Maybe the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is receiving a little help in that department.
According to several documents, John Tanton, the founder of FAIR, solicited and successfully received over 1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund. The Pioneer Fund is a foundation committed to eugenics and “scientific racism” used to justify the crimes of Nazi Germany.
FAIR also hired members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization originally developed to fight integration during the Civil Rights Movement. When civil rights organizations asked FAIR to explain its controversial relationships, particularly its funding sources, FAIR’s current president Dan Stein stated, “I don’t give a sh*t what they do with their money, my job is to get every dime of Pioneer’s money.”
In 1989, John Tanton wrote, “I have all along seen the immigration battle as really a skirmish in a wider war . . .” Since that time critics of Tanton have worried that his “wider war” is one steeped in racism and white nationalism.
Yesterday’s development should alarm Maricopa County residents. Kobach’s ongoing relationship with the Immigration Reform Law Institute and FAIR is disturbing. According to a Kansas City Star article, Kobach blamed his loss of a 2004 Senate race on a series of ads “that charged Kobach with associating with groups that had white supremacist ties.” Kobach said he underestimated the ads’ effect. Perhaps he thought Kansas voters would support a candidate who works for a hate group. Gratefully, he was wrong.
If voters in Kansas stood tall against bigotry, so should Maricopa County.