Our VoiceCulture

Is the Tanton Network Really Complaining about Money?


Brian Schultz • Nov 23, 2011

There’s something about the holiday season that inspires people to complain about money. About a month ago, one blog opined that a certain pro-immigrant lawyer received too much for her time at a certain not-for-profit.

It’s interesting that the anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) relayed this jab at their competition. Decrying that this lawyer made almost $250,000 in 2010, CIS apparently finds it contemptible that such a figure could make more than, say, a public servant—namely, another of its nemeses, Janet Napolitano, who made a measly $190,000.

Now, it’s no secret that CIS remains tied to a well-financed cadre of anti-immigrant organizations orchestrated by renowned white nationalist John Tanton. In this sense, one wonders if CIS might simply be jealous—after all, its highest paid employee only made about $155,000 in 2009.

Or perhaps it’s a more prosaic hypocrisy, considering that anti-immigrant demagogues are often paid well over the contentious sum above. As CIS reminds us in its post, anyone can check the tax documents for nonprofits.

For instance, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the nativist organization out of which CIS was founded, paid its president, Dan Stein, over $267,000 in 2010. After additional payment from FAIR and other groups, his annual salary rounded out to about $318,000. Roy Beck, president of another Tanton Network group, NumbersUSA, raked in about $280,000 in 2009.

But as far as the concept of “compensation” goes, no one has revolutionized it more than Kris Kobach, the man who wrote Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law. Like his aforementioned colleagues, he is paid an undisclosed amount from the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), another organization founded under FAIR to write model anti-immigrant legislation. This legislation is then introduced by state or local lawmakers of their own prerogative, with Kobach often present in some manner to assist with the passage.

Kobach charges these legislatures, often simply the city council of a small town with a proportionately small budget, for work that is thought to be complimentary. That means that, when the invariable procession of lawsuits bears down on Kobach’s generally unconstitutional anti-immigrant laws, he is compensated to represent these legislatures in their fight. In one case, the town of Farmers Branch, Texas, paid him about $100,000 for a year of legal work on their contentious laws—a venture that cost it a total of $4 million in legal fees. This obviously produced some frustration, summarily indicated by the town’s mayor:

“So much for pro bono […] I believe our city’s taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for the benefit of a national organization that is never mentioned in any discussion of the issue.”

He’s right. Kobach, IRLI, and the Tanton network as a whole get a free field-test for laws fully aware of the fact that, even if the legislation is eventually implemented, it will cost these local governments millions to do so—a pyrrhic victory for cities motivated by the promise that these laws will save them money.

Adding this to the fact that Kobach is also currently the Kansas Secretary of State, a post that pays him the humble sum of $86,000 per year, he seems to do pretty well.

This compensation is so great, in fact, that the people of Kansas are demanding that he actually do his job; many think that some sloppy political moves—moves for which he has been fined—are the result of his well-financed vendetta against immigration taking time from his already well paid role as public servant.

All of this in mind, it’s hard to see how anyone in the Tanton network could complain about money. From yearly salaries totaling well over a quarter million dollars, to forcing the taxpayers to compensate them for “pro-bono” work, the anti-immigrant movement is never short on cash.

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