Of his home state, Secretary of State Kris Kobach once said, “Ideally, Kansas can become a place where conservative ideas of government are tried and exported to other states.” Through the years, Kobach has made good on his dim ideal, which, like most nightmares, is deeply disconnected from reality: there, he has disenfranchised and suppressed the rights of thousands of (already registered) voters, fought against the wishes of young people seeking college educations, offered up a law that could pit ordinary citizens in gun battles with federal agencies, and so on.
Kobach’s chairmanship of the shadowy Secure States Initiative (SSI) sprouts unhealthily like a poisonous mushroom from that same disconnect. Worryingly, his work with SSI, its national advisory committee, and its faceless backers has received less attention. With far-Right money-lenders (like the newly formed SOS for SoS PAC) lining up this election season to support secretaries of state nationwide who themselves are campaigning on the promise to push voter suppression bills in their respective states, such a lack of attention will allow SSI a dangerous amount of political tranquility from which to coordinate its efforts.
Codified in digestible language on SSI’s website, Kobach and the group’s mission is a belief in old-school states rights, one drawn from the veins of secessionist outrage. His belief translates to a strategy that plays out like this: transfer legislative power to states in order to “export” authority and dominion away from the federal government. Ultimately, Kobach’s views are so extreme – and stand in stark contrast to many other conservatives – that he must actively subvert the federal government to accomplish them.
We have seen such subversion play out through his touring of other states, toiling side-by-side with other extremist elected officials to pass constitutionally unstable anti-immigrant state bills or local ordinances in Arizona, Alabama, Texas, Nebraska, Pennsylvania. In all such cases, he has worked as an attorney drafting bills on behalf the oldest and one of the most powerful anti-immigrant groups in the United States, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and its legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute.
Through its quiet work to pass laughably unwarranted voter suppression laws, to broadly restrict voting access for working-class people, and to outlaw rights democratically mandated by the people, Kobach and Secure States Initiative (SSI) codified “ideas of government” are that of promotions of bigotry and of nullification, a Constitutional doctrine concocted by far-Right extremists.
Alongside him on its national advisory committee, SSI has gathered five fellow believers:
- Scott Beason, State Senator (Alabama): introduced the abhorrent anti-immigrant HB 56, which was drafted by Kobach, was once caught on an FBI wire-tap he himself was wearing calling African-Americans “aborigines,” and has advocated for shooting undocumented immigrants;
- Scott Gessler, Secretary of State and 2014 Republican primary candidate for Governor (Colorado): has introduced a version of his Kansas counter-part’s Cross-Check Program to purge voter rolls, and has spoken on a Heritage Foundation panel about such measures alongside the voter-harassing and Tea Party darlings, True the Vote, and Kobach, who he is quite close to;
- Charlie Janssen, State Senator (Nebraska): sat alongside Kobach in a Nebraska court-room, supporting the latter’s lawsuit to fight in-state tuition for young immigrants, firmly backed the anti-immigrant ordinance that the latter wrote for the town of Freemont, and even sought to introduce an Alabama/Arizona style anti-immigrant bill in his own state;
- Mark Martin, Secretary of State (Arkansas): oversaw the passage of a voter suppression law in his state’s 75 counties without allocating even a penny for public education regarding it, helped override Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of that law, and has signed a letter along with Kobach, Gessler, and Jason Gant (below) and three other secretaries of state lambasting First Lady Michelle Obama after she criticized voter suppression laws in the 2012 election cycle;
- Jason Gant, Secretary of State (South Dakota): in addition to signing the aforementioned letter, he also introduced a bill specifically suppressing the voting rights of American Indians.
Donations for SSI are accepted via a PO Box in Marshall, VA. That box as well as SSI’s website are registered to James R. “Jeb” Carney.
Carney maintains SSI’s web presence as a project under an umbrella 501(c)3 non-profit he operates, Citizen Guardian, Inc (CGI). According to its 2012 tax documents, Carney also operates the websites DecideAmerica.com and CitizenGuardian.org. With nearly 2.4 million in total revenue flowing into CGI, Carney is primarily targeting Congress with petition drives supporting voter suppression and fighting Obamacare, delivering 156,911 petitions in 2012. Carney is also chairman of the Community Institute for Preparedness, Response and Recovery (which is operated from the same PO Box as SSI and is a sponsor of the National Congress of Secure Communities), President of National Council on Readiness and Preparedness, and a former director of the Defense Forum Foundation.
Add voter suppression to Mr. Carney’s list of interests, because with his support of SSI and its national advisory committee, he is helping Kris Kobach export his bigoted nightmare to purge “undesirable” voters of their right to vote. This disconnecting of the democratic process from the people must not go unchallenged across the coming election year and beyond.
Just ask 12,000 registered voters in Kansas—it could be your vote that disappears next.