Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a formal Hatch Act Complaint against Kris Kobach who appears to have violated the Hatch Act in connection with his role as Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Kobach, who recently announced his candidacy for the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial election, has repeatedly exploited his Commission role to promote his candidacy and to solicit campaign contributions. Some of these actions took place while Mr. Kobach appeared in his official capacity as a representative of the “Election Integrity Commission”.
“Kris Kobach appears to be using his official role as head of the so-called Election Integrity Commission to promote his candidacy for Governor of Kansas,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The Hatch Act’s central purpose is to prevent federal employees from using their official position for electoral purposes. We deem the President’s Election Integrity Commission to be a baseless tool to promote voter suppression and Mr. Kobach’s unlawful abuse of his role as head of the Commission for partisan ends only underscores the illegitimacy of the Commission itself. The separation of official and campaign business is critical to ensuring that partisanship does not infect official government business.”
The Hatch Act prohibits any executive branch employee from “us[ing] his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” Kris Kobach, a special government employee, is subject to the Hatch Act because of his role with the Commission. While SGEs, unlike full-time employees, can run for partisan political office, they must maintain strict separation between their candidacy and their federal government service. Mr. Kobach appears to have violated the Hatch Act on multiple occasions. Kobach prominently used his position as Vice Chair of the Commission to promote his candidacy and to solicit campaign funds.
“A Presidential Commission that could greatly affect our Nation’s electoral system must operate free of partisan influence or ulterior motives. By exploiting his Commission role to promote his candidacy for Governor, Mr. Kobach has raised serious doubt as to both,” said Daniel Jacobson, Associate, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.
Instances in which Mr. Kobach took action that may have violated the Hatch Act include the following:
Mr. Kobach promoted his June 30 interviews with Fox News and MSNBC—in which he was indisputably appearing as a representative of the Commission—on his Twitter page in advance. He then provided summaries and video of the Fox News interview on his Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as on his campaign website, shortly after the interview aired. In so doing, Mr. Kobach made clear that those appearances while acting for the Commission were also in furtherance of his campaign.
The homepage of Mr. Kobach’s campaign website includes two television interviews that Mr. Kobach conducted on Fox News and MSNBC on June 30, 2017, both of which focused entirely on Mr. Kobach’s work on the Commission.
The “About” page of the campaign website further highlights Mr. Kobach’s role on the Commission, stating that “President Trump knows there is no greater leader on these issues, which is why he named Kris to serve as the Vice Chair of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.”
The “News” page of the website links to three news stories, each of which centers on Mr. Kobach’s work on the Commission. There is a “Contribute” button immediately to the right of the stories, and immediately below that Contribute button the page displays the most recent post on Mr. Kobach’s Facebook page (which as of July 1, was his June 30 Fox News interview discussing the work of the Commission).
Mr. Kobach’s Twitter profile states that the page is “Paid for by Kansas for Kobach,” and his Facebook page displays his campaign logo. The Twitter and Facebook pages collectively contain at least 28 different posts in which Mr. Kobach has described his work on the Commission. These include 3 Twitter posts on June 30 promoting or recapping Mr. Kobach’s interviews on Fox News and MSNBC that same day, and a June 30 Facebook post embedding video of the Fox News interview.
Mr. Kobach has also described his role on the Commission in campaign appearances. For instance, Mr. Kobach appeared on a local “let’s have a beer and talk” television segment the day he launched his campaign. In the course of the interview, he referenced his position as Vice Chair of the Commission and described the work he expected the Commission to perform.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a formal complaint today with the Office of Special Counsel and will continue to closely examine and scrutinize the activities of the Election Integrity Commission.