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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Insight Kansas: The reincarnation of Phill Kline

  • Eight years ago, Phill Kline used an anti-abortion crusade to win the Republican nomination for Kansas Attorney General and, in a tight election, the office itself.  For four years, his crusade took center stage in Topeka, as many of the AG's core responsibilities (e.g., consumer affairs) fell by the wayside....
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  • Eight years ago, Phill Kline used an anti-abortion crusade to win the Republican nomination for Kansas Attorney General and, in a tight election, the office itself.  For four years, his crusade took center stage in Topeka, as many of the AG's core responsibilities (e.g., consumer affairs) fell by the wayside.  In 2006, the voters handed him a resounding defeat, and the office returned to a more ordinary operation, where actual criminal and civil litigation took center stage.
    Kline was highly ideological and highly ambitious -- a dangerous combination. His personal ambitions increasingly took the shape of a crusade against abortion providers and even against abortion itself.  His sense of personal righteousness became so great that it overwhelmed any balance in carrying out his duties as the chief legal officer for the state.  Although abortion was certainly a legitimate issue, Kline's crusades - especially attacks on the privacy of those having abortions -- created problems where none existed.
    In the end, the Kansas electorate rejected Kline and his agenda, ultimately finishing off Kline’s political career.
    Enter the new, improved version of Phill Kline - Kris Kobach, another ambitious crusader.  Like abortion, the core issue of illegal immigration is important, but scarcely all-important in Kansas.  Seven hundred miles from the Mexican (or Canadian) border, with a modest, if growing, immigrant community, illegal immigration is just not a major problem in Kansas.  Nor is it a serious concern of the Secretary of State - Kobach's chosen vehicle to gain a personal political foothold.  Indeed, Kobach himself told The Wichita Eagle, "I would be transforming the [secretary of state] model somewhat, from a ministerial model to more of a law-enforcement model."
    Wow. Even before being elected, Kobach plans to change the nature of the office he seeks.  Indeed, Crusader Kris wants to become a mini-attorney general.  But that’s just a start, in that defending Kansans against hordes of illegal aliens and their children - think of Halloween ghosts and little goblins - is not the only overblown danger that Crusader Kris wants to protect us from.
    There is also the Bogeyman of Fraudulent Voters, who Kobach views as more insidious that undocumented workers.  But at least the latter actually exist.  The would-be fraudulent voters are almost completely the figments of Crusader K’s fertile imagination.  He recently wrote an op-ed piece in which he scolds Kansas journalists and election officials for not rooting out all the fraud that is so breathtakingly obvious.  Since there is virtually none reported in Kansas (and very little elsewhere - just Google "the Brennan Center and voter fraud" to discover how little), Crusader K relies on a single observer's accusations, accusations that resulted in exactly zero charges.
    Over the past two decades, Republican Secretaries of State in Kansas - Bill Graves and Ron Thornburgh - have presided over an election system that has been virtually free of fraud.  With the partial and past exception of KCK, Kansas politics has been remarkably clean for generations.  And there is no indication that this will change in the future.
    Page 2 of 2 - So let's review the Kline-Kobach connections.  Phill Kline grabbed one issue - late-term abortions - and turned it into witch-hunts that threatened the privacy of many Kansas women.  And that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Kris Kobach has taken the national issue of immigration and sought to bring it home to Kansas, where it's simply not very significant, as 3rd District voters demonstrated in Kobach's decisive 2004 defeat.  Most amazingly, Crusader K now seeks to create a new wedge issue from whole cloth on election fraud, to say nothing of arrogantly seeking to change the nature of the Secretary of State's office, regardless of current law or legislative mandate.
    Kris Kobach may not be Phill Kline, who hijacked the Attorney General's office in pursuit of his anti-abortion crusade, but Kobach’s demagogic posturing offers a view of Kline’s long shadow – a shadow that voters overwhelmingly rejected in 2006.  Kansans would do well to take a hard look at this new, ambitious crusader’s strange and singular visions, and ultimately reject his imaginary world of immigrant demons and fraudulent-voter devils.
    Burdett Loomis is a professor of political science at the University of Kansas and editor of a forthcoming book on the U.S. Senate.

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