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Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline led effort to promote fake Trump electors in 2020

Phill Kline is director of The Amistad Group, which has helped promote fake elector slates for Donald Trump.
Phill Kline is director of The Amistad Group, which has helped promote fake elector slates for Donald Trump.

The Amistad Project tried to deliver a fake slate of pro-Trump electors to the Michigan Legislature but was turned away by state troopers.

Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is back in the news.

Kline is director of a group called The Amistad Project, which bills itself as “the nation’s leading election integrity watchdog.”

Recent news reports reveal that The Amistad Project was active in promoting fake slates of pro-Trump electors.

On Friday, The New York Times reported that as members of the Electoral College were set to meet on Dec. 14, 2020, and certify electors in all 50 states, a lawyer for The Amistad Project tried to deliver a fake slate of pro-Trump electors to the Michigan Legislature but was turned away by state troopers.

The Times reported that Kline on the same day fanned across right-wing media outlets promoting the fake elector plan.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has been looking into the role the fake elector slates played in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Documents obtained by American Oversight, a government watchdog group, show that Republicans in seven states sought to replace valid presidential electors from those states with pro-Trump slates. Earlier this month, the attorneys general of Michigan and New Mexico asked federal prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into the matter.

The Amistad Project filed a federal lawsuit in the District of Columbia in December 2020 demanding that legislatures in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin be allowed to certify electors prior to congressional certification. The group voluntarily dismissed the case after U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg denied its request for a preliminary injunction and said their argument “lies somewhere between a willful misreading of the Constitution and fantasy.”

Boasberg later referred The Amistad Project’s lawyer in the case, Erick G. Kaardal, for possible disciplinary action. Boasberg wrote that the relief sought in the lawsuit was “staggering: to invalidate the election and prevent the electoral votes from being counted. When any counsel seeks to target processes at the heart of our democracy, the Committee may well conclude that they are required to act with far more diligence and good faith than existed here.”

The Amistad Project was established shortly after the 2020 presidential election by the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit, conservative Chicago-based law firm focused on religious liberty issues.

As director of The Amistad Project, Kline has appeared on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets and questioned aspects of President Joe Biden's election victory. He asserted, for example, that the volume of potentially corrupt ballots in Georgia was 15 times greater than Biden’s vote margin over Trump’s, according to the Kansas Reflector.

Attempts to reach Kline were unsuccessful. The Amistad Project’s voicemail box was full when KCUR sought to leave a message.

Kline’s law license was indefinitely suspended by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2013 after it found he had committed 11 violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct in connection with his investigations of abortion providers. In 2015, Kline sued the justices who suspended his license, but a federal judge dismissed the suit in 2016. The U.S. Supreme Court later declined to review the case.

Kline was Kansas attorney general from 2003 to 2007, when he lost re-election to his Democratic challenger, Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison. The Republican County Central Committee then appointed him as Johnson County district attorney to fill the vacancy left by Morrison’s election. Kline was defeated for a full term in the 2008 Republican primary.

After losing his law license, Kline became an associate law professor at the law school of Liberty University, the evangelical college in Lynchburg, Va., co-founded by the late Jerry Falwell Sr. The law school’s website continues to list Kline as an associate professor. Nowhere does his website bio mention that his law license was suspended.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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