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Kansas House Wants Kobach To Pay His Own Contempt Bill

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Kansas Public Radio
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was the target a move by the state House to not pay contempt of court costs.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a Statehouse rebuke Friday from lawmakers even as they avoided mentioning the combative candidate for governor by name.

During a lengthy debate on a budget bill, state Rep. Russ Jennings offered what at first appeared to be just another in a series of amendments.

But as soon as he started explaining its purpose — to prevent statewide elected officials cited for contempt of court from using taxpayer dollars to pay attorney fees and fines — it was clear that it was aimed at Kobach.

“Everyone knew exactly what I was talking about,” Jennings, a Lakin Republican, said after the House approved the amendment 106-13.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson held Kobach in contempt for failing to follow her 2016 order to fully register and notify voters he had blocked for not providing proof of citizenship.

Robinson issued the contempt citation at the urging of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Kansans challenging the state’s strict voter registration laws.

Credit Jim McLean / Kansas News Service
Kansas News Service
Rep. Russ Jennings

Robinson didn’t impose a fine, but ordered Kobach to pay the ACLU’s attorney fees.

If the Jennings amendment survives negotiations with the Senate on a final budget bill, Kobach would have to use his own money to pay those fees.

Jennings said a desire to see statewide elected officials “behave” and “follow court orders” prompted him to offer the amendment.

The fact that all but a handful of Republican House members voted for the amendment could signal trouble for the Republican Kobach’s campaign for governor, Jennings said.

“It certainly could be reflective of a sentiment in this chamber,” he said.

Last week’s citation was the second time Kobach has been found in contempt.

Kobach’s office said that amendment wouldn't hold up.

“It was the office that was held in civil contempt, not the individual holding the office,” a  spokesperson said.

A federal magistrate judge fined him $1,000 last year for misleading the court about what was in documents he was photographed taking into a November 2016 meeting with then-President-elect Donald Trump.

Kobach has said he will appeal Judge Robinson’s ruling.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen contributed to this report.

Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post. 

Jim McLean is a political correspondent for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration based at KCUR with other public media stations across Kansas. You can email him at jim@kcur.org.
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