The Swamp

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The Swamp

(Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Drain the swamp.

 —Donald J. Trump

It’s great news for Kansas-and who’d have thought it. Of course it hasn’t happened yet, but it seems to be a possibility.

When President-elect Donald Trump was campaigning, one of his favorite refrains was that when elected he would drain the swamp, and the common assumption was that he was referring to Washington D.C. and the people who had traditionally been involved in assorted administrations there. It never occurred to the listener that the swamps he was planning to drain were, in some cases, far from the nation’s capital. That, of course, is exactly what seems to be happening. One of the swamps is a state. The citizens of that state, including those who supported Mr. Trump’s election, as well as those who did not, can be pleased at the possibility that their political swamp will be drained by sending two of its most prominent inhabitants to the new administration. Supporters of Mr. Trump will be pleased that the inhabitants may bring glory to Kansas by being given important roles to play in the new administration. Non-Trump supporters will be pleased to get the two men out of Kansas.

The first person to leave the Kansas swamp may be its Secretary of State, Kris Kobach. Kris made news outside Kansas when he served on the Republican Platform Committee prior to the 2016 Republican National Convention. As a member of that committee, he was successful in inserting language into the platform addressing the border wall that, Mr. Trump now suggests, may be only a fence in some places. The language he successfully inserted was: “The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.” In addition to the insertion of that language in the platform, Mr. Kobach was also able to persuade the committee to condemn the U.S. Supreme Court opinion that legalized gay marriage, saying it was “obviously incorrect.”

Mr. Kobach’s swamp-like activities in the state of Kansas were the extensive efforts he undertook, as secretary of state, to make it more difficult for people to register and vote in Kansas. Although he was apparently successful in making it difficult for Kansans to vote in state elections, if they registered without presenting their birth certificates, his efforts to impose that requirement in federal elections were struck down by a federal court. Addressing Mr. Kobach’s assertion that the impediments to voting that he wanted to impose were necessary to avoid fraudulent voting, the federal judge who rejected his efforts said: “There is evidence of only three instances where noncitizens actually voted in a federal election between 1995 and 2013.” She further observed that during this period, only 14 non-citizens attempted to register.

Mr. Kobach is a member of Mr. Trump’s transition team. In that capacity he has been involved in, among other things, discussing the possibility of drafting a proposal to “reinstate a registry for immigrants from countries where terrorist groups are active.” The proposal has raised alarm among civil rights activists as well as other groups who believe the proposal is reminiscent of the Japanese-American internment camps that were used during World War II. Mr. Kobach is rumored to be in the running for attorney general. If he is appointed, the Kansas swamp would be emptier by one.

Another resident in the Kansas swamp who may be called to greater things is its governor, Sam Brownback. His accomplishments as Kansas governor are legion, especially when it comes to state taxation. When he became governor of Kansas in 2011, he slashed personal income taxes and assured his constituents the cuts would result in new hiring and business expansion that would more than offset the loss of revenue that resulted from the tax cuts. He reduced the top personal income tax rate by 29 percent and exempted more than 330,000 farmers and businesses from paying taxes. According to the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, as a result of the Governor’s policies, “Kansas is coming close to scraping the bottom of the barrel-both on state finances and job creation.” According to CBS News, in 2016 the governor “ordered $17 million in immediate reductions to universities and earlier . . . delayed $93 million in contributions to pensions for school teachers and community college employees. . . .” According to the report he also siphoned off more than $750 million from highway projects during the preceding two years. Tax collections in 2015 fell below projections in 11 months of 2015. In campaign speeches Mr. Trump has applauded the governor’s tax policies as a model for America, describing them as the “Kansas solution.” On August 16, Governor Brownback was named an advisor to Mr. Trump for agricultural policy. He is now rumored to be a candidate for Secretary of Agriculture.

Commenting on the possibility that Messrs. Kobach and Brownback might join the Trump administration, Kelly Arnold, chairman of the Kansas Republican party, observed that Mr. Trump would have his pick of qualified people to serve in his administration and Kansas had some good people to offer. Kansans are probably holding their collective breath, albeit for different reasons, hoping the two people being considered will be appointed. The rest of the country is holding its nose out of fear that the two men will be appointed. (Since this was written Jeff Sessions has been nominated to be attorney general. Kansans should not lose hope. There are lots of other opportunities for Mr. Kobach.)

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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