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Why Kansas’ Kris Kobach resigned from the We Build the Wall board

Kris Kobach apparently concluded his association with a group suspected of running an illegal grift operation might rub some voters the wrong way.


It’s always best to be alert on Friday afternoons, when politicians have a habit of releasing news they hope to see buried. Take this Kansas City Star report, for example.

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the Republican candidate for state attorney general, resigned Friday from the board of directors of We Build the Wall after the nonprofit organization was indicted on allegations of money laundering, conspiracy and fraud.

The We Build the Wall organization was already highly controversial, but it reclaimed a spotlight last week when prosecutors in New York indicted Steve Bannon on charges including money laundering and scheming to defraud. The same indictment also charged the group itself.

It was the latest in a series of dramatic setbacks for the conservative operation that was launched in 2018, when organizers vowed to raise private funds to build barriers along the U.S./Mexico border. As regular readers may recall, it wasn’t long, however, before the project ran into serious structural issues, and Donald Trump took steps to distance himself from the initiative.

But the real problems were financial and criminal: With high-profile players such as Bannon helping lead the effort, We Build the Wall raised $25 million, but prosecutors found evidence that the leaders defrauded donors, effectively pocketing money, and two of Bannon’s former partners pleaded guilty several months ago.

Bannon and We Build the Wall, it’s worth emphasizing, have pleaded not guilty.

Nevertheless, Kobach apparently decided to jump ship, which makes sense: As the local report added, “The indictment put Kobach in the potentially politically precarious position of helping lead an organization under indictment while running to become Kansas’ top law enforcement officer.”

Well, yes, that does seem problematic. Kobach’s far-right brand of politics has made him a highly controversial figure in Kansas — the Republican has lost congressional (2004), gubernatorial (2018), and senatorial races (2020) — but he’s nevertheless the GOP nominee this year for state attorney general.

And with this in mind, it seems his association with a group suspected of running an illegal grift operation might rub some voters the wrong way. The Star added, “Kobach had been the organization’s general counsel, in addition to serving on the board.” He’s apparently resigned both positions, at least as of late last week.

I suppose the next obvious question is what took the Kansan so long.