NOTE: No links to hate groups will be given in this article.
Trump is once again threatening to get to the bottom of his claim that the 2016 Election was adrift in voter fraud. A curious accusation considering he was declared the winner, but then that is Trump’s character: make up an issue for his supporters to blame their problems on so that they won’t hold his administration accountable. On May 11, 2017, with what has become the Republicans’ preferred method of enacting laws, he signed yet another executive order titled The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. With this order, he has appointed Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, to investigate voter fraud in every state of the union.
The appointment of Kobach is a strategic move on the part of both the Republican party and the Trump administration. They have no intention of investigating disenfranchisement of voters but instead are hunting for undocumented persons, felons and those who may be registered in more than one state. Kobach is the creator of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program (Crosscheck) which to date has identified more than 7 million voters that according to Kobach could potentially be committing voter fraud. Of those 7 million, 4 voters were charged with voter fraud but none were convicted.
Crosscheck claims to use full names, date of birth and the last four numbers of voter’s social security numbers to create their list of ne’er do well voters. But some of the 30 states that have utilized the program have complained that the data is faulty and unreliable. Oregon has even stopped using the program for this reason.
An investigation done by Greg Palast for Rolling Stone found that in Michigan, Arizona and North Carolina the number of voters not allowed to vote because of Crosscheck’s purge was far greater than the number of votes Trump beat Clinton by. In other words, it is highly probable that Clinton would have won those states had Crosscheck not been used by the Republican party in those states. Collectively, 1.1 million voters were purged from the voter rolls during the 2016 Election, yet not a single person has been charged with voter fraud.
Further expert analysis of the data by Mark Swedlund, who lists Ebay and American Express as clients, showed that “the outcome is discriminating against minorities,” and that:
- ¼ of matches lacked the middle name match
- designations such as Jr. and Sr. were ignored when compiling the list
- social security numbers and birth dates did not always match
- African American, Latino and Asian names were found on the list in higher percentages
- Hispanics had 1 in 6 chances, Blacks had 1 in 9 while Asians had 1 in 7 chances of being on the list
But Kobach claims that Crosscheck is about securing our voting systems and not about racism. We are to believe that it just so happens that minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats, are purged at a much higher percentage than their fellow white voters or Republican voters. He wants us to believe that undocumented persons are willing to risk being discovered and deported just so they can cast a vote. That somehow, minorities are more likely to commit the felony of voter fraud than whites. That people are willing to drive from state to state just to cast more than one vote when few people bother to vote in the first place.
Much like Betsy DeVos’ school choice movement, Kobach’s voter fraud claim is made up right wing propaganda at its best. Kobach has a long history of making money off of stirring anti-immigrant fears and is supported in large part by a web of anti-immigrant hate groups. These groups have weaseled their way into Republican politics, the White House and the congress claiming that they have a major base of public support when, as you will see, they are actually only funded by a handful of supporters. These made up causes swear to be grassroots movements, when in fact they are the result of a few wealthy racists pushing their agendas. It has been said that in Washington D.C., movements like school choice and anti-immigrant fears are referred to as “astroturf” and not “grassroots” movements due to their fauxness.
Faux or not, their impact is real.
Kobach’s History of Immigrant Hate
After graduating Yale law school, Kobach became a White House fellow during the Bush administration and worked in the Justice department under Attorney General John Ashcroft. Kobach was instrumental in creating the Muslim registry after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Since then, he’s been on an anti-immigrant binge.
Kobach discovered that there was money to be made in ramping up unjustified fears of immigrants, specifically Hispanic immigrants. He zeroed in on small towns across the country that had large Hispanic immigrant populations. These towns tended to have agricultural or meat packing companies such as Tyson Foods that hired undocumented workers because they could find few Americans willing to do the back-breaking work. Kobach would then contact the town’s representatives and offer to write anti-immigrant legislation for them. At the same time, anti-immigrant hate groups went to work holding rallies and such to misinform the citizens of the dangers of their “boogeyman” immigrant neighbors.
These towns passed laws written or co-authored by Kobach that fined businesses for hiring undocumented workers, fined landlords for renting without checking their clients’ immigration status, forced school officials to check the citizenship of students and so on. Each and every time, the laws were challenged in court by the ACLU. Kobach would then offer his services as a defense attorney. Not only were these towns losing millions in settlement costs, they were having to then pay Kobach to defend them in court. A win-win for Kobach.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Think Progress, these small towns were forced to spend over $6.6 million as of 2011 defending Kobach’s unconstitutional anti-immigrant laws. Most were overturned and citizens were then forced to pay for the legal bills and Kobach’s defense fees by increasing their property taxes. Towns like Albertville, AL, Freemont, NE, Valley Park, MO, Hazleton, PA, Farmers Branch, TX, Riverside, NJ and Prince William County, VA were used by Kobach and his anti-immigrant hate groups as test runs to see if they could get such legislation passed. Where they failed, they learned and reorganized.
Anti-Immigrant Hate Groups
The father of the anti-immigrant movement is John Tanton, a retired ophthalmologist. The SPLC has identified at least 13 groups that he is either the founder of or has funded. Most have intentionally innocuous names like Project USA or U.S., Inc., and all claim to be concerned about either national security, voter integrity or overpopulation. They profess to support immigration as long as it’s controlled. Above all, they deny their racist motivations and attack anyone who might even suggest such ulterior motives. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), founded by Tanton, is currently suing the SPLC for saying it is a racist hate group. But one only has to pull the curtain ever so slightly back to find the racist basis of these organizations and of Tanton himself.
In 2008, the SPLC wrote a comprehensive report on Tanton’s writings that were housed at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library. Contrary to his claims, the SPLC found he regularly “corresponded and sought out relationships with Holocaust deniers, former Klan Lawyers and leading white nationalists.”
In those letters, he discussed topics such as how to make it a law to sterilize women who were having children out of wedlock, how America is losing its European heritage (white) because of immigrants and his belief that Latinos were unable to govern or run advanced societies. He urged FAIR to follow the anti-Semitic teachings of John B. Trevor and supported a limit on immigration from non-white populations. He maintained contact with Jared Taylor, a white nationalist and founder of American Renaissance and endorsed Peter Brimelow of the VDARE website that promotes writers of anti-anything not white. The papers also showed Tanton has corresponded with the leaders of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), a more gentile version of the KKK. Letters were found between Tanton and CofCC leader Virginia Abernathy, who described herself as a white separatist and Sam Francis, editor of CofCC’s newsletter The Citizens Informer. CofCC opposes all things non-white and influenced Dylaan Roof to murder 9 innocent church parishioners in South Carolina because they were black.
And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, the SPLC discovered memos Tanton wrote in 1986 that were meant for his colleague’s eyes only. In the memos, Tanton fretted about Latino birth rates being too high and wondered if the white race would hand over control of the U.S. because as he stated, “Latino’s are simply more fertile.” He suggested that the American government would be overtaken by Latinos and pondered about them bringing their “tradition of mordida (bribes).”
The memo’s racist rants are being made by the Trump administration and Republican politicians today. Tanton’s talking points specifically addressed how to make their racist opinions more palatable for politicians and quoted many of the nation’s leading racist writers. Tanton even demanded that English be the sole language of the land; Rep. Steve King (R-IA) recently introduced such a bill. Trump’s tactic of pitting Blacks against Hispanics for jobs can be found in this memo as well.
Funding Behind Anti-Immigrant Groups
In order to create the idea that this anti-immigrant movement is a grassroots movement, Tanton and other leaders have been fudging their membership numbers. The SPLC discovered some of their tax filings that showed their membership to be about half of what they claim. Instead, the majority of funding comes from a handful of very wealthy foundations.
Most of Tanton’s hate group money comes from The Colcom Foundation. It was created by Cordelia Scaife May who inherited her wealth from the Mellon family of the Mellon Bank in Pennsylvania. Cordelia was a fan of eugenics, the science of controlling the breading of humans. Today, most Americans associate eugenics with Nazi Dr. Mengele and falsely assume that it died with the Third Reich. Cordelia was concerned that third-world immigrants would take over the U.S. and donated huge sums of cash to a variety of hate groups. Her family continues to run the foundation and has added the Scaife Family Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Allegheny Foundation and the Carthage Foundation. All of these organizations fund Tanton’s web of anti-immigrant groups. To date they have given him over $100 million in donations.
Other million dollar donors that make up the majority of Tanton’s groups include the Sydney A. Swensrud Foundation founded by the former chairman of Gulf Oil Corporation, the F.M. Kirby Foundation who started Woolworths Company, organizational design theorist Jay Galbraith’s Galbraith Foundation and the W.H. Donner Foundation created by William Donner, founder of Union Steel.
How Tanton’s Groups Support Kobach
In 2004, Kobach became a member of FAIR and its legal counterpart, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) as its counsel. Both of these groups were founded by John Tanton and he is directly involved in their daily functions as can be seen in the internal memos discovered by the SPLC. When Kobach ran for Congress in 2004, a political action committee run by Tanton’s wife, US Immigration PAC, donated $10,000 to his campaign. According to the FEC, donors to the US Immigration Reform PAC are a who’s who of top anti-immigrant, eugenicists and white nationalists such as Tanton himself, Cordelia May and Elizabeth Van Staaveren (Oregonians for Immigration Reform and writer of anti-immigrant blogs). The PAC gives to other fanatical anti-immigrant writers and candidates such as Tom Tancredo, former Colorado representative well known for his racist and anti-immigrant rants, (Tancredo’s successor of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the House of Representatives Steve King (R-IA)) and Peter Grimm, an anti-immigrant conspiracy theorist writer.
Further investigation into Kobach’s failed 2004 congressional run found that Cordelia May donated $4,000 directly to his campaign. Other donors with ties to the anti-immigrant movement included:
- Steve Poisner – founder of CA Charter School Association and one time CA gubernatorial candidate.
- Tom Tancredo
- Doyle and Brenda Mannschreck – Kobach’s in-laws who hired Kobach to sue Nebraska’s Board of Regents for allowing undocumented aliens to use in-state tuition pricing when attending universities.
- Eagle Forum PAC – created by Phyllis Schlafly, extreme far right group that opposes all immigration and supports English only laws.
Kansas records for Kobach’s secretary of state races show contributions from leaders of these immigration hate groups founded and funded by John Tanton:
- Alfred Doyle – FAIR Board of Advisors
- Curtin Winsor – FAIR Board of Advisors
- Barnaby Zall – FAIR attorney, US Immigration Reform PAC treasurer and Pro English member
- Catherine Engelbrecht – founder of True the Vote that trains far right-wing supporters to stand outside voting polls to find undocumented immigrants voting.
- Danielle A. Cutrona – Jeff Sessions’ former chief counsel and Trump transition team member on immigration.
- Dino Joseph Druni – FAIR Board of Advisors
- Donald Barnett – Fellow at Center for Immigration Studies
- Donald Collins – Ex-Chair of FAIR, writer for VDARE
- Eagle Forum PAC – anti-immigration and English only supporters
- Garrett R. Roe – attorney for Immigration Reform Law Institute
- Gary Wagner – anti-immigration blog writer
- Henry Buhl – ex-VP of FAIR and founder of Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License
- Howard Foster – attorney who writes articles supporting anti-immigration
- Isabel Lyman – writer of “The Victims of Illegal Immigration” published by John Tanton’s The Social Contract Press
- John Rohe – VP of Colcom Foundation, a member of Tanton’s U.S., Inc. and John Tanton biographer.
- Joseph Guzzardi – FAIR Board of Advisors
- K.C. McAlpin – president of U.S., Inc., Pro English, ex-director of FAIR and FAIR Board of Advisors.
- Lindsey Lyons – former mayor of Albertville, Alabama who helped Kobach pass anti-immigrant laws.
- Michael Hethmon – Immigration Reform Law Institute counsel
- Michael McLaughlin – spokesman for Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement
- Norbert Bikales – husband of Gerda Bikales, Pro English Board of Emieritus and Holocaust survivor
- Paul Nachmann – FAIR Board of Advisors
- Team America PAC – Tom Tancredo PAC
- Robert Vandervoort – ex director of Pro English
- US Immigration and Reform PAC – donations come from immigrant hate groups and their supporters.
- William A Fields – Center for Immigration Studies and FAIR advisor
- Brian Bilbray – former CA representative that thinks he lost election because of undocumented workers voting; lobbied for FAIR.
What the Trump Commission on Voter Integrity is Really About
Members of John Tanton’s hate groups now dominate the Trump administration. As a Vice News article by Tess Owens points out, attorney general Jeff Sessions is a supporter of FAIR and has even been presented awards by the group for his aggressive anti-immigrant legislation. Kellyanne Conway owns Polling Company, Inc. and has done a variety of work for Tanton’s various groups.
Not to be left out, Stephen Miller, friend and classmate of Richard Spencer of alt-right fame, is reported to have close relationships with FAIR members. Julie Kirchner, former executive director at FAIR, was appointed by Trump as chief of staff at US Customs and Border Protection without having any experience in law enforcement or the government’s immigration system itself. Then there’s Representative Lou Barletta, the former Hazleton, PA mayor who worked with Kobach on that anti-immigrant law and was a member of the Trump transition team. Barletta is also a FAIR advisor as well.
Even the disgraced former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, has ties to anti-immigrant hate groups. SPLC reported that he was an advisor for ACT for America, an anti-Islamic group. Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, has spoken at two of their conventions.
John Tanton’s creation of this web of immigrant hate groups is not illegal. After all, Trump has yet to kill the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. People are free to join and support these groups, and Kobach has not committed any crimes by accepting their financial support or by representing them.
However, Americans need to be educated on who and what is actually behind this anti-immigration movement. The Trump administration would like the country to think this is a grassroots movement, that millions of Americans are behind this effort. As one can clearly see, this so-called movement is simply a well-organized and purposefully connected bunch of hate mongering racists that are creating a fear based following on little evidence so that they can profit financially and gain power.
Study after study has proven that there is no measurable voter fraud being perpetrated by undocumented workers in this country. Even Crosscheck has proven that with not a single conviction. Yet there is plenty of mounting evidence to suggest that Crosscheck and Kobach are actually engaged in violating voters’ rights and denying them the right to representation which is a crime, a felony in fact. Without attorney’s or Democrats willing to fight these groups and their supporters within this administration, expect this blatant disregard and outright violation of voter rights to continue.
Incidentally, Crosscheck is paid for by taxpayer dollars. Citizens are literally paying taxes that are then used to pay for a program that will eventually deny them their right to vote. How is it that one party is allowed to implement a program designed to identify and eliminate the other party’s voters? More importantly, how is that the Democrats ever expect to win another election if they don’t address this issue?
Jenn Budd is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter at @jenn_budd.