Minutes after his Democratic opponent released her tax returns, Secretary of State Kris Kobach refused to do the same, calling the request intrusive and unnecessary.
Jean Schodorf, a former state senator who will face off against Kobach in the Nov. 4 election, released three years of tax returns around 9 a.m. Wednesday and demanded that Kobach do the same.
Schodorf had a total income of $136,098, according to her 2013 return, with about $72,000 coming from her salary as a speech pathologist in the Wichita school district and another $38,000 coming from capital gains.
Kobach, who was presiding over a meeting of the State Elections Board, said Schodorf’s request was a political stunt. He said he would not release his returns.
“You’d find out all kinds of things. You’d find out how much we gave to charity. You’d find out how much money my wife makes in her spare time from her business from home,” Kobach said. “There’s a lot of things that just have nothing to do with being secretary of state. There’s nothing to hide. But on the other hand, it’s sort of intrusive to put out your tax returns for everybody to see. So I think it’s just a silly request.”
Marcus Williamson, Schodorf’s campaign spokesman, accused Kobach of being hypocritical and asked how this request was less intrusive than asking Kansans for the proof of citizenship, a requirement Kobach sought that requires Kansans to submit birth certificates, passports or immigration documents in order to register to vote.
“He’s asking people to turn over sensitive information,” Williamson said in a phone call. “He’s asking them to do that to fulfill their right to vote and the fact that he won’t provide his information shows kind of a two-sidedness to this, that he’s not willing to stand up and do what he’s asking the citizens of Kansas to do.”
Kobach rejected the comparison.
“That’s a silly argument, because a birth certificate is shown to a state official and then is returned to the individual and is not put on display for public scrutiny,” Kobach said. “A birth certificate only contains a modicum of information, it says you were born. So nice try, Schodorf campaign.”
Kobach said repeatedly that the Kansas secretary of state has never had to release tax returns before. “One can see in the case of a presidential election where you really need to scrutinize every aspect of a president’s life … you can see why they need to release tax returns there,” he said.
He said Schodorf wants him to provide documentation of the hours he works outside of the office as an attorney and that his tax returns would not show this. He said he has already given Schodorf that information and that between January and May he worked an average of about 4.9 hours a week.
“About as long as it takes for a poor golfer like me to do a round of 18 holes of golf. That’s the number she’s looking for. She already has that number,” Kobach said.
Kobach is a national figure in the conservative immigration reform movement, working as counsel for the Federation for American Immigration Reform and helping draft law in multiple states meant to curb illegal immigration.
He has been involved in several court cases and is currently challenging a 2012 policy decision by President Barack Obama to grant temporary deportation relief and work permits to young people brought to the United States illegally as children.
Schodorf said that until Kobach releases his returns, Kansans should not take him at his word.
“Kris Kobach’s mantra is ‘trust, but verify,’ ” Schodorf said in a statement. “He loves to quote that line, but putting it into practice seems to be very difficult for him. I am simply asking him to verify what he claims to be fact.”
Kobach said a state form that requires candidates to disclose statements of substantial interest should already be sufficient documentation of his income outside of the office.
“Never before in the history of Kansas has a secretary of state candidate released tax returns. Do you think maybe there’s a reason? Maybe it’s not necessary,” he said.
Kobach said that the secretary of state’s race would be a referendum on the proof of citizenship law and he welcomed that.
“If they like proof of citizenship law they can vote for me. If they don’t like it they can vote for her,” Kobach said. “It’s the most important issue that the secretary of state’s office is involved in and we are 180 degrees opposite on that question.”
Schodorf voted for the requirement when she was in the Senate, but has since become critical of Kobach’s execution of it and has called for changes that would make the requirement easier to meet.
More than 18,000 prospective voters had a suspended registration status this month. Kobach said these prospective voters can fix their status at any point by proving citizenship or addressing other registration issues. He said the number fell in the weeks leading up to the primary election and that he expects a similar pattern as the general election nears.
“We’re encouraging everyone to finish the process,” Kobach said.
A poll from SurveyUSA, paid for by KSN-TV, showed Kobach and Schodorf deadlocked at 46 percent among likely voters Tuesday. Kobach contended it was not truly representative of the Kansas electorate.