Politics & Government

FBI recovers ammo that went missing after Kobach left secretary of state’s office

The Kansas Secretary of State’s office received 218 rounds of ammunition for a handgun Thursday morning after the FBI conducted an investigation into bullets that went missing after Kris Kobach left the post in January.

Kobach’s GOP successor, Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, requested the inquiry in July when his staff realized that 1,000 rounds of Winchester 9mm Luger ammunition were unaccounted for after a review of office accounts. The ammo was purchased with $174 in taxpayer funds by the office in 2017 during Kobach’s tenure.

“It didn’t seem appropriate to have ammunition unaccounted for, especially when purchased with state funds,” Schwab said in a statement Thursday. “We’re grateful for the help of law enforcement to ensure the ammunition was located and returned in a timely and safe manner.”

Kobach employed a law enforcement officer as part of his staff. The ammo was for the officer’s gun, according to Schwab’s office.

Kobach became the only secretary of state in the nation with prosecutorial power in 2015 when the Kansas Legislature empowered him to prosecute voter fraud and other election-related crimes.

Craig McCullah, the former assistant deputy secretary of state, said he was asked to become certified as a law enforcement officer to conduct interviews for Kobach’s investigations. Local police agencies had indicated they did not have the resources to work on election-related inquiries.

An infantry officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, McCullah said he never used the gun in the course of his job, but carried as part of his certification. He returned the remaining 218 rounds after getting a call from the FBI earlier this week.

“I was a little surprised because I know some people in the office and if they were looking for ammo they could have just given me a call,” said McCullah, who is now chairman of the Shawnee County Republican Party.

“It’s honestly just been collecting dust,” he said.

McCullah said he practiced shooting at a firing range once a month, which accounts for the missing 782 rounds.

Dixon Land, spokesman for the FBI’s Kansas City office, said the bureau presented its findings to the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas. He declined to provide any additional details.

Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. attorney, said it had no plans to take further action.

“The FBI investigated and sent the case to us at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and we evaluated the case and declined to prosecute,” Cross said in a phone call.

Kobach, a Republican who lost the 2018 race for governor, is now campaigning for the U.S. Senate.

Danedri Herbert, Kobach’s spokeswoman, said in an email that the “ammunition purchase was not made at the direction of Secretary Kobach. However, it is routine for security personnel in a government agency to be supplied ammunition to maintain their certification.”

An outspoken gun enthusiast, Kobach campaigned for governor by riding in a jeep with a mounted replica machine gun. At a trial at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas last year, Kobach asked security officials if he would be allowed to bring a gun. He was told no.

Schwab’s spokeswoman, Katie Koupal, said she could not comment on the purpose of employing a law enforcement official. She said that the secretary of state’s office no longer employs one and no longer uses a gun.

The ammunition recovered will be turned over to Capitol Police, she said.

McCullah said that when he turned in the rest of his law enforcement supplies he asked what to do with the remaining rounds, but he could not recall if he was told he could keep them.

Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, a Democrat, was the first Senate candidate to comment. He called for additional state investigations into the matter.

“It’s unconscionable that former Secretary Kobach allowed his office to abuse tax dollars to purchase ammunition and then failed to keep track of it. I’ve worked hard to take firearms out of the hands of felons so I understand first-hand how Kobach’s actions put Kansans safety at risk,” Grissom said in a statement.

This story was updated to clarify what happened to the other 782 rounds and that McCullah delivered the remaining bullets to the Secretary of State’s office.

Kaitlyn Schwers contributed to this report.
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Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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