College withdraws use of building for Kobach event

TOPEKA — A Kansas politician on Thursday had to move a planned rally with an Arizona sheriff who's nationally known for cracking down on illegal immigration because a Kansas City-area college withdrew its permission to use one of its buildings.

But Kris Kobach, a law professor and Republican candidate for secretary of state, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., remained undeterred by criticism of the event still scheduled for Tuesday evening.

Arpaio is best known for crime and immigration sweeps that have included raids on workplaces. Kobach helped write a new Arizona law directing officers enforcing other laws to question people about their immigration status if there's a reasonable suspicion they're in the U.S. illegally.

Kobach planned to have his rally and fundraiser with Arpaio at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe but moved it to the Ritz Charles convention center in Overland Park. Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said interest in the rally might have forced a move anyway, noting that the new site is larger.

Immigrant-rights groups and attorneys pushed the university to withdraw its permission. They and Kobach said college president Edwin Robinson did so Wednesday, about two weeks after Kobach initially reserved space there.

"It worked out fine because the popular response to Sheriff Joe coming to town is so significant and so positive," Kobach said. "We were already worried that the college venue was going to be too small."

A college official did not return a telephone message, but both Kobach and his critics agreed the university withdrew its permission because of safety concerns, given the controversy surrounding immigration issues.

Angela Ferguson, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney and immigrant rights advocate, said she and other advocates plan to protest the Kobach-Arpaio event, making it "an educational opportunity" to counter "smears" about immigrants.

Arpaio said he encounters daily protests outside his offices in Arizona and frequent demonstrations at speeches and other events. Critics say his policies are racist, but he's long said he's simply enforcing existing laws.

Kobach, who once worked as an adviser to former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, has become a legal consultant for city officials and state legislators wanting to crack down on illegal immigration.

Kobach has promised to seek changes he says will keep illegal immigrants from voting, but critics fear they would discourage minorities from voting.

Kobach said admission to his rally with Arpaio will be free, but he'll take donations.

Retired Army leaders defend Moran's vote

Two retired Army leaders on Thursday defended Jerry Moran's vote against 2006 legislation to continue allowing military tribunals to try suspected terrorists.

"Moran does support tribunals for prosecuting terrorists," Lt. Gen. Rich Keller and Sgt. Maj. Richard Young said in a joint statement issued by Moran's campaign. "The 2006 bill was not tough enough and had too many loopholes. He voted against it.

"Since then, new laws have revised tribunals to significantly reduce the likelihood of convictions being overturned."

After Tuesday night's debate in Topeka, Moran told the Associated Press that he'd viewed the legislation as flawed and unconstitutional.