Voting booths inside the Early Vote Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 5, 2016.
States push back against voter fraud commission
02:20 - Source: CNN

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Kobach's office blasted the group filing the complaint

He is running for governor of Kansas and serves on Trump's election integrity commission

Washington CNN  — 

A legal group filed a complaint Monday against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chair of President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission, questioning whether he violated federal law by highlighting his role on the commission in his campaign for Kansas governor in the 2018 election.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law called for an investigation into whether Kobach violated the Hatch Act, a 1939 law intended to keep federal employees from directly supporting candidates, accusing him of using his role on the presidential commission to promote his campaign and solicit contributions.

In its complaint, the legal group outlined several occasions in which it accused Kobach of improperly promoting his role on the commission to bolster his gubernatorial candidacy through social media accounts attributed to his campaign and through his campaign website, in addition to remarks he has made that the group says blurred the line between federal government worker and political candidate.

In response to a query from CNN, Kobach’s Kansas office blasted the legal group.

“We are certain that no Hatch Act violations have occurred,” said his spokeswoman, Samantha Poetter. “This is nothing but a bunch of liberal lawyers trying to create a story.”

The Hatch Act restricts federal employees from using their official positions to engage in electoral efforts. The legal group said Kobach’s role on the commission makes him subject to the law and therefore necessitates an investigation from the Office of Special Counsel, which handles Hatch Act matters.

The group also called on the Office of Government Ethics and the White House Counsel’s Office to look into any ethical breaches from Kobach.

Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the legal group, told CNN the election integrity commission had been a “top concern” of theirs and that the group believed the commission was an attempt to promote policies that could restrict voting access.

“It stands as a threat to democracy,” Clarke said of the commission.

Trump signed an executive order in May establishing the commission, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, to report on the integrity of federal elections. The order came months after Trump claimed without evidence that millions had voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election.

Clarke pointed to a recent tweet from Trump to say her group had reason to suspect the commission existed to try to substantiate Trump’s claims about voter fraud.

“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?” Trump tweeted last week.

Kobach made headlines last week when the commission requested voter information from all 50 states. The majority of states, including his own, have so far declined to comply with the request in full, often citing state laws barring them from doing so and expressing concerns about the need to keep voters’ Social Security numbers private.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that the Office of Special Counsel is independent from the Justice Department.