An upcoming House Oversight Committee hearing features two conservative media darlings infamous for their anti-immigrant rhetoric and peddling misinformation about voter fraud and election law.
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing February 12 titled, "The President's Executive Actions on Immigration and Their Impact on Federal and State Elections." The hearing advisory, obtained by Media Matters, promises an examination of the president's executive actions on immigration and how they may affect "federal and state elections, including the issuance of Social Security Numbers and drivers' licenses to individuals covered by the action."
Two witnesses who will be featured at the hearing, according to the advisory, are well known for spreading misinformation in conservative media circles: Kris Kobach and Hans von Spakovsky.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is a repeat guest on Fox News and is often touted by right-wing pundits who support his extreme positions on immigration. He first elevated his profile by pushing a bill that would have directed police officers in Arizona to check the immigration status of those stopped for violations of city and county ordinances, civil traffic violations, and other non-crimes, and would have allowed police to consider race as a factor. Kobach was also instrumental in pushing a Kansas voter registration law that has disenfranchised thousands of American citizens. Appearing on Fox & Friends in March 2014, Kobach tried to cast doubt on the president's immigration enforcement, accusing the administration of "cooking the books" on deportation numbers.
Hans von Spakovsky has been featured on Fox News and on National Review Online for years, demonstrating an unending willingness to distort the truth in the service of restrictive and discriminatory voter ID laws. Spakovsky has repeatedly overstated the prevalence of in-person voter fraud and continues to push for voter ID laws that disproportionately affect minority communities and suppress legal voters. At National Review, Spakovsky characterized the modern civil rights movement as being "indistinguishable" from "segregationists."
This hearing comes on the heels of the Senate's recent hearing on Loretta Lynch, a highly regarded nominee for attorney general, which featured a witness list peppered with habitual conservative media misinformers.
UPDATE: On the eve of the hearing, prosecutors in Kansas are questioning Kobach's voter fraud claims. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that Kobach has asked lawmakers to grant him the "the power to press voter fraud charges because he says prosecutors do not pursue cases he refers."
But federal prosecutors in Kansas say Kobach hasn't referred any cases to them, and county prosecutors report that the cases referred to them did not justify prosecution.
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Right-wing media outlets are trying to draw a distinction between Republican administrations' executive actions on immigration and President Obama's proposed order, claiming that the current president's authority for deferring deportation -- unlike that of his predecessors -- is illegitimate.
On November 20, Obama will reportedly issue an executive order that would suspend deportations for certain classes of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Although the full details of the order aren't yet known, it is expected to focus in part on keeping families together and to provide temporary administrative relief to immigrants who are undocumented but whose children are U.S. citizens or otherwise legally present. There is plenty of legal precedent to support Obama's exercise of prosecutorial discretion to halt some deportation proceedings, and experts from across the political spectrum have pointed out that this sort of executive action has taken place in the past, notably once when Congress failed to pass immigration reform.
Yet right-wing media have nevertheless fearmongered about the legality of Obama's proposed executive action, even though the Associated Press reported that both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush "acted unilaterally on immigration," as have numerous presidents before and since. Despite this Republican precedent, which the American Immigration Council has called a "striking historical parallel," conservative media figures have sought to deny the similarity. Radio host Mark Levin slammed the Associated Press report, saying, "No, Ronald Reagan, no, George H.W. Bush did not do what Obama is about to do," because Reagan was acting in response to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which "Congress passed" and "sent to the president."
National Review Online contributor Mark Krikorian also tried to distinguish Obama's "threatened move" from Reagan and Bush's executive actions, calling the comparison a "nice try." Krikorian went on to argue that Reagan's action "is simply irrelevant to the current case" because it "was a legitimate exercise of prosecutorial discretion shortly after passage of" IRCA. Krikorian also rejected the similarities to George H.W. Bush's immigration order, arguing that it "cannot meaningfully be described as precedent for Obama's scheme" because, among other reasons, Bush's move was a "cleanup measure for the implementation of the once-in-history amnesty that was passed by Congress."
Rush Limbaugh repeated this attack on the November 18 edition of his show, saying that "it's uncanny to me how often the Democrat Party, when they get in a jam and when they know they're doing something that is untoward, when they know they're doing something that's not above board -- like this clearly is not above board -- they go back and they cite Reagan." Later, Limbaugh claimed that "Reagan never took executive action. This is a bold-faced, flat-out lie."
This Election Day, a number of states are implementing strict new voter ID laws and registration policies in a high-turnout election for the first time. These measures have been found to have the potential to disenfranchise thousands of voters -- typically people of color, young voters, and women -- who are unable to obtain select forms of ID or are caught in flawed voter purges, but right-wing media figures frequently argue that these laws do not suppress the vote.
The right-wing media have repeatedly claimed that these laws are not racially discriminatory, do not affect minority voter turnout, and maintain the integrity of the election system. Fox News has referred to recent court decisions striking down voter ID laws as illegal or unconstitutional "setbacks" and questioned the timing of the courts' intervention on behalf of the right to vote. Right-wing media have also railed against attempts to stop voter purges, despite the fact that reports have discovered "Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted" in these methodologically unsound attempts to find ineligible voters.
Repeatedly discredited National Review Online contributor Hans von Spakovsky has been particularly vocal in his support of these unnecessary and redundant election measures, dismissing concerns of "chaos at the polls" even though hundreds of thousands of voters are at risk. On the November 2 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, von Spakovsky again promoted strict voter ID laws and registration checks and claimed that "this idea" that voter ID laws can "suppress minority voters, we know is not true":
But qualified voters are already being turned away from the polls or purged from the rolls in states that have enacted these new Republican-pushed measures, despite right-wing media's promises that such laws would have no negative effect.
From the October 28 Restore America Rally:
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