FBI Documents: Kobach Hired A Criminal Investigator With No Law Enforcement Experience

Oct 29, 2019
Originally published on October 30, 2019 3:54 am

One of the hallmarks of Kris Kobach's time as Kansas Secretary of State was his power to investigate and prosecute voter fraud. Kobach, who is now running for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate, was the only secretary of state in America with such power.

KCUR has now learned that when Kobach needed an investigator to carry out these prosecutorial powers, he hired someone with no law enforcement experience, according to an FBI investigation into missing ammunition from the secretary of state's office.

The investigator, Craig McCullah, was Kobach's spokesperson during most of Kobach's time in the secretary of state's office. But McCullah wound end up conducting criminal investigations.

"During his employment McCullah was approached by former Assistant Secretary of State Erick (sic) Rucker who asked if McCullah would like to fill the position of Voter Fraud Investigator," according to FBI documents obtained by KCUR through the Freedom of Information Act.

McCullah took the job and then "attended law enforcement training in Hutchinson, Kansas," according to a summary of an interview at the bureau's Topeka office.

The FBI file showed that McCullah had no police experience when he was hired. Even after attending the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center (KLETC) he had very little. McCullah told KCUR he took the two-week course required for parttime officers in Kansas.

That course was 85 hours. About a third of that — 25 hours — was spent on what the KLETC course curriculum called "Demonstrable Proficiency Areas." This included handcuffing techniques, fundamentals of marksmanship and other firearms training.

Only seven hours was dedicated to investigations, half of that on investigating car crashes.

McCullah said he did supplement that brief training with a course on interviewing techniques from an Indiana-based company called the Public Agency Training Council. A Kansas Open Records Act request revealed that the secretary of state's office paid $495 for McCullah to take that course. KLETC does not charge agencies for the part-time officer training course.

The former spokesperson from the secretary of state's office defended McCullah's hiring. "Craig McCullah was hired for the position of investigator because of his intelligence, temperament, and skills. He also has extensive military experience," Danedri Herbert said in a statement. "Most law enforcement officers have never done an election fraud case. It is a very specialized form of investigation."

McCullah told KCUR that fraud investigations were "additional duties" when he worked for Kobach. He said the office was having trouble getting local authorities to conduct "knock and talks" with those suspected of voter fraud.

Over four years, Kobach prosecuted about 15 cases of voter fraud.

McCullah's role as fraud investigator came to light when Kobach's successor, Scott Schwab, became secretary of state after the 2018 election. Schwab discovered that Kobach had purchased 1,000 rounds of Winchester 9mm Luger ammunition so McCullah could qualify with his weapon.

"McCullah was armed during his time with the Secretary of State's office," the FBI documents say.

When Schwab couldn't locate the ammunition, he contacted authorities and the case eventually landed with the FBI. Documents indicate McCullah fired 650 rounds on the range, which left 350 rounds. According to the FBI report, "Rucker told McCullah to just keep it" when McCullah left the office. 

The U.S. Attorney in Kansas decided no laws were broken. Multiple calls and emails from KCUR to Rucker, now a state senator from Topeka, went unanswered.

McCullah ran in the GOP primary for secretary of state but lost to Schwab. McCullah is now chair of the Shawnee County Republican party.

The legislature has repealed the part of the voter fraud law giving the secretary of state's office prosecutorial powers.

"Secretary Schwab wants nothing to do with prosecutorial authority and we have no law enforcement officers on staff or under contract," Deputy General Counsel Clayton Barker told KCUR in an email.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include a comment from former Secretary of State Spokeswoman Danedri Herbert.

Sam Zeff is KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff.

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