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Fevers not doused by case’s halt

By The Mercury

A Manhattan man may have dropped his challenge to President Obama’s name appearing on the November general election ballot Friday, but that did not fully still the controversy.

Unconfirmed reports circulated around the university Saturday that prospective donors had cancelled planned gifts they had previously intended to make for reasons that were related to the issue. In Topeka, several prominent Democrats continued to decry the case as an instance of Secretary of State Kris Kobach attempting to misuse the power of his office. Some on the right, meanwhile, lamented what they viewed as a poisoned political atmosphere that worked to pre-emptively chill the normal governmental processes.

Joe Montgomery, who had filed the challenge to Obama’s candidacy, formally filed paperwork Friday afternoon to withdraw that challenge. In doing so, Montgomery said he and those around him had faced substantial levels of “animosity and intimidation” over his original filing. He did not go into detail.

“There has been a great deal of animosity and intimidation directed not only at me, but at people around me, Montgomery wrote in his email to Kobach, who chairs the Objections Board. He added that he doesn’t want to burden personal and professional associates with “more of this negative reaction.”

Montgomery works at K-State, where his responsibilities include fund-raising for the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Objections Board would be the final word on whether Obama appears on the ballot as the Democratic Party’s nominee, absent a court challenge. Kobach and its other members, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, are all Republicans, and Montgomery is a registered Republican, according the secretary of state’s office.

Kobach said the board still will meet Monday to formally close the case and add whatever additional information is available to the record.

“There’s no possibility of Obama’s name coming off the ballot when there’s no objection,” Kobach said late Friday.

Kobach’s office was flooded with calls Friday, and the Kansas Democratic Party circulated a fundraising email with the subject line, “Kobach Strikes Again.” Jason Perkey, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, blamed Kobach for “wasting taxpayer dollars and embarrassing our great state.”

Among other things, Democrats criticize Kobach for pushing successfully for a state law requiring proof of U.S. citizenship from people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas, starting next year.

“It stirred up our troops,” said Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon.

Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, termed the original action an effort to “obstruct democracy” by denying Kansans an opportunity to vote for the person of their choice. Rep. Ann Mah, also a Democrat, said Kobach and Schmidt should have dismissed the complaint immediately. “Kobach is simply playing to the birthers,” she told the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Some community activists also took note. Sonny Scroggins organized a protest at noon Friday on the Capitol grounds, David Brown, a leader of a concerned citizens’ group, said it will watch election officials.

“I don’t think it’s closed,” he said.

Although it was hard to gauge the depth of personal feedback directed toward Montgomery himself, Twitter contained thousands of reactions to his case filing, most of them vitriolic and negative

Montgomery not only questioned the validity of Obama’s birth certificate but argued that Obama wouldn’t be eligible to serve as president anyway because his father was from Kenya. That’s another argument circulating on the Internet and among members of the birther movement.

Chuck Henderson, a member of the Flint Hills Tea Party in Manhattan, said “it’s a pity” Montgomery withdrew his objection. Henderson attended Thursday’s board meeting and believes Montgomery presented a strong case.

“He’s no right-wing extremist,” Henderson said. “He’s just somebody who’s picked up on stuff.”

A large number of the available reactions on social media called for Kansas State University to in some fashion take steps against Montgomery for his action. He did not discuss that, saying he had been scrupulous in detailing with the case as a private citizen. Kansas State University officials did confirm that he works as the communications coordinator for its College of Veterinary Medicine, a position financed privately through its nonprofit, fundraising arm, the Kansas State University Foundation.

Jeff Morris, the university’s vice president for communications and marketing, reiterated Montgomery’s own view that he was acting as a private citizen, and the university respects his free speech rights.

“We have people on campus with lots of different political views,” Morris said. He issued that statement before reports about the possible loss of donations surfaced, and those reports were impossible to verify Saturday night.

Kobach and the other board members faced criticism for delaying a decision to reject Montgomery’s objection. Kansas Democrats labeled it frivolous, and an attorney for Obama’s campaign said in a letter that the allegations were “tired” and “utterly baseless.”

But Kobach — who once suggested during his successful 2010 campaign that Obama would quell doubts about his status by releasing his long-form birth certificate — said Kansas law requires the board to hear all objections.

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