Saturday, October 20, 2007
Why this blog?
On Monday, October 22nd, 2007, at 9:00 a.m. Alaska time, the trial of former Republican State Representative Vic Kohring on multiple Federal charges will begin at Courtroom 3 in Anchorage's Federal Building.
Kohring's contact with Federal agents began at his Wasilla legislative office on August 31, 2006, when Federal agents searched more than 20 locations around Alaska, including the offices of Kohring and five other legislators. At the time, Kohring issued a statement claiming that he had been told by the FBI that he wasn't "a target" of an investigation.
Eight weeks later, he was re-elected to his seventh term in the Alaska House of Representatives, with about 60% of the vote. His opponent was Katie Hurley, a former legislator from that district, secretary of the State's Constitutional Convention, and one of the most highly respected Democrats in Alaska.
In January, 2007, Kohring returned to Juneau, the state capitol for the regular session of the legislature. During the session he served as Chairman of the powerful Special Committee on Oil and Gas, and on other committees. Kohring, a very Libertarian-oriented Republican, has always been seen by the oil industry as a supportive lawmaker.
On May 4, 2007 Kohring was arrested and indicted on four counts of conspiracy to commit extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right and bribery. Within days, the House leadership stripped him of his chairmanship.
As soon as the legislative session ended, Kohring came under growing pressure to step down. Alaska Governor, Republican Sarah Palin, who had been elected in November, 2006 as a maverick known for her strong stance against corruption within her own party, advised him to consider resigning. A recall petition in his home district soon gained the necessary signatures to be placed on the Autumn, 2007 ballot.
On June 19, Kohring announced his resignation - to be effective on July 19. Since then, he has been involved with developing a defense, hiring Seattle attorney John Henry Browne as his chief advocate.
So far, four key figures in the same series of events involving Vic Kohring have been convicted. Former legislator Tim Anderson has been convicted and sentenced to five years. Former Representative Pete Kott has been convicted, and awaits sentencing. Former Veco CEO Bill Allen pled guilty to bribing a number of legislators, and is serving, along with ex-Veco Vice President for Community & Government Affairs Rick Smith, up to ten years. Former Representative Bruce Weyhrauch faces trial in 2008. Former State Senate President Ben Stevens, son of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens has been named as one of the legislators Allen and Smith bribed, so the younger Stevens is expected to be indicted sometime in the future, and speculation about more indictments is rampant.
On October 3, 2007, Federal prosecutors unsealed another four-count indictment against Kohring, which extended the scope of their interest in Kohring back further than the original counts.
But, why this trial blog? First of all, there will be two of us making entries. We've been close friends since the fall of 1984, when we both were employed at KABN-AM radio in Big Lake, Alaska. We're both dedicated lovers of classical music and, especially, of live opera. We are both staunch 2nd Amendment advocates, love our cats and our main squeezes, but beyond that, we often differ. One of the subjects we've seldom agreed upon is the political value of Vic Kohring when he was in office. We will probably disagree on aspects of the trial as it progresses.
Philip Munger: I've been involved in Alaska politics since 1973, and have been on a first-name basis with most of my legislators, local, state and national ever since. I've worked at sea, in law enforcement and public safety, and have been a college music teacher since 1995. I'm mostly known in Alaska as a composer. My politics tend to the left, most notably on environmental and social justice issues. My community activism finds me on the board of Friends of Mat-Su, a local body concerned with zoning and quality-of-life issues in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. I'm a Democrat, and am currently volunteering as the Issues Coordinator for the Diane Benson for U.S. Congress campaign. I live near Palmer, Alaska.
Fred James: Aloha, I'm Fred James but I write as IL Fettucinni.
My interest in Vic's trial is very personal. I've known the man since 1992. I have watched his growth in public speaking and political analysis skills since he first won public office in 1994. I am his friend and advisor, his editor on occasions and his sounding board. He is, without exception, one of the most honest men I have ever known. Over the years Ive got to know his father Heinze, his mother Delores, his sister Pat and his nephew Aaron. All are solid, moral wonderful people who one would quickly trust with their life.
Another interesting thing about him, he should never attempt to play poker and expect to win because he wears his emotions on his sleeves. When he speaks he says precisely what he means and when he jokes you know it clearly. The man is absolutely straight. He fears God; he means it his marriage vows; when he makes an appointment to meet me he shows up on time or if something delays him he calls. He rarely uses four letter words and those only show up when he at the end of a Legislative Session and pressured half out of his mind.
I have dined with his him hundreds of time, gone shooting with him frequently at Goose Bay (He's a good shot.) I met and worked with his parents and nephew, Aaron. I have debated political and religious philosophy with him at length. At all times he is good humored. He is a very large man about 6' 7", 265. I've seen him work an electrical problem at my home for hours until he figured out exactly what was wrong and fixed the problem. He acquired much of his political and ethical philosophy from his father who was a contractor ,constantly bothered by state inspectors and crooked people who were trying to weasel more out of his father than they deserved. Through his father's stable and completely honest approach, Vic inherited a strong sense of the importance of keeping his word.
I believe Vic to be completely innocent of the charges. since the charges are laughable. How and why they are laughable will be the subject of future comments. I believe the Feds are railroading him. As each issue is brought forth in this trial I shall comment on what I can, and I hope to say at the end,
See? I told you so. And Phil is correct. I love cats and my Main Squeeze. I even like Phil's black cat Mooch!
Fred won't be able to attend the first part of the trial, as he may be called as a witness for the defense, and Judge Sedgewick has ruled such potential witnesses are barred from the courtroom until they testify. But he isn't gagged or barred from commenting on whatever he finds out through other means.