Two guilty pleas indicate ex-legislators faced reality

This editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

Two former legislators demonstrated some improved judgment last week when they agreed to plea deals instead of undergoing new trials on political corruption charges.

The original cases against Reps. Pete Kott and Vic Kohring might have been executed in a flawed manner, but it’s hard to imagine new juries would have exonerated them.

Rather than taking their chances with juries, Kott and Kohring pleaded guilty to bribery. They were sentenced to time served — 17 months in Kott’s case and 12 in Kohring’s.

The punishment seems a little light, given what they admitted doing. At least taxpayers won’t have to spend any more money to re-establish the obvious: The legislators crossed into criminal territory when they took money for their personal use from an oil field contractor during a heated legislative debate about the state’s petroleum production tax.

“Both Kott and Kohring admitted to taking money from former VECO Corporation CEO Bill Allen during the 2006 legislative session and using their positions as state legislators to push for the adoption of what was known as the 20/20 PPT legislation that VECO wanted passed,” according to U.S. District Attorney Karen Loeffler’s news release Friday.

That dry summary fails to convey the full nature of what went on. Alaskans will not soon forget the secretly recorded video image of Kohring taking a wad of cash from Allen in Room 604 of the Baranof Hotel in Juneau. Kott received almost $8,000 extra from Allen on a false invoice for flooring work.

The money changed hands while the Legislature was debating revisions to the petroleum production tax. Allen wanted to keep the rate as low as possible. He had every right to express that desire to legislators. When he started secretly passing them money to underscore his opinions, his actions became criminal. The legislators who accepted that money also acted criminally.

Two years ago, Kott and Kohring were released from prison after the U.S. Justice Department found prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence to the defense during the trials. New trials were scheduled this fall in Fairbanks.

It’s hard to imagine those proceedings would have absolved Kott and Kohring of guilt. Their pleas saved taxpayer money and served justice.

More

My Turn: Mental health patients have rights

In the state’s ongoing effort to manage the rising costs of treating the disabled, it is the disabled who pay the price. In too many cases, there is no state standard of care for the disabled, even in regulations; when the state wants to save money, the first and easiest place is to encourage private facilities to reduce the quality of care and treatment for disabled psychiatric patients.

Read more

My Turn: Trump’s looming assault on the separation of church and state

The president’s recent spate of executive orders; the continuing debate surrounding his immigration ban; the fallout resulting from his contentious interactions with two of our most trusted allies (Australia and Mexico); and his shocking defense of Vladimir Putin, a criminal, dictator and human rights violator, succeeded in deflecting attention from his fiery pronouncement to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches from engaging in political activity at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status. What the distractions failed accomplish, however, was diminishing the importance of safeguarding the principle of the separation of church and state.

Read more

Letter: Go see ‘West Side Story’

I am writing to alert the Juneau community about West Side Story, one of the best theater productions that I have seen in Juneau in over 31 years of living here.

Read more

Outside Editorial: If Trump really wants to ‘drain the swamp,’ here’s his chance

Ann Ravel, a Democratic member of the Federal Election Commission who resigned earlier this month, has given President Donald Trump a golden opportunity to prove he meant what he said on the campaign trail about the corrosive influence of big-money donors on elections.

Read more
 

CONTACT US

  • Switchboard: 907-586-3740
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-586-3740
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Business Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-523-2230
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING