(This is in response to Phil and Linda Chandler's May 11 letter, "We know Kohring; he couldn't have done this.")
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Yes, people are innocent until proven guilty; however, tapes do not lie and are not misunderstood. Nor is Rep. Vic Kohring's body language on the house floor. He's sweating bullets and tears.
This man, and many others to follow, will be taken to trial. I believe the indictments will not stop with the men who have been indicted to date.
The Chandlers ask, "What got these federal people up here in the first place?" The reason the FBI raided offices all over Alaska was due to extortion, attempted extortion, bribery and conspiracy; that is what brought the feds to Alaska.
For far too long, the capital in Juneau has been dirty, awash with dinners and back-room deals. Every senator and representative in the state needs to ask themselves this question: "In any given month, how many dinners have I gone to with lobbyists?" Then, they need to answer this question: "How many dinners have I gone to with one of my constituents?" I'm positive their answers to the latter question would be zero, because the common Alaskan cannot have face-to-face contact with most of these people while the Legislature is in session. Yet, the lobbyists get unfettered access. This makes the arguments kind of one-sided, I would say.
Although I feel for the people who have been or will be indicted on federal charges, and one would hope state charges as well, they all put themselves in this position. Ethics, even with the reforms just passed, have been lacking in this state since forever. The new ethics law lacks the teeth to do much if anyone breaks a rule.
I wish I could go through life making my own rules. But this is not the case.
If someone breaks federal and state laws, then he or she should be indicted and taken to trial. And yes, this individual will be innocent until proven guilty.
This mess has only just begun and will leave Alaska with a black eye in the political world for years to come. I urge politicians to pass meaningful ethics reform that will allow the people of Alaska to know who is lavishing them with dinners several times a month. That is the only way to know who to hold responsible for the political dealings of lobbyists, and it is the only way a private citizen can have an opposing view of the lobbyists.
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