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Friday, January 28, 2022

Corrupt Bastard Double Feature – Kott and Kohring Sentenced

Yesterday, a long dark chapter in the history of Alaska politics came to an end. I decided that even though the day didn’t promise to hold any shocking news or big surprises, that I ought to be there nonetheless. The last of the self-described “Corrupt Bastards Club” have pleaded guilty and were sentenced by Judge Ralph Beistline. Courtroom 2 in the Federal Courthouse was busy today.  No cameras were allowed in the courtroom so, as usual, you will have to rely upon my masterful and detailed court drawings that will make you feel like you were really there.

First up: Pete Kott, former Republican speaker of the House, known to followers of Alaska politics as Pete “Got” Kott.

Kott pleaded guilty to one federal charge of “bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds,” and admitted that as an agent of the government of the state he had knowingly intended to be rewarded for acting corruptly. Typically, there is a span of 72 days between a defendant’s plea and sentencing, but Kott had requested sentencing happen on the same day. One got the sense throughout the day that both men just wanted it over with as quickly as possible.

Kott seemed businesslike, and came to court in a suit and tie, with his “professor” glasses on. He didn’t appear to be overly-agitated, and answered questions simply and directly.

After a series of routine questions, Kott explained that he understood he would not be permitted to own a firearm, and for a time would not be able to vote, hold public office, or serve on a jury. Beistline told Kott that the maximum potential sentence for the crime he had committed was 10 years, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis addressed the court, summarizing Kott’s offenses. He reminded everyone of then Gov. Frank Murkowski’s oil tax plan (PPT) which would have taxed the oil companies on net profits at 20% for a tax rate, and 20% tradable tax credit. It was known as “the Governor’s bill.” He recounted the meetings in 2006 with Veco CEO Bill Allen and VP Rick Smith, and how Kott had used his influence to get the bill that would have made Veco hundreds of millions of dollars via a new gas line passed into law. Feldis said that Kott had “corruptly agreed to solicit and accept $7,000 and the promise of future employment” from Bill Allen. Political polls were paid for, cash changed hands, legislators were lobbied, efforts were made to stop unfavorable amendments, and information on the pulse of the legislature was passed along to Allen and Smith.

Kott listened, and when the judge asked if he had heard and understood the accusations, and if they were true, he admitted it was true, and made a plea of guilty. Until this point, Kott had maintained his innocence, demanded a new trial, and his attorney had filed motion after motion on his behalf. For that one moment it was nice to hear some kind of admission of guilt for what he had done. But it wasn’t long before the back pedaling began.

Kott’s attorney made note that his client “disagrees with some of the characterizations of his conduct,” and that “Good people, even extraordinarily good people like Pete Kott make mistakes.”

Yes, when I think of “extraordinarily good people,” Pete Kott just springs to mind. To my surprise, there was no audible snickering.

Then Kott, bespectacled and sitting at the defendant’s table spoke and said, “I am sorry for my actions. In my heart, I thought my actions in the legislature were in the best interest of the state of Alaska. Outside of the Legislature, perhaps they were wrong… I hope my behavior in this incident doesn’t erase the good I’ve done over the years.” Now 62, Kott said that his new priority was his family, and that he wanted to “close this chapter of my life and be a contributing member of society.”

Beistline said that Kott had demonstrated that he has a “significant character flaw” that surfaced in 2006. “You sold your soul,” he said to Kott whom he also said had been willing to “cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie. Not for your constituents, but for Bill Allen and Rick Smith, and yourself.” He characterized Allen and Smith as “rich, greedy and amoral” and said that they had “created a truly dark moment in Alaska’s history… There is a taint placed on the process and the victims are the good people of the state of Alaska.” He went on to condemn their “flagrant disregard of the law.” “It was almost a joke to you people,” he admonished.

But in the end, Beistline accepted the plea that the government and Kott had already agreed to, which was well below the recommended sentencing guidelines. Kott’s plea got him:

Time served (17 months in prison)
3 years supervised release (probation)
A curfew to be determined by the probation officer for the first 12 months
$10,000 fine

The remaining charges against Kott were dismissed. The judge, after noting “I do see problems with alcohol” warned that Kott was not to use alcohol in excess, and that was that.

(Intermission – In which I plug the parking meter, use the ladies’ room, and wait unsuccessfully to get a picture of Pete Kott. Apparently he waved to the media from the elevator earlier, and you can see the picture as well as Richard Mauer’s excellent coverage over at the ADN’s website. I do manage, however, to get a blurry picture of Vic Kohring as he enters which will come in handy later, as you will see.)

Next up: Vic Kohring

Vic Kohring is certainly not as sinister or diabolical a character as Pete Kott, but he is definitely more of a just plain character. You may recall that back in 2008 before he was sent off to prison, and despite video evidence of him taking cash from Bill Allen, Kohring said he’d been railroaded and framed and that his conscience was “absolutely clear.” He described his upcoming prison term “like going on a government sponsored vacation.” Kohring stood by the side of the Glen Highway before his ignominious departure to the pokey handing out cookies underneath a giant sign with his name, and “THANKS ALASKA” in big orange letters.

Apparently the accommodations at the Grey Bar Hotel weren’t what he had hoped for, and after cutting that vacation short, he was now ready to admit guilt on one federal conspiracy charge. “Kohring is now prepared to accept responsibility and move forward with his life,” the prosecution’s sentencing memo said.

Well, that’s nice.

Kohring was a bit more unnerved than Kott, red-faced and drinking from his plastic water cup, he seemed tense. His hair long and sheep dog shaggy, Kohring came to court in a shirt and tie… and a hoodie. If someone hadn’t known what was going on, they’d have thought the world’s largest Kindergartener had gotten caught swiping candy bars from the local five and dime.

Here’s where that picture I mentioned before comes in handy. You will notice that even though the picture is of poor quality, to say the least, it does manage to capture the hoodie, which is clearly visible.

During routine questioning, Kohring said he was on pain medication, and anti-anxiety medication to deal with the stress of the ordeal.

The scenario played itself out all over again with the judge making sure that Kohring understood the gravity of the charge, that he would not be able to appeal, and the consequences of being a convicted felon. Feldis recounted again the PPT and cash for votes scenario. More money changing hands, shady dinners at the Island Pub in Douglas, videos taken in hotel rooms, promises of skullduggery and vote influencing…

When it came time for Kohring to do his mea culpas, his attorney leaned over and whispered (directly into the mic) that he didn’t have to say anything if he didn’t want to.  He didn’t want to. “I don’t have anything to add, but thank you for the opportunity,” he said. If by “I don’t have anything to add,” Kohring meant that he was sorry for denying his guilt, wasting the court’s time and the people’s money, and violating their sacred trust as an elected official… then that was very sweet. Thanks, Vic.

Beistline noted with gravity, “For the second time today, I am sentencing a former elected official.” He went on, “The backroom days in the Baranof Hotel have got to be behind us. You lost sight of your values, and for what? A pittance.”

“Allen and Smith seemed to think they were above the law – that they were the law. And they only succeeded because people like you catered to their ego,” he added. “This whole sorry affair should send shudders through anyone in Juneau who’s thinking of crossing the line.”

He was sentenced by the judge to time served, with an additional 18 months supervised release. The judge explained that the reason that Kohring’s sentence was significantly less than some of the other Corrupt Bastards was basically that Kohring had no influence over anyone else, and no”persuasion power” to change other legislators’ minds because he’s basically just kind of a big doofus. He did not say it exactly that way, of course, and was quite diplomatic, but anyone who’s followed the antics of Vic Kohring over the years would get the subtext.

Beistline gave some parting words, “Stay out of trouble and learn from this terrible mistake,” and with that, the era of the Corrupt Bastards came to an end.



26 Responses to “Corrupt Bastard Double Feature – Kott and Kohring Sentenced”
  1. Man_from_Unk says:

    “…..the era of the Corrupt Bastards came to an end.” Nope, it’s not over yet. Corrupt Bastards Club II continue to do business in backdoor meetings, often prepping their stooges to make a “motion” and ram it through the Board of Directors, of which at least 90% of them can’t wait for their meeting to end so they can have a drink to chase off the hangover they got from drinking too much the night before

    There is still a lot of “cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie” going on by “rich, greedy and amoral” people.

    • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

      How very true, one era of corruption simply passes into the next almost imperceptibly. I think that it is this phenomenon that stimulated the phrase – Justice delayed is justice denied. It might be well to consider what actions do the greatest harm, and reorganize our system of criminal justice to suit the circumstances rather than the practitioners of law enforcement.

      Where exactly is Unk by the way? Just curious.

  2. Winski says:

    I’m sure you’re not depressed over these gifts… If you have some money and are politically connected – Free to go seems to be written in the book.. Is this why Tawd Palin has stayed out of prison so long?

    Breathtaking…. now off to scam someone else….

  3. lana says:

    AKpetMom: I get that you want to be empathic to Vic and honestly he was probably the least capable, intellectually, of any of the offenders who were caught. But he doesn’t get a pass. For years before the FBI probe, he mooched off the State, Veco, and anyone he could find. Those of us in Valley know for a fact that he lived in his RV and poached electricity from the State legislative offices. He presented himself as being thrify while living in his office in Juneau but, point of fact, that garnered him thousands of dollars in per diem and living expenses at the State’s cost. During the trial it was noted that he often had staff call Bill Allen to take him to dinner at which he would order 2 meals so that he would have something later. At some point in your life, you need to man up and be responsible. Taking care of his elderly father does not give him a free pass. I take care of my mother and I am not mooching. I provide her housing, phone, and other utilities by working at a job. This is an option that he could have sought. I have a permanent disability that renders my right hand virtually useless yet I have found a way to perserve and honor my mother as the Bible directs me too.

  4. ibwilliamsi says:

    The corrupt bastards helped put Sarah in office and gave her the high profile that allowed her to be foisted on the rest of the nation and world. Whatever they got wasn’t enough.

  5. sudsy says:

    Of course, Alaskan statutes provide that it is allowable for management to mismanage AND anything terrible a state employee does or chooses not to do or just about any harm he or she does is ok. “Beyond the pell”. Well, here’s yer Alaska, Alaska. How’s about changin a few regulations about accountability of governmint employees.

    • The Pale, a demarcation line in Ireland while under English dominion; a usage that led to the phrase “beyond the pale”, meaning unacceptable behaviour.

      This public service announcement has been brought to you by…(imaginary theme music here)….Wikipedia…and, your friends at CH2MHill.

  6. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    AKM – you need to add a copyright symbol to your courtroom art work. Otherwise it will be poached.

    It is interesting is it not that these people who for personal gain, corrupted the legislative process and actually, if my memory serves me, are getting off lighter than the poor sap who guessed saint palin’s yahoo confirmations and changed the password on her accounts. Now, wouldn’t you think that if her emails were SO important that they have to be carefully and painstakingly redacted by legions of lawyers that somebody might have noticed that is was a little irresponsible to use non-governmental systems to transact government business, and that she might have some culpability for that?

    And, I might ask, what about the thousands of emails Mr. Bailey has so far witheld from the public domain? This whole picture is still rotten to the core. Sarah is not done. We will see her again and again and again. Beware the seeming let down and defeat, she is not done. Stay vigilant.

    • AKMuckraker says:

      Frank Bailey has provided the entirety of the emails in his possession to the State of Alaska, so at this point it is they who are withholding them from the public domain.

      And yes, it is a travesty that public officials who sold out their constituents and their state get let off completely (Ben Stevens, Don Young, etc.) and kids like David Kernell get stiffer sentences.

      Justice is not as blind as we would like to think it is.

      (…and good point about the copyright symbol!)

      • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

        I find the fact that Bailey has passed his emails “back” to the state unconvincing. If he could publish some of them for profit without violating any state laws, he could “donate” all of them to the public domain without any state censorship and obviously, any communications concerning Palin will involve censorship if handled by the state. In his book Bailey made the claim that he witnessed a violation of state election laws on the part of Palin. I suppose he might justifyably fear retaliation for doing so but if he does he should say so. The substantive fact is in the case of all of Palin’s official and unofficial communications via electronic media that the state is stonewalling undoubtedly to protect her. It was shown as early as 2008 that she routinely abused the power of the governor’s office for personal reasons and that her spouse, an unelected official also abused that power.

        This may just be a tempest in the Alaska samovar but the point is that wrongdoing is still wrongdoing and should be revealed, investigated and when appropriate prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Moreover, it is a far more grave infraction of law when a person or persons in positions of public trust violate the law than when an individual virtually inadvertantly does so by simply being clever enough to guess a simple security question. I would ask rhetorically if anyone is aware of any other case of anyone being prosecuted for hacking (cracking is actually the correct term) any Yahoo email account. I would venture to guess that it has been done tens of thousands of times.

        So clearly there is a double standard here. Indeed justice seems not to be blind but cyclopian. Until Palin is brought to book for her misdeeds she will remain a well paid and tangible threat to our politics and public discourse. And a blot upon our national character.

        • AKMuckraker says:

          He did not give them “back” because they never originally had them. He provided all the emails from the Yahoo accounts that he set up for the Palins to the State. The Department of Law reviewed the entirety of the emails included in the book, and asked that several of them be removed/redacted which they were.

          The state now has the entire email record of the Palin administration, including her “off the grid” Yahoo accounts. In my very strong opinion, they should all be subject to public records requests since they are in the state’s possession.

          • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

            AKM, I entirely agree, they should be public domain. Why do you think I put the word back in scare quotes? Obviously the yahoo accounts were set up so that the Palins could conduct state business beyond the ken of state disclosure laws which have in any case been so abused that they have lost all meaning. Under the law, the public has a right to know the content of the governor’s correspondence and if the governor carried on official correspondence outside the system of government controlled computers, is that not yet another violation of the laws? Or are the laws so loosely written that there is a loophole?

            To my mind, if the yahoo emails were indeed privately exchanged but involved the conducting of government businesss, then that is evidence prima facie of a crime. I say this because I have the impression that it is illegal in Alaska to conduct state business over private email accounts because they are not subject to FOIA.
            If they did not involve the conducting of government business then the government has no say in whether or not they should be in the public domain. If on the other hand they did show government business was conducted on a non-govermental platform, would not that be evidence of a crime or at the least yet another breach of ethics? Which are in and of themselves minor crimes?

  7. Ripley in CT says:

    The corkscrew over the head= Universal sign of anti-anxiety meds. 😀

  8. AKPetMom says:

    Vic has paid a price for his crime, both in his physical and financial health. He is a beaten man basically living on a few bucks a day. He takes care of his elderly father and “couch surfs” for a place to stay. Hasn’t he been through enough? There are people that we all know that have committed crimes and they paid their due and were allowed to get on with their lives, so really, enough with piling on this man who obviously is physically and financially broken.

    Sometimes the “liberal progressive” open arms and “charity for everyone” doesn’t always seem to extend to everyone. I hesitate to use the term “hypocrite” but really, aren’t we supposed to be better than this?

    • benlomond2 says:

      I have to respectfully disagree with you a bit on the “charity for everyone” aspect. I’m not familar with Alaska politics, or even with Vic’s individual involvement,, My reaction to these sentnences is primarily that these people were in positions of public goverment, and had the ability and responsibilty to the general public to follow the intent as well as the letter of the law. They should , in my view, be held to a higher bar of ethics, and subsquently, a more stringent level of punishment for failing to honor their responsibilties to the positions they held.

      while I understand the empathy for taking care of an elderly father, and couch surfing in his present situaton, at the time he commited his offenses, I’m guessing that was not his situation. As such, his present situation has really no bearing on his sentence.

      While it’s a bit cliche, “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time” seems appropriate, and if the MAXIMUM had been applied to ALL of the defendents, then perhaps future Alaskan ( and the rest of the US) politicans would be a bit more hesitant about breaking the public trust.

    • Happy Place says:

      You may want to find a more suitable subject in terms of drumming up sympathy. If this was a young black man committing a fraction of this crime, he’d still be rotting in prison and you know it. But the well connected—whether committing their white collar graft on Wall Street or by betraying the public trust for nothing more than their own greed and a fast buck—get a few months and “time served” by the time they make it to trial. So no, by the standards that regular folks—and certainly the poor—would face in our criminal “justice” system, this POS hasn’t NEARLY “been through enough” nor begun to “pay his due.”

    • GoI3ig says:

      Vic was couch surfing long before his legal troubles began. For years he slept on the couch in his office so he could pocket the generous per diem that he was paid by the state.

      His “poor, broke, bum” act is wearing a little thin.

      I don’t know what was more pathetic. Was it hitchhiking to his last court appearance, or showing up for this one wearing a sweatshirt? He shows no respect for the judiciary.

      I hope his gorilla suit keeps him warm this year as he stands out there in Houston waving at traffic.

    • Mo says:

      Yeah, it does seem unjust that smalltime schmucks get hammered, while the bigtime thieves and scoundrels of Wall Street and their lobbyists in D.C. are living large and getting away with everything.

  9. Alaska Pi says:

    Mr Kott said ” I thought my actions in the legislature were in the best interest of the state of Alaska Outside of the Legislature, perhaps they were wrong…” AFTER he acknowledged the charges were true and said he was guilty?
    All in all, I think you do an incredible job with your courtroom illustrations ( I almost feel like I’m there
    🙂 ) but I think you blew the drawing of him, AKM- I don’t see rose tinted glasses on him , nor the insulating bubble he apparently has between his head and heart.
    And it doesn’t sound like the judge popped the durn thing, even with his harsh language.

    I have never understood Mr Kohring . I still don’t but I do think he got about the proper slap in his sentence.
    Mr Kott- well. Not so sure there.

    Now that that crop o CBs (10% of our Legislature of the time !!!?) has mostly been exposed even if not all faced trial, what are we doing to head off another such mess? Are we paying enough attention ?

  10. Mo says:

    Thanks for taking one for the team. And a cut above the usual courtroom art in terms of accuracy!

  11. OzMud says:

    Wow. Just wow. David Kernell got how long? And sherry Johnston? I suppose we should be quietly grateful these men spent any time in prison at all eh?

    The older I get the more disappointed I become with our judicial system.

    That said – AKM your artwork – how shall I put this – splendi – umm – superbly captu – well – as promised, it did feel like I was actually there! Bravo! Well done! (Don’t stop writing!!!)


  12. benlomond2 says:

    I call BS!… compare these sentences to the sentence handed down to young lad who got busted for breaking in to Palin’s yahoo account,,,,,, There is no justice….

  13. mike from iowa says:

    Love this story and courtroom drama captured in a series of valuable reproduceable prints and all yours for the one low price of……but wait,there is more,much more to be had. If you wait you can double your order and include the Tundra Tart being led off to the looney bin in Chinese handcuffs. All for the low price of probation and time served. Makes one wonder what rewards these,uh,wonderful examples of public servants would have reaped if they plead innocent by reason of sanity? Well I enjoyed the art work and every thing else involved. Thanks a bunch AKM.

  14. Zyxomma says:

    Well, anyway, the era of THESE corrupt bastards came to an end.

    In light of the email shenanigans, oil wealth and the corruption and filth it always brings in its wake, Parnell siding with Pebble rather than the people and the salmon, Parnell siding with Prevo rather than looking out for the health of Alaska’s women and children, and I could go on and on but I won’t, I’ll just wish Alaska good luck electing honest officials, and voting the OTHER corrupt bastards, including SP 2.0, out of office. I mean that sincerely.

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