Friday, June 08, 2007

Indicted Alaska State Representative Vic Kohring May Announce Resignation As Early As June 19th

Indicted Alaska State Representative Vic Kohring (R-Wasilla) may announce his resignation from the State House as early as June 19th, according to a June 8th report in the Anchorage Daily News. This post combines this story with others and summarizes them. The KTUU photo at left probably best reflects his present state of mind.

Kohring said he will announce his decision at the Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce weekly luncheon on June 19th, one week before the Legislature will hold a special session in Anchorage to review funding for the state's SeniorCare program. "It's important for me to make the announcement before my constituents," Kohring told The Associated Press. "To do that, it's best for it to be at the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce in front of a diverse group of folks."

Kohring reportedly has also informed Governor Sarah Palin that he may resign, and will also meet with House Speaker John Harris (R-Valdez) next Tuesday (June 12th) to discuss his options.

Pressure on Kohring to resign has been mounting since his May indictment, along with that of former lawmakers Pete Kott and Bruce Weyhrauch, on Federal charges of bribery and extortion related to the oil production tax passed in 2006. Not only has Governor Palin asked him to resign, but Speaker Harris, along with fellow lawmaker Ralph Samuels (R-Anchorage), have been applying pressure behind the scenes to promote Kohring's resignation. The Anchorage Daily News (ADN), Alaska's most powerful and influential newspaper, has editorially called for his resignation. Locally, Wasilla City Council Member Mark Ewing has launched a campaign to recall Kohring. Two recent polls, one conducted by KTUU and another by Ivan Moore, show that as many as 90% of respondents want Kohring to resign. However, in a brief interview with ADN reporter Kyle Hopkins on June 5th, Kohring insists most of his constituents still support him.

Furthermore, his ability to represent his district, House District 14, has already been degraded. During a recent House vote on Governor Palin's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA), which passed and which Palin signed into law, Kohring recused himself on the advice of influential lawmaker Beth Kertulla (D-Juneau). Kohring had earlier resigned as chairman of the House Oil & Gas Committee.

Up until now, Kohring has refused to resign, saying resigning would not serve his constituents. He's working during the interim and attended the House Resources Committee meeting on Thursday (June 7th) in Anchorage. He claims he still receives support from constituents, but he also understands the pressures on him to resign. "If I decided to stay, I'm in for major battles on my hand with the recall and other issues," he said. "I hate to be boxed in a situation, but I can see there is no easy way out."

The Federal case against Kohring is becoming more complex. Already, Kohring's lawyer, John Henry Browne, successfully obtained a change in the trial date from July 9th to October 22nd to allow sufficient time for defense counsel to review over 9,000 pages of documents and hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings taken over a nine month period. This alone tends to buttress claims that Kohring will be too preoccupied with his own defense to tend properly to his constituents.

Click HERE to view the entire 18-page indictment in PDF format.

Kohring is paying a high financial price, too. On May 29th, in another interview with ADN reporter Kyle Hopkins, Kohring disclosed that he sold his Wasilla home and is considering selling his Oregon home to help pay for legal expenses expected to reach $100,000. In the same interview, one commenter cynically speculated on the possibility that Kohring may be delaying his resignation until after he gets neck surgery, so that the insurance which covers him as a lawmaker would pay for it. However, this would seem to fly in the face of Kohring's remarks.

Commentary: I predict that Vic Kohring will announce his resignation on June 19th, although it may take effect at a later date. The correlation of forces against him are too great. I don't see how he can resist pressure from the media, his fellow lawmakers, and even a growing number of his own constituents. And if he ends up facing an actual recall election, Alaska campaign law bans him from using existing campaign funds to pay for it - he would have to raise new funds. The possibility of new campaign contributions to help him win a recall election seems remote.

The resignation issue has nothing to do with the presumption of innocence in the criminal case, which remains preserved. Instead, it has everything to do with effectiveness as a lawmaker. When a lawmaker loses the confidence of his peers and constituents, the integrity of his stewardship becomes irreparably compromised at that point. Elective office is not just merely a job - it's a calling. An elected official is being trusted with the people's money. And when a lawmaker is indicted for selling his vote to the highest bidder, for considering one group's money more important than the rest, that trust has been compromised even before one has been proven guilty in a court of law.

However, to keep the issue in perspective, it would be an exaggeration to call Vic Kohring a "crook". Unlike U.S. Representative William Jefferson (D-Louisiana), who has established a persistent pattern of recurring corruption and graft, Kohring has heretofore been clean as a hound's tooth. This distinction needs to be considered. And, unlike the Jefferson case, where the Congressional Black Caucus is whitewashing Jefferson's sordid record solely for racial solidarity, Kohring's mostly-white colleagues are calling Kohring to account. This reflects a continuing major difference between the races not only in America, but in other nations like Rhodesia and South Africa. Black leadership tends to excuse the failures by blaming them on "racism", "profiling", "colonialism", or on Whitey in general. And while white leadership is not immune from corruption, corrupt white leaders are more frequently prone to be called to account by their peers and the community in general. And an article posted today on the National Alliance News website provides us yet another reminder as to which other group likes to make excuses for misbehavior by non-whites.

Nevertheless, the question about Kohring's resignation should only be determined by one factor - can he continue to represent his constituents effectively. Regrettably, the answer appears to be "No". And the sad part - we will lose one of the few legislative advocates for smaller, less intrusive government when he goes.

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