This from retired ADN editorial page editor Michael Carey. It's scheduled to run on the opinion pages tomorrow.
The FBI audio and video surveillance tapes of Vic Kohring may prove he is a criminal. Or maybe not. Let the jury decide.
But the tapes shown in open court - and now available on the ADN web site - are a revelation of character.
The Vic Kohring on tape with VECO executives Bill Allen and Rick Smith is incapable of adult conversation. He is a supplicant. Asking for money. Or a truck. Or a job for his nephew. Or, for God's sake, a hamburger. And always - always - for approval and sympathy.
Sometimes his search for approval is accompanied by bragging about his conservative pro-business beliefs. Sometimes his search for sympathy is accompanied by complaints about his health.
But in every conversation, Vic is a cloying mixture of neediness and manipulation. Vic's enemies - and some friends - have portrayed him as an air-headed innocent. He's not. He is blatantly calculating, if primitive, in attempting to satisfy his needs.
On the telephone or in the infamous Baranof 604, Vic follows a careful script that's an elevated form of pan handling. He starts with breezy ingratiating chatter, usually punctuated by recitations of how hard he is working, makes a few comments about the political scenes, and then reaches the nut of the call: Give me something.
If Vic Kohring could sing, his signature song would be The Temptations "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."
When Vic asks for help, for example the "loan" to pay off his credit card bill, he's also reciprocal. Hey fellas, anything I can do for you? I'll be your lobbyist. I'll influence other legislators. What do you need? For Vic Kohring, politeness is a form of currency. He seems to believe that by saying "Thank you" he has traded equally.
If Allen and Smith weren't trained psychologists, they were smart enough to understand Vic's haplessness and dependency. Hence Allen belief Vic will "kiss our ass."
How could a man like Vic Kohring rise so far in politics?
Well, give him credit: He campaigned relentlessly and repeatedly told his constituents what they wanted to hear about less government and lower taxes. Things like, in an ADN interview, ""The welfare situation is an area that's gotten way out of control. Too many freebies are taking away incentive, personal satisfaction and control of one's destiny."
And he certainly was polite.
He also was lucky. Vic always was in the majority while in the House of Representatives. If he had been in the minority, he would have remained a zealous conservative back-bencher of no consequence. As a long-serving member of the Republican majority, he could demand positions of influence.
His Republican colleagues made him chairman of the House Oil and Gas Committee. Then wouldn't send him the Petroleum Production Tax bill because they feared he would kill it.
Speaker John Harris and his colleagues should be ashamed of themselves. Vic Kohring shouldn't have been trusted to run anything, let alone the Oil and Gas Committee. I wouldn't trust him to pick up the ice cream for a church social. To buy it, he would have to bum money from a lobbyist.
As a legislator, Vic displayed minimal brain power and an unwillingness to learn. He mastered a few conservative slogans before he entered the Legislature and that was the extent of his knowledge. He was prepared to give the oil companies hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks because he self-righteously and piously believed oil industry good, government bad.
I have watched the Alaska Legislature for 40 years. Vic Kohring is the only lawmaker I have ever seen who learned nothing during his years of service. He was the same person the day he departed as the day he entered.
You might look at the FBI tapes of Vic Kohring in action and decide Vic doesn't belong in jail. But I don't think anybody, including Vic's lawyer John Henry Browne, could look at those tapes and conclude Vic Kohring ever belonged in the Alaska Legislature.