Vic Kohring is making a bid for the Wasilla City Council after a sabbatical in jail for political corruption. Vic concedes he made "mistakes" but blames others for the trouble he has seen. The prosecutors who brought flawed charges against him. Judge John Sedwick who tried his case and sentenced him after colluding with his wife, Deborah, allegedly a political enemy. The Alaska media, which refuses to acknowledge the injustices Vic has suffered and continues to misunderstand him.
Listening to the former seven-term House member, you would think he is the man who put the vic in victim.
I will let the prosecutors, the Sedwicks and other members of the media speak for themselves if they wish. But I am going to say, for myself, after watching Vic Kohring in the Legislature and on trial, I do understand him.
I understand that beneath Vic's artfully crafted veneer of sincerity, humility, and Boy Scout earnestness lies the heart of a mooch. I start humming Cab Calloway's classic "Minnie the Moocher" whenever he appears.
As a legislator, Vic lived in his capitol office and bummed meals from lobbyists. A lobbyist told me that when he saw Vic on the streets of Juneau he fled rather than face "Hey, how 'bout dinner?" On one of the infamous FBI tapes of Vic's co-conspirator Bill Allen, recorded in room 604 of the Baranof Hotel, Allen's assistant, Rick Smith, says "Vic's coming over" to which House Speaker Pete Kott, noting the approaching dining hour, replies "Must be hungry."
In "Minnie the Moocher" Cab Calloway croons of Minnie "She had a dream about the King of Sweden/He gave her things that she was needin.' "
Allen was King of Sweden to Vic who was "needin'" help with credit card bills, family expenses and other costs incurred during everyday life. Vic's lengthy tenure in the Alaska Legislature made him a mooch on the installment plan. Not that Allen always came through for him. But it's apparent Vic could count on Allen for a meal - or at least a graze through the candy bowl in 604 -- and a wealthy businessman's spare change. At Vic's trial, Rick Smith testified that on Feb. 23, 2006 Allen gave Vic $1,000. The money was a bribe "necessary to keep Vic on board on political issues," in Smith's words. The bribe took place in a restaurant - where Allen, who had invited Vic to dinner, paid the check. (Smith further testified that he could not remember Vic ever picking up a check.)
Yet when prosecutors asked Allen about his relationship with Vic, the VECO chieftain said that while he used him to advance his political agenda he felt sorry for him. Vic counts on people feeling sorry for him. That's why his Republican House colleagues allowed him to live in his office. They should have known camping in your office is abuse of office, but it's hard to say no to Vic when he approaches you as a sad-eyed supplicant with tale of woe. Turn him down and you feel like you kicked a puppy down the basement stairs.
Come October 1, Wasilla voters will find 58 year-old Vic on their municipal ballot. Listing his most recent occupation as "prisoner" should have destroyed his candidacy, but perhaps the good people of Wasilla are a forgiving sort. If so, I would advise them to forgive Vic without voting for him. Wasilla doesn't need a moocher incapable of taking care of himself mucking about as an elected official.
Essayist and literary critic Simon Leys reminds us "What people believe is essentially what they wish to believe. They cultivate illusions out of idealism -- and also out of cynicism."
The gap between Vic's sterling self image -- conservative political warrior -- and his dismal reality -- panhandler as politician -- is the product of self-delusion. Vic Kohring is incapable of seeing himself as he is, and so, with noble words about smaller government, lower taxes and individual responsibility on his lips, he has returned to the public stage in search of lunch.
Michael Carey is the former editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By MICHAEL CAREY