Editor's note: A version of the following commentary was first featured in Make-A-Scene, a monthly community publication serving readers in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. It is the ninth installment in a series through which Mr. Kohring intends to tell his own side of the federal probe of public corruption in Alaska.
When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for my release from prison after it was revealed government prosecutors hoodwinked me by deliberately concealing reams of evidence, I still wasn't sure how the public would react when I returned home to Alaska from the California desert. At first I was reluctant to show my face in public, thinking I might be treated with contempt even though the evidence showed my trial to be a sham. I thought perhaps some people were not aware of the new developments in my favor. I actually contemplated moving out of state with a new name and identity to begin a whole new life. But once I settled down and tested the waters by going back out in public, I was pleased to discover the vast majority welcomed me back with open arms. It was truly remarkable. Almost like a reunion. The experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Oddly enough, the support currently appears greater than I've ever witnessed, even while in office before my legal fiasco began when times were good.
People feel genuine sorrow for the suffering I experienced, which touches my heart. And sympathy, knowing what happened to Ted Stevens and myself and how our cases are so similar. We were both targeted by the exact same group of prosecutors who committed the same egregious acts by hiding crucial evidence. Several times a week, I'm approached by folks who say they feel awful about this, that the whole situation was unwarranted and that most important, they still believe in me. The one word I hear most is that I was "railroaded." They're right. Many offer prayers, which is most gratifying and meaningful. I even hear Biblical comparisons such as Job and the suffering he endured, only to later be blessed by God many times over. I've also kept track of those I meet. The list is long -- in the hundreds.
Many have asked that I run for office again and say they would vote for me. Incredible. When I sought election in past years, I usually had a good sense of how people viewed me in terms of likely support and votes, enabling me to fairly accurately predict the outcome of an election. I based this sense mostly on my personal communications with folks. I'm pleased to say that the current sentiments are so positive, that I'm convinced my prospects of winning elective office again if I tried, are realistic. I'm certainly open to that possibility, but whether it's in my future or not and whether it's right for my family remains to be seen. It may or may not happen depending on the extent of those who wish that I re-enter public service.
The relative few who've turned away and no longer support me are mostly my former politician colleagues in the legislature. No surprise as I was warned that once you're out of office and no longer in a position of influence, most if not all of your political "friends" will turn their back and forget you. For many of them, it's now, "Vic who?" So regardless of my legal situation, the fact that the government cheated after placing a bull's-eye on my back and coming at me with all barrels blazing, these politicians have all but dropped out of sight. Despite this, I'm still pleased to report that many, many folks outside the political arena are still in my corner. People I value far more, frankly. So it bothers me little.
Since that infamous day in August 2006 when a swarm of armed FBI agents raided my legislative offices, much of the press tried mightily to destroy me with disingenuous reporting during the years I've defended myself. They did their best to try and convict me before I set one foot in court with stories filled with half-truths, incomplete and at times outright false reporting, making the government look stellar while casting me no better than a serial killer on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. So I was not only fighting the Feds, but also the largely pro-government press who took advantage of my legal woes by working overtime in an orchestrated effort to grind me into obscurity.
For example, they made sure the world repeatedly saw the supposedly "iconic" video footage of me receiving $100 in Easter egg money for my step-daughter Anna from Veco CEO Bill Allen in the infamous Suite 604 of the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, suggesting it represented some huge, ugly act of bribery, when in reality it was just a small gift from a friend with honest intentions. Nothing iniquitous or criminal. The media's non-stop, incestuous reporting went on almost daily, compounding and building to a crescendo by the trial's opening day, making it near impossible to seat an unbiased jury who hadn't heard of my case and didn't perceive me negatively.
Many unfortunately view most media superficially and don't recognize the manipulative way they can be. Aside from their bias from slanted "news" coverage, often times newspapers are subtle through words in a headline or caption under a photo, or even how a photo is presented. The public can be unsuspecting and often believe what they read, unaware that their thinking is sometimes influenced with political dribble that fills people's minds, even as part of an indoctrination. It sounds almost unbelievable, but it's true.
People such as Bob Poole, Steve Stoll, Carla Hollsworth, Don Hundorf, Dave Clark, the Buswell family, the Mormiles, Stoffels and so many others too numerous to mention, have approached me to offer personal words of support and encouragement. It happens almost daily, at Carrs, Fred Meyer, Home Depot, the bank, while filling up with gas. I thank all of you. I wish to acknowledge everyone, but the hundreds of names would take up several pages to include here. Those mentioned are but a few who've conveyed kind, supportive words. I've even had folks stop and pray for me on the spot. Right out in the open and in front of lots of people, which is great as I'm unabashed about my Christian faith. Even past political opponents have offered gracious words. Wasilla City Council member Colleen Sullivan Leonard who ran a strong race against me in the Republican primary one year, expressed supportive words. Legislative candidate Mark Ewing, once an ardent political foe who led a signature drive in an attempt to force me out office in 2007 before my unfortunate resignation, I've been told has spoken very kindly of me in recent months. I'm grateful to everyone. I feel truly blessed.
As vigorously as the press worked to ruin me as they tag-teamed with the government, the fact is most people are astute enough to see through the rubbish and recognize I've been shafted by the prosecutors. I may have screwed up a little with my ethical lapse when accepting Bill Allen's gifts for my step-daughter six years ago while debating gasline legislation, as human and imperfect as I am. But there was never an intent to commit a crime. The government's charges were huge overkill in its overzealous attempt to nail an elected official. Criminal activity is not a part of my thinking or even in my DNA. People know that. Even if most folks don't have all the details of what went on and haven't had time to carefully examine the facts, they still sense and recognize that I was abused by the government and denied my constitutional right of due process and a fair trial. They're absolutely right. Despite the media's unilateral war waged against me these last several years with its incessant, mostly derogatory reporting, what do they have to show for it? A community that largely still supports me -- even more now than before as many correctly see me as having been victimized, not only by our corrupt Department of "Justice" in Washington, D.C., but by their accomplices in the press. Instead of killing me off (politically), I'm rising above all of this as a "Phoenix" with renewed hope and energy for the future!
I wish to express my deep appreciation to all of you who've stood by me through these difficult years, believed in me and continued to support me. It has made all of this more bearable and easier to get back on my feet and move forward with my life. I sincerely thank you. May God bless you.
Vic Kohring represented Wasilla, Chugiak and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley in the Alaska House of Representatives. He was first elected in 1994 and resigned in 2007. He can be reached on Facebook. His blog is available at www.simplesite.com/vickohring.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.