A "Phoenix" Rising

From the Ashes

By Vic Kohring, October 8, 2012 

As a guest on the TV program "Alaska Political Insider" earlier this year, host Dorene Lorenz observed that I was like a "Phoenix" rising up after my personal disaster of the last several years. A Phoenix of course is a symbol of rebirth and renewal. It also symbolizes someone "rising from the ashes."

I was struck by this analogy as it never occurred to me. I've seen myself as having hit rock bottom and in survival mode since the horrible days when the government railroaded me into a loss at trial. Then it was the U.S. Marshal's hauling me off to prison in shackles. Since those dark days, I've been fighting a lonely battle to rebuild my good name and get reestablished in the community. I wish to report things are looking up. 

I never cease to be amazed at the strong show of support. Of course not everyone backs me, as in politics there's never a shortage of opponents. But the percentage of those who continue to express kind, supportive words is remarkable and uplifting. It inspires me to forge ahead. When I have moments of reflection from my worst days, someone always comes along and boosts my spirits with a nice greetings and firm handshake which reminds me I'm not alone and folks are still in my corner and haven't forgotten. It's very heartening, even though it has been over six years since my legal odyssey began.

My experiences seem to have burned a lasting impression in the minds of lots of people, many of whom are upset about my shoddy treatment by the Feds. One dear lady wrote me this week and said, "That whole thing made me so angry. I kept telling folks that it would come out to show you were innocent sooner or later. Little did we know the evil that was involved." Others have expressed similar sentiments.

People often ask: What are your future plans? Many ask that I run for elective office again, that they miss not having strong, principled conservatives representing them, but mostly someone in office who actually listens and is one of "them." I always tried my best to be a good public servant, but will let others be the judge. I'm flattered and think that maybe the long hours, days and months of dedication to my constituents over the years was noticed and paid off. I feel as if I aged two years for every one I was in office, but the sacrifice was worth it.  

As to my future plans, my priority is my family. My elderly folks need my help, so naturally and without hesitation I'm here for them. I consider it my life's highest honor. They've always been there for me, so I want to help them in their time of need and make their golden years comfortable. Most anyone would do the same for their parents. I've been squeezing in time writing a book manuscript of my legal and legislative experiences. More publications will hopefully follow.

I'm also working on obtaining ministry credentials, something I've wanted to do well before I ever ran for the legislature. As a kid, I used to dream of being a missionary in Russia. I hope to become licensed and ordained and get involved in a church ministry in some capacity. Another ambition is to continue my education. Twenty five years ago as a graduate student, I began a doctoral program but never completed it as work and paying bills got in the way. Perhaps someday. So my plate is full.

In response to those who wish that I run for office again, all I can say is I'm honored and grateful for your confidence and will see where life takes me - where I may possibly fit in. I've never been the politically ambitious type and was even pushed by friends into running for the Alaska Legislature during my first campaign in 1994. I'll leave it up to God to guide me and see what doors are opened.  

While attending Dimond High in Anchorage many years ago where I played basketball, coach Clay Dluehosh, a brilliant strategist and tactician, used to drill in our heads the importance of a positive attitude. "PMA" as he called it, or positive mental attitude, was constantly stressed, which I mostly attribute to our winning the state title my senior year, 1976. We overcame adversity to win at the end when it most counted.

PMA is something I've learned to integrate into my life from which I benefit to this day, decades later. It's what got me through the terrible moment of hearing the word "guilty" in court while the truth was suppressed by cheating prosecutors. It's what enabled me to face an angry, vengeful judge at sentencing. And it helped me endure the frightening uncertain first days of being locked up in prison, with the prospect of spending years behind bars until U.S. Attorney General Holder intervened and called for my early release after it was revealed prosecutors illegally concealed evidence which would have exonerated me at trial. 

It is my faith in God that has sustained me too. Some have ridiculed me by claiming I suddenly turned to God when my legal troubles began and was threatened by the government with over a half century in prison for the terrible "crime" of accepting a $100 gift from former friend and oil company CEO Bill Allen to buy my little step-daughter an Easter basket and eggs. This was the central issue which the government twisted and blew out of proportion with four ludicrous charges in their zeal to nail a politician.

Lots of people indeed turn to God when faced with serious life troubles, which is a good thing as otherwise they may never do so. But in my case, I was a Christian for many years before all of this happened. I just didn't wear it on my sleeve as with lots of politicians. Many in the legislature practically shout from the rooftops that "Hey world, please notice I'm a Christian," as if to win the religious vote and appease those of faith. I've even witnessed the typical mad scramble of politicians stumbling over each other trying to be the one selected to deliver the day's opening prayer on the House and Senate Floors in front of rolling television cameras. It's downright silly.

I preferred to quietly live my life as a Christian and let people decide for themselves who I am and what's in my heart, without pushing it. For the record, I was "saved" and accepted Christ into my life in June 1965 at the old Sunny Knik Bible Camp on Knik Lake outside Wasilla as a six year old. Years later as an adult, I was baptized at the Anchorage Baptist Temple - my expression to the world of my faith. I consider my commitment to God as most important in my life. Family is a very close second. 

I have lots of reasons to feel great sadness, but refuse to go down the road of despair. I could mope over being devastated financially and on the verge of bankruptcy to this day and living hand-to-mouth because my legal expenses were extraordinary and every dollar to my name sapped. I continue to have major debts from the fiasco which I'll carry for a long time to come. 

I could feel bummed over my beautiful, foreign-born wife leaving me out of fear that the FBI would falsely accuse her as they did me and kick her out of the country (we remain on excellent terms by the way), so she felt it best to maintain her distance, right or wrong. When FBI thugs arrive at the door-step of a legal immigrant and U.S. citizen who vividly remembers the days of the notorious Russian KGB, it can be very intimidating. I could stress over the thought of being stripped of my livelihood and career I dedicated to building for over 20 years.

I could stew over the government prosecutors committing illegal acts by hiding evidence during my trial along with a compliant judge who refused to step down despite his wife being my biggest political adversary in Juneau. It's enough to drive a man crazy if you dwell on these kinds of things too much and let it get to you. It would not be productive to waste my life and fritter away valuable time thinking about it, at least too much.

I'm writing to document my experiences and to hold those accountable who did me wrong through my words. It's like opening the valve on a pressure cooker, a good stress release and getting things off my chest. Aside from this, I'm reaching deep down, relying on God for inner strength and pulling myself up by the bootstraps. I'm also working hard to forgive those who've deliberately harmed me, no matter how egregious. I'm prepared to forgive over time, but will never forget. 

Given my aspirations and plans for the future, brooding and feeling sorry for myself is not an option. While my life may have been devastated, it's by no means over. Instead, I'm philosophic and realize it's time to move on. I look forward to the months and years ahead with great optimism and excitement. I see many good years before me. Life is short and I intend to make the best of it and live it to the fullest and thrive.

What happened to me was only a snapshot in time, a blink of the eye in the big picture and something I can't go back and change. I would be thrilled if my experiences and striving to rise above it all serves as an inspiration to others. Even as a witness to my faith. Things are moving forward in a positive way and the future looks bright. 

I hope to see many more of you in and about the community. If you spot me walking around, please say hello. I tower over most, so I'm hard to miss! You can also reach me at vkohring@gmail.com and on Facebook. It would be great to hear from you. It has been a pleasure writing my monthly column these past twelve months about my legal and legislative experiences. I wish to publicly thank Josh and Briony Fryfogle of Make-A-Scene Alaska for the opportunity to express my views in these pages. Also, please watch for my book, which hopefully will be published in the near future.

It was my honor serving you during my years in office. Wasilla, Alaska and the Matanuska Valley is a wonderful place to live. Thank you again for your support and may God bless you and your family.