3 Current, Ex-Alaska Lawmakers Arrested

Alaska Rep. Victor Kohring, R-Wasilla, is led into the Federal Court Room for arraignment in Juneau, Alaska on Friday, May 4, 2007.
AP Photo/Chris Miller
One current and two former Alaska legislators pleaded not guilty Friday to charges they accepted bribes — including cash and a job offer in Barbados for one man — to support legislation for an oil services company.

Rep. Victor Kohring of Wasilla, Pete Kott of Eagle River and Bruce Weyhrauch of Juneau, all Republicans, were arrested Friday.

Prosecutors allege the scheme unfolded as lawmakers weighed a new petroleum profits tax structure and a new contract for a natural gas pipeline last year.

Kott explicitly linked his support of the pipeline and the company's preferred version of the tax proposal to benefits during a teleconference with company officials, according to the indictment.

"You'll get your gas line, the governor gets his bill, and I'll get my job in Barbados," he told company executives, the indictment states.

The tax passed, but the contract for the pipeline negotiated by former Gov. Frank Murkowski was never approved.

The indictment does not name the company, but an attorney for VECO Corp. said it was the company involved.

Kott is accused of accepting $8,993 in payments, $2,750 in polling expenses and a future contract as a lobbyist in exchange for his support of the pipeline and a tax proposal that favored the company, according to court documents.

Kohring is accused of demanding and accepting up to $2,600 in cash and a $3,000 job for a relative from VECO executives in exchange for his support. The indictment also alleges Kohring sought but did not receive a $17,000 loan for credit card debt.

Weyhrauch is charged with helping advance the oil service company's causes in exchange for the promise of legal work in the future for the company, the indictment said.

FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said the arrests stemmed from an investigation that led federal agents last summer to raid the offices of at least six lawmakers, including Kott and Weyhrauch.

Amy Menard, an attorney representing VECO in the investigation, told The Associated Press that the Anchorage-based corporation has turned over more than 100,000 pages of documents to the government, she said.

"VECO has been cooperating since day one, since it learned of the investigation. The government has indicated to the company that it is satisfied with the cooperation and is looking forward to continued cooperation," she said.

Kott's son, Peter Kott Jr., declined comment when reached at the family's Eagle River business. Weyhrauch's attorney Doug Pope and Kott's attorney James Wendt declined to comment on the case.

John Henry Browne, an attorney for Kohring, said the lawmaker plans to fight the charges.

"He has a good deal of faith in the system," Browne said.

Weyhrauch did not run for re-election to his house seat in November. Kott, a former House speaker, lost a bid to retain his seat in the August primary. It was not clear Friday if they ever took the jobs they were allegedly promised after they left the Legislature; however, Kott is not a registered lobbyist.

Kohring was charged with extortion, attempted extortion, bribery and conspiracy. Kott and Weyhrauch each face four counts, including extortion, bribery and wire or mail fraud.

A combined trial for Kott and Weyhrauch was set for July 9 in Anchorage. A trial date was not set for Kohring. If convicted of all charges, each of the men could face up to 55 tears in prison and a $1 million fine. All were to be released Friday on $20,000 bonds.