Today federal Judge John Sedgwick sentenced former House Speaker of the House Pete Kott to 6 years in jail, 3 years probation, a $10,000 fine, and post-sentence treatment for alcohol abuse. A federal jury in September 2007 convicted Pete Kott of bribery, conspiracy and extortion for his role in advocating an oil tax pushed by VECO Corp.
PERSONAL NOTE: In January 2004, then Speaker of the House Pete Kott instructed our caucus to vote a certain way on the Longevity Bonus, pointed to me, and commanded, “That means you too Lynn”! After I voted opposite to the improper order of Speaker Kott on the House floor, Kott informed me, “Bob, if you want to succeed, you’re going to have to learn to follow rules.”
Obviously, Pete Kott didn’t follow his own advice.
Following is from an ”Alaska Politics” audio of Judge John Sedwick December 7th pre-sentencing remarks, transcribed from the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska.
TRANSCRIPT: “What we have here is an offense that has caused the entirety of the population of this district, and a few kibitzers from Outside, to question the integrity
of the very political system here in Alaska. The code of behavior in which Mr. Kott indulged is the kind of behavior that causes all of us to wonder what really does go on in Juneau. How many other people are there out there that may have behaved like Mr. Kott? Maybe as Mr. Kott has said, in his heart of hearts he thought he was serving the interests of the public because he believed that a particular piece of legislation was going to get the gas pipeline built. But whether that’s right or not is a political judgment that needs to be made by the members of the legislature in an environment free of influence peddling by people like Bill Allen.
Bill Allen of VECO had a particular view, and whether that view is correct or not is correct is not for me to say, but it is clear their view was driven by greed. Bill Allen had a very successful company. He wanted it to be more successful. He knew that to do that he needed to create favor with his best customers and to do that he needed to do their bidding. And so it was that Mr. Allen and Mr. Kott effectively agreed to do the bidding of those customers rather than the public’s work.
This isn’t to say, one way or another, whether the 20-20 (tax) was the best piece of legislation that could have been passed. I have no way of knowing that. But what I do know is that the decision should have been made by sixty people in Juneau exercising good faith to the best of their ability rendering a decision on the merits - not a decision colored by the illicit overtures by someone like Mr. Allen
So this was really a very serious crime. I don’t know how much money it might have been worth to the state. I don’t even know if we are better off with the legislation we have now than we would have been with 20-20. How can I possibly say? That’s a matter far beyond the grasp of this court.
What is clear is that the amount of money involved, one way or the other, was indeed hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars So yes, this is an unusual public bribery case because what was at stake was of interest to every member of the public in Alaska - everybody that cashes a permanent fund dividend check, and everybody that cares about integrity in the public process.
Now in regards to the history and characteristics of the defendant: it’s really quite surprising that some with all plusses on the ledger that Mr. Kott has stands before the court convicted of the crimes which he committed. He did have a career in the Air Force. I, among many others, admire people who do dedicate themselves to such careers - because it’s only by the service of those who are in the military that the rest of us enjoy the freedoms we all have here in this country.
But it needs to be remembered that Mr. Kott’s service, like that of others in the armed service, is rendered so that we can live in a society that is free and democratic, and where our elected representatives can do the peoples business in the peoples interest. And so all those 22 years he put in defending our opportunity to have that kind of political process came to naught, when Mr. Kott himself insisted the decision whether or not to continue to honor that process (was his) - because instead he threw in and joined with those who had corrupted.
I need to impose a sentence that is sufficient to deter similar behavior others . . . . I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say that Mr. Allen was able to seduce Mr. Kott. Mr. Kott is a man of the world with considerable experience going for him. But I do think its worth recognizing that there are always people, often people with a lot of money who, if they possess the right personality, can somehow overcome the best judgment those who have the world experience like that Mr. Kott has.
In other words, we really do need to stiffen up some backbones here so that people understand that no matte how alluring or how much their being around someone, they need to put their priorities in order and serve the public that elects them first, rather than people who have become their close friends . . . . I need impose a sentence that will protect the community from criminal conduct by Mr. Kott himself. . . . "