INTRODUCTION by Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO:
Today’s Republican Party is struggling for its identity. Bigotry, hatred, and xenophobia fueled by presidential hopefuls is moving the party further away from the Lincoln ideal expressed in his 1858 “A House Divided” speech. Just as the national Republican Party needs to figure out what to do about their presidential nomination problem, the Washington State Republican Party needs to decide what to do about Rep. Matt Shea who, as David Groves documents in this column, advocates on behalf of domestic separatist and terrorist groups engaged in criminal activity.
By DAVID GROVES
OLYMPIA (March 21, 2016) — A few years back, a Democratic state legislator was disciplined by the Legislative Ethics Board for sending a letter that urged an employer to negotiate in good faith with a union. Apparently, using her official stationery to ask an employer to follow the law merited a slap on the wrist.
What then are we to make of the fact that Washington State Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) has never run afoul of the Legislative Ethics Board?
Here’s a guy whose rap sheet of illegal, inappropriate and embarrassing behavior includes posting creepy Facebook pictures of himself standing in a female political opponent’s driveway; displaying a gun, for which he had no permit, in a road-rage incident; and actively supporting the 2014 armed protest in Arizona on behalf of “Deadbeat on the Range” Cliven Bundy, where participants trained their weapons on public employees who were just trying to do their jobs.
Now we learn from a new Oregon Public Broadcasting report that, immediately prior to this year’s legislative session, Rep. Shea was actively supporting Ammon Bundy and his band of armed occupiers at the federal Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Shea reportedly led a group of state legislators in negotiating with local and federal law enforcement officials on the occupiers’ behalf, ignored law enforcement officials’ requests not to visit with and “embolden” the occupiers, and shared tactical information from that meeting with the occupiers.
Let that sink in for a second. According to this report, Rep. Matt Shea — who told his local paper he was merely on a “fact-finding trip” to the Oregon standoff as a private citizen — actually intervened on behalf of armed occupiers of federal land. A Republican legislator from Washington state was assisting rabid anti-government extremists actively engaged in criminal activity.
After a month-long standoff, the occupiers were arrested. One of them was shot and killed in the process. The rest now face up to life in prison on federal charges that include the use of firearms in relation to a crime of violence on federal property, conspiring to impede federal officers from doing their work, possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in a federal facility, and theft of government property.
Back in January, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich questioned Shea regarding his trip to the Oregon standoff and his apparent disobeying of the FBI and local law enforcement’s requests not to visit the occupiers. The sheriff came away saying, “I just can’t fathom it.”
And that was back when Shea was passing his questionable actions off as fact-finding. Now, there’s a report that he actually negotiated on the armed occupiers’ behalf and shared tactical information to help them.
Absent any federal charges against Shea and his band of “fact-finders,” there does not appear to be any ethics violation in Washington state law (RCW 42.52) that would apply to a legislator associating with and possibly aiding in criminal activity of this kind. He attended as a private citizen, sought no state reimbursement for expenses related to this extra-legislative activity, and as far as we know, didn’t use his official stationery at any time. (Although it’s fair to ask, as a simple “private citizen,” how Shea had the standing to meet with local and federal law enforcement officials in the matter.)
So don’t hold your breath awaiting any ethics investigation, discipline or accountability for this embarrassment of a legislator. That is, unless the Republican Party decides to stop turning a blind eye to the crazy, indefensible actions of its own.
(Spokane) Spokesman Review columnist Shawn Vestal pointed this out back in 2014, long before Shea’s latest antics. In a district that keeps re-electing him simply because he has an “R” next to his name, “if Shea needs to be held accountable, it’s the GOP that needs to do the holding,” Vestal wrote, adding:
“There is a palpable embarrassment about Shea among his party. Many Republicans will tell you what they really think about him in private, and it can be blistering. Few will dare to say one word about him publicly.”
Now that there are reports that Rep. Matt Shea aided and abetted domestic terrorists, one wonders if any Republicans in Washington state will muster the courage to call him out.
David Groves is Editor of The Stand.