An embattled state legislator accused of participating in “domestic terrorism” against the United States will preside over one of the Clark County Republican Party’s premier events.
Earl Bowerman, county GOP chair, said he decided about a week ago to invite Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, to be master of ceremonies for the April 25 Lincoln Day Gala and Auction, at ilani on the Cowlitz Indian Reservation.
A 108-page investigative report released in December concluded that Shea participated in and planned domestic terrorism incidents, including the 40-day takeover and standoff at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.
Criminal charges have not been filed against Shea, although the report has been forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI.
Following the report’s release, House Republican leaders suspended Shea from their caucus, stripped him of committee assignments, took his name and photo off their website, houserepublicans.wa.gov, and moved his seat to the back row of the House floor.
House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, and House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, have called on Shea to resign. There have been discussions whether there would be enough House votes to reach a two-thirds majority needed to expel Shea, something that has happened only once in Washington’s history.
The Spokesman-Review reported Thursday that a letter is circulating among House members calling for Jinkins and Wilcox to begin the process to expel Shea. The Spokane paper reported Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, and Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Ballard, drafted the letter and placed it on every legislator’s desk Thursday, causing Democrats and Republicans to go into immediate caucuses to discuss the letter.
Bowerman said Shea’s case was discussed “ad nauseam” last month during a state Republican meeting in Yakima.
“Wilcox emphasized a number of times that Matt Shea is suspended,” Bowerman said. “He gets his full pay, he gets to vote. … He still represents the Spokane area fully.”
Democrats want to pick up more legislative seats by trying to pin the Shea controversy on Republicans, he said.
“He has not been charged with any criminal activity,” he said. “The Republicans state openly that this is a one-sided, biased report.”
Rampart Group’s report
The House commissioned an investigation by the Rampart Group, a Seattle firm whose owner and CEO is a former FBI agent.
Shea, a six-term representative, opted not to talk to the Rampart Group’s investigators. Since the report’s release, he has denounced the document as false and a “Marxist smear campaign.”
Shea also has rejected calls for his resignation and said he intends to run for re-election to his 4th Legislative District seat this year.
The report, under a section titled “Risk Assessment,” accuses Shea of “irresponsible and possibly illegal activities.”
“It is more probable than not that Representative Shea is likely to plan, direct and engage in additional future conflicts that could carry with them significant risk of bloodshed and loss of life,” the report says. “Representative Shea presents a present and growing threat of risk to others through political violence.”
March 16 resolution
County Republicans appear to believe that Shea has been unfairly tarnished.
The Clark County Republican Party’s Executive Board has drafted a resolution that “demands” House Republicans reinstate Shea to their caucus, Bowerman said, adding that the resolution will be presented to the party’s precinct committee officers for possible adoption on March 16.
“My personal belief is that the Republicans made a mistake when they kicked him out of the caucus,” he said.
Shea’s role as master of ceremonies for the Lincoln Day event is posted prominently on the home page of the local GOP’s website, clarkrepublicans.org.
Bowerman said there has been little, if any, push-back.
“One person asked something about it, but that was about it,” he said. “So there has been no uprising, if that is what you are asking. But there is a lot of people saying, ‘Hurray.’ ”