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Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Matt Shea is leaving the Legislature. Are his wings clipped, or is he now unrestrained?

One of the most notable imme­di­ate out­comes of this week’s can­di­date fil­ing in Wash­ing­ton state was the absence of mil­i­tant Matt Shea of Spokane Val­ley, who has occu­pied a posi­tion in the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture for over a decade.

Before his first elec­tion, Shea was a co-founder and direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion, a zeal­ous right wing advo­ca­cy group that merged with the Fam­i­ly Pol­i­cy Insti­tute of Wash­ing­ton, which is an affil­i­ate Focus on the Fam­i­ly, the Fam­i­ly Research Insti­tute and the Alliance Defense Fund, all focused on pol­i­cy and reli­gious lib­er­ty as per­ceived by rad­i­cal right wing Christians.

Start­ing in 2009, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shea became a peri­od­ic guest on Alex Jones’ Infowars, and fur­ther cul­ti­vat­ed his rela­tion­ships with the rad­i­cal right through as many oth­er out­lets as possible.

As a result of these rela­tion­ships, he has both devel­oped a close rela­tion­ship with and is alleged­ly a mem­ber of both the Oath Keep­ers and Lib­er­ty for All III%.

In Novem­ber of 2011, he pulled a firearm from a glove com­part­ment dur­ing a con­fronta­tion with anoth­er motorist that was report­ed by the police lat­er as a road rage inci­dent. Shea was even­tu­al­ly charged with pos­ses­sion of a loaded firearm in a vehi­cle with­out a con­cealed weapon per­mit, which he had let expire.

He paid a fine and the charge was even­tu­al­ly dropped in return for hav­ing com­mit­ted no fur­ther crim­i­nal vio­la­tions over the course of a year.

Shea has pre­vi­ous­ly been accused of destruc­tive, unac­cept­able behav­ior – dur­ing divorce pro­ceed­ings from his first wife, which was grant­ed in Jan­u­ary of 2008, she request­ed mul­ti­ple restrain­ing orders because of alleged prob­lems with con­trol­ling his tem­per, and fur­ther alleged that he had been relieved of his weapon at one point while serv­ing in the mil­i­tary in Iraq.

In 2015, at a demon­stra­tion for gun rights on the steps of the Capi­tol, Shea declared that Ini­tia­tive 594, which required back­ground checks on pri­vate pur­chas­es of firearms, and which had been passed over­whelm­ing­ly by the vot­ers the pre­vi­ous Novem­ber, was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. He intro­duced leg­is­la­tion which would inval­i­date or sig­nif­i­cant­ly weak­en it, but each of his attempts failed.

In April of that same year, Matt Shea tried to twist to his advan­tage the fly­ing of the flag of the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na at the Capi­tol as a diplo­mat­ic cour­tesy when Chi­nese ambas­sador Cui Tiana­ka paid a cour­tesy call on Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

In August of that same year, at a demon­stra­tion against Planned Par­ent­hood in North Spokane, he said “There is no dif­fer­ence between Planned Par­ent­hood, and what Dr. Josef Men­gele did in Ger­many in the 1940s.”

To round out the year, he par­tic­i­pat­ed in a demon­stra­tion against a recog­ni­tion by the Spokane City Coun­cil of local Mus­lim con­tri­bu­tions to the com­mu­ni­ty, link­ing CAIR (the Coun­cil on Amer­i­­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions) to sharia law and its incom­pat­i­bil­i­ty with the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States.

2016 began with the occu­pa­tion of the Mal­heur Nation­al Wildlife Refuge and Shea’s inter­ven­tion and involve­ment in it, not the least of which, lat­er in the year, was pre­sent­ing par­tic­i­pant in the occu­pa­tion and con­tro­ver­sial local guns rights activist Antho­ny Bosworth with an annu­al Patri­ot of the Year award. (Shea was lat­er cleared of a result­ing ethics com­plaint for his inter­ven­tion in the occupation.)

It con­tin­ued with accu­sa­tions by Shea, which result­ed in a law­suit in 2017 that was even­tu­al­ly set­tled qui­et­ly in 2019, that the firearm of a deputy sher­iff with­in the office of Spokane Coun­ty Sher­iff Ozzie Kne­zovich had links to Roy Mur­ray, some­one who had recent­ly com­mit­ted a triple homicide.

It closed with Shea, McCaslin and Tay­lor re-ini­ti­at­ing a long called for effort to split Wash­ing­ton state in two and cre­ate the new state of Lib­er­ty. (The idea of a white nation­al­ist state made up of var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions of por­tions of Ida­ho, Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon and even Cal­i­for­nia has a long his­to­ry and very deep roots.)

On July 11th, 2018, James All­sup, a for­mer leader of the Col­lege Repub­li­cans at Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty, a par­tic­i­pant in the “Unite the Right” white suprema­cist ral­ly in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia in August of 2017, and some­one affil­i­at­ed with the white suprema­cist group Iden­ti­ty Evropa, gave a talk at a meet­ing of North­west Grass­roots, a con­ser­v­a­tive group close­ly affil­i­at­ed with Shea, which is at odds with more estab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans in the greater Spokane area.

The event even­tu­al­ly led to the res­ig­na­tion of Spokane Coun­ty Repub­li­can Chair Ceci­ly Wright, who ini­tial­ly defend­ed All­sup, and two oth­er mem­bers of their cen­tral com­mit­tee, Vitaliy Mak­ismov and Abi­gail Osborne.

In Octo­ber of 2018, Rolling Stone pub­lished an arti­cle regard­ing Matt Shea, pro­vid­ing him with nation­al exposure.

Also in late Octo­ber 2018, Shea was found to have dis­trib­uted a man­i­festo titled The Bib­li­cal Basis for War, which he ini­tial­ly declared was an out­line for a ser­mon regard­ing war dur­ing the peri­od of the Old Tes­ta­ment in the Bible.

It had been received by an indi­vid­ual in August and was even­tu­al­ly hand­ed over to the FBI by Sher­iff Kne­zovich, who made his opin­ions clear. “The doc­u­ment Mr. Shea wrote is not a Sun­day school project or an aca­d­e­m­ic study… It is a ‘how to’ man­u­al con­sis­tent with the ide­ol­o­gy and oper­at­ing phi­los­o­phy of the Chris­t­ian Identity/Aryan Nations move­ment and the Redoubt move­ment of the 1990s.”

(A sec­ond doc­u­ment, “Restora­tion,” focus­ing on how to cre­ate a new soci­ety after a cat­a­stroph­ic event, was made known in 2019 – Shea has not respond­ed to requests to affirm or deny the doc­u­ment as his.)

On Novem­ber 1st, 2018, the FBI opened an inves­ti­ga­tion regard­ing the first man­i­festo. On Novem­ber 26th, 2018, Shea was removed from his posi­tion as Repub­li­can House Cau­cus Chair.

In April of 2019, an arti­cle in The Guardian declared that Shea had tak­en part in a pri­vate inter­net chat in 2017, in response to fears of an “Antifa revolt” that nev­er hap­pened, with three known mem­bers of the local rad­i­cal right, dis­cussing sur­veil­lance, psy­cho­log­i­cal oper­a­tions (“psy­ops”) and vio­lent attacks on local indi­vid­u­als they con­sid­ered dangerous.

One of the par­tic­i­pants in the chat was Antho­ny Bosworth. Shea did not dis­suade the oth­er par­tic­i­pants from the direc­tion in which their con­ver­sa­tion went, and at one point offered to per­form back­ground checks on request.

On May 3rd, 2019, fifty-six Democ­rats signed a let­ter, sent to House Repub­li­can leader J. T. Wilcox, ref­er­enc­ing the points made in the April 2019 Guardian arti­cle. They demand­ed that Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shea be rep­ri­mand­ed pub­licly, removed from his posi­tion as rank­ing minor­i­ty mem­ber of the House Com­mit­tee on Envi­ron­ment & Ener­gy, and declared that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Speak­er of the House would ini­ti­ate an inde­pen­dent House inves­ti­ga­tion into the matter.

Less than a week lat­er, The Guardian high­light­ed Shea’s appear­ance on the Prep­per Recon pod­cast in 2018. Prep­per Recon is host­ed by Mark Good­win, who authored the Eco­nom­ic Col­lapse Chron­i­cles, a work of con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian post-apoc­­olyp­ic fic­tion which starts with “Pres­i­dent Al Mohammed’s” Amer­i­ca being denied by the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund from future bor­row­ing of funds.

Shea pro­mot­ed the con­cept of the Amer­i­can Redoubt, repeat­ed his expec­ta­tion of a sec­ond civ­il war, and ref­er­enced well known cap­i­tal­ist and right wing bogey­man George Soros as a fun­der of orga­ni­za­tions he con­sid­ers un-American.

In July of 2019, Shea was the sub­ject of an episode of Bundyville, Revis­it­ed, the sec­ond sea­son of the Bundyville col­lab­o­ra­tion between Ore­gon Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing and Lon­greads, which used the occu­pa­tion and stand­off at the Mal­heur Nation­al Wildlife Refuge head­quar­ters near Burns, Ore­gon in 2016 as a jump­ing off point to dis­cuss the polit­i­cal infra­struc­ture of the rad­i­cal right in the “Dry West,” which includes east­ern Washington.

The episode ref­er­enced Shea speak­ing at the Mar­ble Com­mu­ni­ty Fel­low­ship, a Domin­ion­ist “Chris­t­ian covenant com­mu­ni­ty” led by pas­tor Bri­an Byrd.

Domin­ion­ism is a phi­los­o­phy that believes that Chris­tians should “have domin­ion” over all Amer­i­can polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al institutions.

(What is often left unsaid is that these Chris­tians should have a very con­ser­v­a­tive, lit­er­al inter­pre­ta­tion of the Bible; that the Ten Com­mand­ments should be the basis of Amer­i­can law. What is also often left unsaid is that Domin­ion­ism is increas­ing­ly blend­ed with Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty and oth­er forms of racism and white nationalism.)

In June of 2019, Shea host­ed dis­graced right wing ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er turned guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Tim Eyman on his right wing radio show. Dur­ing the appear­ance, Eyman pro­mot­ed an ini­tia­tive to repeal mod­est rev­enue reforms that had just been approved by the state Leg­is­la­ture, lav­ished praise on Shea, and spoke glow­ing­ly of Shea’s activ­i­ties, say­ing to Shea: “You’re awesome.”

On July 29, 2019, the Chief Clerk of the House announced that it hired hired an out­side firm, The Ram­part Group, led by a for­mer mem­ber of the FBI, Kathy Leodler, to “deter­mine whether Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shea was engaged in, planned or pro­mot­ed polit­i­cal vio­lence against groups or indi­vid­u­als,” deter­mine the extent to which Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shea was involved if so engaged, and assess the lev­el of threat of such groups or individuals.

In August of 2019, The Guardian revealed that emails from July of 2016 revealed that Shea, for a group called Team Rugged, led by Patrick Caugh­ran, offered vis­i­bil­i­ty through his Face­book page and facil­i­tat­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tion between them and Jack Robert­son, also known as “John Jacob Schmidt.”

Robert­son hosts the white nation­al­ist pod­cast Radio Free Redoubt, which advo­cates for lis­ten­ers to move to the “Amer­i­can Redoubt” in east­ern Wash­ing­ton, Ida­ho and Mon­tana, and, with Shea, cam­paigns for east­ern Wash­ing­ton to secede and form its own state, Liberty.

In one of the emails, Gaugh­ran told Shea that Team Rugged exist­ed “to pro­vide patri­ot­ic and bib­li­cal train­ing on war for young men.”

Caugh­ran also not­ed that the “bib­li­cal teach­ing” would come at least in part from pas­tor John Weaver, once a lead­ing mem­ber of the Coun­cil of Con­ser­v­a­tive Cit­i­zens, a hate group that oppos­es inter­ra­cial mar­riage and has described black peo­ple as a “ret­ro­grade species of humanity.”

Weaver is also a firearms instruc­tor that has trained mem­bers of The League of the South in firearms train­ing; the group par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Char­lottesville white suprema­cist ral­ly. One of the execu­tors (and an instruc­tor) of Team Rugged is pas­tor Bri­an Byrd of the Mar­ble Com­mu­ni­ty Fellowship.

Also in August, Matt Shea was specif­i­cal­ly asked not to attend a meet­ing of the Spokane Com­plete Count Com­mit­tee, an alliance of local groups deter­mined to improve the count of under­rep­re­sent­ed groups for the 2020 Cen­sus, due to many indi­vid­u­als’ dis­com­fort with him and his close rela­tion­ships with groups anti­thet­i­cal to what they stand for. (Shea had not planned to attend.)

On August 23rd, 2019, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shea’s leg­isla­tive assis­tant, Rene’ Hola­day, was fired by the Chief Clerk’s Office of the state leg­is­la­ture for par­tic­i­pat­ing in a May event on behalf of pro­mot­ing the state of Liberty.

At it, she claimed that increas­ing num­bers of Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors were sup­port­ing the idea as a result of recent suc­cess­ful leg­is­la­tion by Democ­rats, stat­ing, “They actu­al­ly even said — and it was­n’t even Shea that said this, they said this on their own — ‘It’s either going to be blood­shed or Lib­er­ty State.’ Take that to heart.”

On Octo­ber 10th, 2019, a video made pub­lic by the John Birch Soci­ety’s media out­let, the New Amer­i­can, made clear his pref­er­ence for Domin­ion­ism and his hatred of both Islam and of Muslims.

On Decem­ber 19th, 2019, the results of the inves­ti­ga­tion by the Ram­part Group were released. The report con­clud­ed that:

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shea, as a leader in the Patri­ot Move­ment, planned, engaged in, and pro­mot­ed a total of three armed con­flicts of polit­i­cal vio­lence against the Unit­ed States (US) Gov­ern­ment in three states out­side the State of Wash­ing­ton over a three year peri­od to include 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Shea, with mem­bers of COWS and Ammon Bundy, were found to have planned and orga­nized the 2016 Mahleur occu­pa­tion and standoff.

Per­haps the most damn­ing state­ment in the report was:

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shea is an attor­ney and mem­ber of the Bar of the State of Wash­ing­ton and pre­sum­ably has knowl­edge of and access to avenues to peace­ful­ly redress griev­ances through the courts but chose to lead his fol­low­ers to stand in phys­i­cal con­fronta­tion at risk of blood­shed and loss of life.

The next day, House Repub­li­can lead­ers expelled Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shea from their cau­cus. Minor­i­ty Leader J. T. Wilcox declared: “His role as a House Repub­li­can is over.” Shea respond­ed on Face­book, stat­ing “Like we are see­ing with our Pres­i­dent this is a sham inves­ti­ga­tion meant to silence those of us who stand up against attempts to dis­arm and destroy our great coun­try. I will not back down, I will not give in, I will not resign. Stand strong, fel­low Patriots.”

At the end of 2019, Shea was laid off from the law firm M. Casey Law, where he had worked for sev­en years. Shea start­ed an indi­vid­ual practice.

In Feb­ru­ary of 2020, House Democ­rats cir­cu­lat­ed a let­ter call­ing for the expul­sion of Shea from the state Leg­is­la­ture because of his engage­ment in the plan­ning and pro­mot­ing of polit­i­cal vio­lence. Repub­li­cans refused to endorse the idea, which would have required at least nine of them to join forces with Democrats.

The pan­dem­ic has seem­ing­ly made Shea even more para­noid and bitter.

Shea has pub­licly wor­ried that Gov­er­nor Inslee would use the Nation­al Guard to enforce his orders and enact mar­tial law.

He’s echoed com­ments by oth­ers that the COVID-19 virus was cre­at­ed in a Chi­nese “bio­log­i­cal war­fare pro­gram,” and has fret­ted that peo­ple would be forcibly inoc­u­lat­ed when and if a vac­cine becomes available.

He also hasn’t been hap­py with the cre­ation of the West­ern States Pact and its mid-Atlantic equiv­a­lent, con­sid­er­ing them first steps toward seces­sion from the Unit­ed States and an attempt to under­mine Don­ald Trump.

Shea has spo­ken at demon­stra­tions in Olympia on the Capi­tol Cam­pus against Gov­er­nor Inslee’s stay home, stay healthy orders, with his favorite phrase being “Free­dom is the cure,” with which he’s led in chants.

He’s pub­licly sup­port­ed the com­ments of Jason Kin­ley, the newest mem­ber of the Spokane Region­al District’s Board of Health, who has said, among oth­er things, that there is “no wide­ly accept­ed treat­ment” for any exist­ing virus (which ignores med­ica­tions and tar­get­ed antivi­ral treat­ments that have suc­cess­ful­ly coun­tered oth­er virus­es), that hydrox­y­chloro­quine shouldn’t be dis­missed as a treat­ment for COVID-19 suf­fer­ers, and that high dosages of Vit­a­min C should also be con­sid­ered as a treatment.

Shea seems obsessed with trail­ers as indi­ca­tors of future con­cen­tra­tion camps, as can be seen on his Face­book page – a pho­to of an iso­la­tion camp in Gold­en­dale for COVID-19 suf­fer­ers was respond­ed to with “Vol­un­tary until they are not.”

And then there is the olive oil incident.

On March 6th, a group from Seattle’s Satan­ic Tem­ple of Wash­ing­ton walked through and around the Capi­tol build­ing, per­form­ing what they called an “invo­ca­tion.” They had request­ed and received a per­mit to do so.

They were asked to change their route slight­ly, to min­i­mize poten­tial dam­age to the Capi­tol build­ing and grounds. They did so.

Shea’s response was a small gath­er­ing of of his sup­port­ers lat­er in the day, with­out request­ing a per­mit to do so before­hand. They prayed out loud, sang, and a few of the group blew from sho­fars, made from ram’s horns.

They then walked rough­ly along the same path as the first group, through and out of the Capi­tol build­ing, pour­ing olive oil on the sand­stone blocks that form the walk­way, the mar­ble Capi­tol steps and the side­walk. This turned out to have been a sec­ond attempt, as some­one from the Wash­ing­ton state Depart­ment of Enter­prise Ser­vices (DES) took away Shea’s first bot­tle of olive oil.

DES after­ward charged Shea $4,761 for the cost of clean­ing up the result­ing mess and min­i­miz­ing dam­age most espe­cial­ly to the porous sandstone.

Olive oil tra­di­tion­al­ly has a rela­tion­ship in the Bible to the anoint­ing of priests via the book of Exo­dus. In the Catholic and with­in spe­cif­ic Protes­tant denom­i­na­tions, specif­i­cal­ly blessed oils can be used to con­se­crate an altar or ded­i­cate a church.

Giv­en that both Shea and his sup­port­ers at this event were all like­ly Domin­ion­ists, and thus desire a theo­crat­ic gov­ern­ment and soci­ety over which they would rule, they most like­ly believed that their pres­ence as “true” Chris­tians, their prayers and calls to God with their sho­fars, was enough to bless the olive oil they used.

Shea hasn’t yet com­ment­ed on why he declined to run for anoth­er term, and will like­ly dis­cuss it only on terms he finds to his advantage.

He has lit­tle love for the Spokane States­­man-Review or the Inlan­der, who have brought unwel­come atten­tion to his destruc­tive activities.

He has his own pod­cast, Patri­ot Radio, as part of the Amer­i­can Chris­t­ian Net­work, from which he’ll craft what­ev­er mes­sage he prefers with­out pesky questions.

There are rumors that he might sup­port for­mer Lib­er­tar­i­an (and now present­ly Repub­li­can) Bob Chase in his race to unseat Cathy McMor­ris Rogers, as Chase has been vocal of his sup­port for Shea since his expul­sion, and Shea had sup­port­ed Chase in a run for Spokane Coun­ty Com­mis­sion­er, which had failed.

Regard­less, Shea will still have his net­work of rabid mil­i­tant fol­low­ers. He could use his solo legal prac­tice to file friv­o­lous law­suits against peo­ple and enti­ties he does not like. Or he could use his noto­ri­ety to become a more promi­nent media per­son­al­i­ty, like Alex Jones or Fox’s Lau­ra Ingraham.

He may be leav­ing office, but he will remain a men­ace that needs to be countered.

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