Wednesday, February 5, 2020
WACKO WHATCOM: While Republicans in the United States Senate continue to conceal, cover-up and paper over impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, similarly repellent activities are unfolding among Whatcom County Republicans as they attempt to paper over the misdeeds of one of ther own.
On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day last month, and as Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu prepared his introductory remarks encouraging common ground and a coming together of shared interests, the Whatcom County Republican Party was unanimously approving a resolution in support of disgraced Spokane Representative Matt Shea. Party leadership in Olympia had stripped Shea of his ability to caucus with his conference this session following the publication of a report and investigation by the Washington House of Representatives that Shea had engaged in violent organizing and domestic terrorism—including the drafting of a polemic that would end the lives of people like Sidhu and establish in their fiery destruction a white Christian theocracy.
Whatcom Republicans approved a screed condemning the decision by their own party leadership in Olympia not to caucus with Shea, declaring he was denied due process and presumption of innocence. A former Bellingham resident, Shea had refused to participate in the investigation of claims, which included detailed descriptions from 34 witness interviews and electronic communications. The Whatcom party resolution was unanimously adopted, and presumably supported by Republican leadership in Olympia such as Sen. Doug Ericksen and—pointedly—Rep. Luanne Van Werven, who had caucused with Shea.
Just four county party organizations approved similar resolutions in support of Shea—Skamania, Grant, Cowlitz, and Whatcom counties. The combined populations of the first three counties are roughly that of the fourth, for a comparative of influence. And Whatcom Republicans uniquely took their resolution a step further, crying for the resignation of their own Minority Leader JT Wilcox.
Representative of south Puget Sound’s 2nd Legislative District, Wilcox had expressed his belief Shea should resign following publication of the report, but barring that he should not be seated with his conference this session. As a result, Shea retains his seat and lawmaking privileges, but without committee seats or party support.
This at the crux of the folly and stupidity of the Whatcom County Republican resolution—presumption of innocence and rights to due process are matters of concern to legal proceedings. But no one within a position of authority in Republican leadership is calling for legal action against Shea. We don’t need a trial to tell us when someone’s behavior is unacceptable. Lawmakers simply did not want to be seated in the same room and breathe the same air as a skunk. The same constitutional rights that allow Shea to march around with guns and publish manifestos calling for violent insurrection and murder also provide for free assembly and the rights of organizations—like the Republican caucus—to decide who gets to be seated with them, who has privileges in their ranks.
The Washington State House released additional documents from their investigation last week, the bulk of them emails written by or to Shea, screenshots of chats that included Shea, and documents authored by Shea and his associates. One of the more notable documents is a “warning order” drafted by Shea, which in an email he described as “a military style planning brief.” It’s a detailed plan as to how the Patriot Movement and its factions could work together to negotiate a resolution to the Malhuer standoff, and force a resolution that would expose federal land policy as tyrannical.
Shea has claimed his presence in Oregon during the standoff was purely for fact-finding purposes. The documents show he was directly involved with the occupiers.
House Republican Caucus Chair Rep. Paul Harris told the Capitol Press he hoped the release of the documents—and the future release of up to 900 more documents currently under review—would help critics understand the information “JT and I and the leadership team saw when we made this decision will be made available to the public,” he said.
Whatcom County Republicans could have kept quiet and supported the decisions of their own leaders, instead of shaming themselves with resolutions of spurious nonsense. And they took it further than any other county, calling (unanimously) for the elimination of Wilcox.
Harris told Capitol Press that while local parties have the right to issue their own responses, he wished that they had waited for the release of these new supporting documents, which help expand on why party leaders responded to findings from the Shea investigation.
“When the counties started doing this, we said maybe before you get in front of your skis on this stuff, you can look at the documents that we’ve been able to look at, because they will be released. But as you can see only four counties chose to weigh in before hand,” Harris said. “But I think JT Wilcox and the House Republican Caucus have received overwhelming support from the state party in the vast majority of the counties. I think these [four counties] are some outliers.”
Van Werven, who served with Shea as the co-chair of the Washington branch of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national clearinghouse for extreme legislation in state governments, has kept largely silent about Shea and the actions of her own conference. But she had the temerity to introduce this session (as lawmakers struggle with the issue of gun violence) Shea’s ALEC crafted legislation to exempt firearms from sales tax, along with several other bills that would expand firearms in Washington. Imagine, if you will, stripping from the sale of firearms even benefit of tax revenue.
We applaud Satpal’s belief that more unites us than divides us. But a major political party in Whatcom County is unrestrained in its desire for division.