Two GOP lawmakers Monday are asking that the state Senate investigation into rape allegations against Sen. Joe Fain should be dropped now that he's lost re-election. Any review now would be a "partisan witch-hunt," according to one of the senators.
OLYMPIA — Two GOP legislators Monday called on the Washington Senate to drop a planned investigation into a rape allegation against state Sen. Joe Fain. They dismissed the review as a “partisan witch-hunt,” attacked the credibility of his accuser and chastised news organizations for reporting on the allegation at all.
Meanwhile, nearly a month after Democrats and Republicans on a legislative committee unanimously authorized the investigation, Senate leaders by Monday had yet to agree upon an investigator, throwing into question whether a review and report could be conducted by a self-imposed Dec. 31 deadline.
Fain, a Republican from Auburn first elected in 2010 in King County’s 47th legislative district, lost his re-election bid in November to Democrat Mona Das.
His defeat came just weeks after Seattle resident and former foreign-service officer Candace Faber stepped forward to say Fain raped her in a Washington, D.C., hotel room in 2007.
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Fain — who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment — has denied the allegation. He — along with Faber, lawmakers from both parties and Gov. Jay Inslee — have said they support an investigation.
But Faber has said she doesn’t intend to file a complaint with law-enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., where the alleged incident took place. Faber has said she made that decision partly because of how few rape cases are actually prosecuted, and because she doesn’t believe a criminal conviction on its own would amount to justice.
That has left lawmakers and other officials unsure of what entity should conduct a review.
In November, just days before Fain conceded, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee voted unanimously to authorize an outside investigation that would make a report by Dec. 31 at the latest, and by mid-December if possible.
On Monday one of those Republicans, Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville, called for the committee to reverse that vote and end the planned investigation.
“Now that Sen. Fain has been defeated for re-election, the plan can only be seen as a partisan witch-hunt, aimed at the destruction of an individual member of the Senate who has served with great distinction,” wrote Becker in a letter to the Democratic leader of the committee.
In a separate news release, Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, sought to discredit Faber and also blamed The Seattle Times for reporting on the allegation that Faber made publicly on Twitter in late September.
Rivers shared a guest column she penned for the Tacoma News Tribune suggesting Faber’s account of the alleged rape “contains several improbabilities,” and that Faber’s Twitter posts “speak to her state of mind and political motivations.” Rivers also raised the question of Faber’s struggle at one point with mental illness and whether it might diminish her credibility.
Rivers also noted that Faber hasn’t filed a complaint with police, which would have “risked the possibility of criminal prosecution for filing a false report,” while she was also asking Washington state officials to investigate.
“She’s sitting in the catbird’s seat, to have it all her own way,” Rivers said Monday morning in an interview. “She gets to slaughter a guy with no repercussions whatsoever.”
It was a sharp turnaround for Rivers. When the story broke in late September, she called Faber’s account of rape “a serious allegation” and praised Fain for asking for an investigation.
“How any investigation occurs obviously is up to the authorities in the relevant jurisdiction, but my fellow Republican senators and I agree that any allegation of this nature must be looked into as thoroughly as possible, no matter who is involved and no matter how many years have passed,” Rivers wrote in a September statement.
“We would hope people will allow any investigative process to be completed before drawing conclusions,” she added in that statement.
Faber on Monday criticized Rivers and others for “backing away and coming after me personally.”
“I think it is clear that everyone who called for an investigation did so not with the intention of discovering the truth, but of protecting Joe Fain from having to answer any questions about what he did that night,” Faber wrote in a statement, adding later: “Now, the moment it appears a credible investigation could happen, they are backing away and coming after me personally rather than confronting Fain for his actions.”
“This indicates not only that they are afraid of what an honest investigation would surface, but that they don’t actually care whether it’s true,” Faber added later.
Rivers also lashed out at The Seattle Times, which in late September first reported on Faber’s allegation.
That report was quickly followed by a KUOW story that included interviews with Faber’s friends and family members who said Faber as early as 2009 had discussed being raped on her graduation night, and that she had since named Fain in private conversations that were made before her public remarks.
But the initial Seattle Times report “legitimized the story for every outlet that followed,” Rivers argued. “Even the Washington Post and New York Times found it fit to print.”
When they authorized their investigation, Democratic and Republican Senate leaders said they would first agree on which outside investigator to hire for the review.
As of Monday, those leaders hadn’t yet agreed upon an investigator — nearly a month after the review was first authorized. In a text message, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said he plans to abide by the agreement and conduct a review only if it has bipartisan support.
Democratic and Republican Senate leaders made “an agreement that the investigator had to have bipartisan approval since this was an investigation that was outside the normal authority of senate respectful workplace investigations,” Billig wrote, adding later: “I stated in the last F&O [Facilities and Operations] meeting that I will honor the agreements upon which this process was started.”
Staff reporter Heidi Groover contributed to this report