For two weeks, the chief clerk of the state House of Representatives has held a report into allegations that Rep. Matt Shea engaged in, planned or promoted political violence. The report, ordered by House leadership and conducted by an outside firm led by a former FBI agent, has been kept under lock and key.
Rank-and-file House members have not seen it. House officials have declined requests for it, but said they are “tentatively planning” on releasing it on Friday. Shea himself does not know what the investigation found, according to his lawyer.
It’s rare for the Legislature to commission an outside investigation into one of its own members, and the consequences — including censure, pressure to resign or potentially expulsion — could be severe.
House Democrats have scheduled an internal conference call for Thursday and expect to discuss the report and its findings.
Meanwhile, Shea, an embattled Spokane Valley Republican, has sent notice that he expects to file a lawsuit over the investigation into his conduct.
Mark Lamb, Shea’s lawyer, said he requested a copy of the report since Shea was its subject, but House Clerk Bernard Dean rejected the request, saying it was not a public record. Lamb noted he had not asked for the report under the state public-records act, but as the attorney for the subject of the investigation.
The House clerk similarly rejected a public-records request from The Seattle Times, saying the report was not a public record, but did not cite a specific exemption for withholding the document.
In July, House leaders initiated the investigation into Shea, a far-right legislator first elected in 2008, after news stories that he participated in group chats that discussed violence against and surveillance of political opponents. Shea didn’t call for violence, according to messages posted in those stories, but he did offer to help make background checks.
Top House leaders were briefed on the contents of the investigation on Dec. 4. The next day, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office wrote to the House clerk to say that Shea’s lawyers had asked that all records be preserved as a lawsuit over the report may be imminent.
Dean forwarded the letter to all House members and staff, asking them to keep letters, notes, emails and other documents related to the Shea investigation.
Shea, who rarely speaks to media outlets, did not respond to a request for comment. In a recent interview with Infowars, a website that traffics in conspiracy theories, Shea said he has only promoted self-defense and accused his opponents of waging “political warfare according to a Maoist insurgency model” using a “Marxist smear campaign.”
“If you love freedom and liberty and you love this country and the Constitution means what it says and the Bible means what it says, you must be dangerous, right?” Shea said.
Shea said the House investigation was “revenge” for the 2014 and 2016 standoffs in Nevada and Malheur, Oregon, between armed right-wing protesters led by the Bundy family and the federal government over public land.
Last year, Shea acknowledged distributing a document titled “Biblical Basis for War” that provides guidelines for conducting holy war. The document included guidelines like, “If they do not yield — kill all males.” Shea has said he distributed it purely as a historical sermon and that it has been taken out of context.
Other stories reported that Shea allegedly discussed tracking political opponents with methods like GPS devices, purportedly keeps a list of Washington law-enforcement officers and was tied to a group of young men in Eastern Washington that has trained with firearms in preparation for a religious war.
Since then, Spokane-area officials and groups — including the Republican sheriff of Spokane County; the former Republican mayor, the police chief and police union of Spokane — called for his resignation.
Jay Pounder, a former Shea aide who turned on the legislator and has been the source of some of the most inflammatory evidence against Shea, said Shea believes in a “weaponized version of Christianity.”
“What they want to do is hurt people who don’t believe like them,” Pounder said.