Dan Murphy: Lawmaker A ‘Domestic Terrorist?’

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

A Washington state representative is accused of being actively involved with extremist groups advocating armed resistance against the federal government, just like the Bundy Clan.

I had hoped that the sordid saga of the Bundys — father and brothers both — might have run its course, both in terms of media coverage and law enforcement.

However, the fallout from the events that propelled the renegade ranchers into national prominence continues to create an unwelcome impact even these five years later.

This latest chapter involves an elected representative serving in the Legislature in Washington state.

As you recall, the patriarch of the clan, Cliven Bundy, who refused to pay more than a million dollars in delinquent grazing fees for cattle he was running on public lands adjacent to his Clark County, Nevada, ranch, defied Bureau of Land Management officials who attempted to round up his stock for non-payment of assessed fees.

That triggered a standoff in 2014 between federal officials and armed militia members who showed up to support the Bundys’ claim that the federal government “had no jurisdiction and no authority over a citizen of Nevada,” as Cliven proclaimed at the time.

Then in January 2016, a group of armed anti-government activists led by Cliven’s sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in a remote area in eastern Oregon. After 41 days, the occupation finally ended, but not before one of the group, self-described “patriot” LaVoy Finicum, was shot and killed when he drove an SUV off the road into a snowbank while fleeing FBI agents and Oregon state troopers attempting to arrest the trespassers.

The eventual court cases against the occupiers were inconclusive, and other than the multi-millions in law enforcement and clean-up costs the Bundys forced the taxpayers to pay for, one could have hoped that it might be possible to close the books on that expensive exercise in lawlessness.

Not so fast.

Militia member menace

Turns out that one of the elected officials who secretly supported the Malheur Refuge takeover three years ago has continued to promote an anti-government agenda.

And now that details about his activities have been made public, he is facing censure and possible expulsion from his legislative seat.

Rep. Matt Shea, a Republican from the Spokane Valley area in eastern Washington, has allegedly been traveling throughout the West “meeting with far-right extremist groups and organizing anti-government activities,” according to the report completed in July by an investigative team headed by a former FBI agent.

Last week Shea was expelled from the Washington House GOP caucus and according to news reports, there have been calls from both parties for his resignation.

The report found that Shea had trained young people to fight a “holy war,” condoned intimidating his political opponents and promoted militia training by the so-called Patriot Movement for potential armed conflict with law enforcement personnel.

Investigators determined that Shea “engaged in conversations with Ammon Bundy and other militia members in the planning and preparation of the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.” Weeks before the takeover, Shea had issued a press release asking for “patriot and militia groups” near the wildlife refuge site “to rally against the U.S. government,” according to the report.

Not only that, but Shea has also promoted creation of a 51st state in Eastern Washington, one that would be called Liberty and would be run on what he described as “biblical principles.”

And predictably, he labeled the report of his anti-government activities as totally inaccurate.

“This is a sham investigation meant to silence those of us who stand up against attempts to disarm and destroy our great country,” Shea posted on Facebook.

Despite his rather transparent disclaimer, Rep. Shea’s behavior is reprehensible and would merit condemnation, if not indictment, were a private citizen accused, as he has been, of having “planned, engaged in and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States,” as the investigative report stated.

But for an elected official, one who raises his hand and swears to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the state of Washington upon taking office?

Such behavior is beyond comprehension.

Shea is facing expulsion from the Legislature for his conduct, and despite his defiant statement that, “I will not back down, I will not give in, I will not resign,” that’s exactly what needs to happen.

The opinions in this column are those of Dan Murphy, an award-winning journalist and commentator.

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