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At least one of Rep. Matt Shea’s campaign donors wants money back

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 1, 2018, 6:09 p.m.

Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, left, speaks during a debate on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, at the CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley. Democrat Ted Cummings, right, is challenging Shea to represent Washington’s 4th Legislative District. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, left, speaks during a debate on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, at the CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley. Democrat Ted Cummings, right, is challenging Shea to represent Washington’s 4th Legislative District. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

At least one contributor to state Rep. Matt Shea’s re-election campaign has asked for its money back since the polarizing Spokane Valley Republican took credit last week for a document titled “Biblical Basis for War.”

The political arm of the Northwest Credit Union Association, which represents 180 credit unions in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, gave $1,000 to Shea’s campaign this year but recently asked the campaign to return the money. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman told Spokane Public Radio the association had reviewed Shea’s social media activity and determined “his beliefs do not reflect the views and values of our organization, member credit unions or customers.”

Other contributors appear to be distancing themselves from Shea, who acknowledged in a Facebook video last Wednesday that he had distributed the “Biblical Basis for War” document, which condemns abortion and same-sex marriage and describes violence against those who flout “biblical law.” A day earlier, the four-page document had caused a stir online when a Nine Mile Falls man, Tanner Rowe, made his own Facebook video identifying Shea as the author.

The document seems to reflect the ideology of the Marble Community Fellowship, a northern Stevens County congregation that Shea has frequently associated with. The group is said to practice a strain of fundamentalist Christianity known as dominionism, which aims to establish Christian dominance in institutions like the government and media.

Rowe and other critics of Shea, including his Democratic challenger Ted Cummings and Republican Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, saw the document as further evidence of an extreme agenda being pushed by the five-term GOP representative. Knezovich said he was so troubled by the document he turned it over to the FBI.

“This man is not a patriot, he seeks to control and hurt members of our community,” Cummings wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. “There is no room for hate in eastern Washington!”

But Shea, in his video, said the document was merely “a summary of a series of sermons on biblical war in the Old Testament,” and he dismissed criticism as nothing more than “smears and slander and innuendo and implication” by a so-called “counter state” made up of “Marxists” and “Islamists.” He also insisted that he supports the philosophy known as “just war theory,” which has been endorsed by many mainstream Christians.

In another Facebook post on Sunday, Shea shared an article by John Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent and anti-Muslim activist, making the assertion that the recently murdered Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was a friend of Osama bin Laden.

On Tuesday, Shea shared a link to a website and wrote: “SAVE THE PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS.” On Wednesday, he shared an image featuring so-called “antifa” activists and wrote: “WHAT’S REALLY SCARY TODAY: The ACTUAL calls for violence by the Marxists that media continues to ignore…”

Also Wednesday, two pastors from Spokane’s Covenant Church, Ken Peters and Gabe Blomgren, made their own Facebook video defending Shea and railing against a recent KHQ story about Shea’s “biblical war” document.

“Listen, Christians, get out there and vote,” Peters said in the video. “Vote Christian people in: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Matt Shea. Get out there, vote these guys in, people with our values and our convictions. And don’t listen to the enemy-controlled mainstream media. It’s fake news. Lies.”

The KHQ story featured interviews with Rowe and Knezovich, but Shea had not responded to numerous interview requests by the TV station, which shares a parent company with The Spokesman-Review.

Shea, who has handily defeated candidates of both parties in every election since 2008, has drastically out-raised and outspent Cummings as well as both candidates for the other House seat representing the deep-red 4th Legislative District.

Public Disclosure Commission filings show Shea has raised about $107,500 in cash, with more than 73 percent coming from businesses and political action committees. Cummings, meanwhile, has raised about $27,000 in cash, with individuals making up the biggest source of funds as well as hefty contributions from unions, PACs and the Democratic Party. In another race, incumbent Republican Bob McCaslin has out-raised Democratic challenger Mary May, but both have raised less than Cummings.

BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said he couldn’t comment Wednesday on whether the company would continue supporting Shea’s campaigns. BNSF donated $2,000 to Shea’s campaign this year, the maximum allowed under state law.

“The views expressed in the manifesto do not in any way reflect BNSF’s values,” Melonas said. “We are monitoring this situation closely as law enforcement investigates.”

Although local FBI officials are aware of the document, there has been no indication of criminal activity involving Shea and no indication of a formal law enforcement investigation.

Collins Sprague, the government relations director for Avista Corp., which also gave Shea’s campaign $2,000, said the company considers “a range of criteria” when doling out money to legislative candidates. He said Avista prioritizes incumbents in the utility’s service area.

“First and foremost, we tend to have a bias toward contributing to incumbents because, by and large, they’re known to us, they always have an open door to us and always receptive to the issues that we bring to them,” Sprague said. “We don’t focus solely on incumbents. We definitely look at open seats. Very rarely would we support a challenger, anywhere in the state.

“There are other factors that definitely come into play or could come into play,” he said. “When it’s clear that a candidate’s behavior or actions obviously conflict with our company values, we will factor those circumstances into consideration.”

Referring to recent media coverage of Shea, including a profile in Rolling Stone magazine, Sprague said “that’s a lot of detail that came after we’d already contributed to Rep. Shea during this last election cycle.”

An Avista spokeswoman, Casey Fielder, said the company had not decided whether to ask for its contributions back from Shea’s campaign.

Other major Shea donors, including Boeing Co., the Washington Association of Realtors and the Washington Health Care Association, did not respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.


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