“Partisan witch-hunt” serves no legitimate legislative purpose, says Republican caucus chair
Sen. Randi Becker, chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, is formally asking Senate Democrats to cancel plans for an investigation of a defamatory charge hurled against Sen. Joe Fain during this year’s election campaign.
In a letter to Sen. John McCoy, D-Tualip, chair of the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee, the Eatonville Republican asks for a new vote on the planned Senate investigation. Becker points out that the investigation would serve no legitimate legislative purpose. Becker writes, “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.”
Fain was accused of rape in a social-media posting on Twitter Sept. 27. The accusation, widely reported by Washington state news media, has never been investigated by law enforcement authorities because the accuser refuses to file a police report.
Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed to authorize a legislative investigation Nov. 8, when it appeared Fain might return to the Legislature. At that point, debate appeared likely Jan. 14, the opening day of the 2019 legislative session, when current members of the Senate will take a vote to seat new members. The Washington Senate has refused to seat a member-elect only once in its history, a member of the Communist Party elected in 1940.
On Nov. 8, majority Democrats on the committee promised to “revisit” the plan for an investigation if Fain was defeated. Yet a Republican request for cancellation Nov. 21 was met with silence.
In her letter to McCoy, Becker warns, “If the Senate Democratic Caucus continues to pursue this investigation, it will poison the relationship between our two caucuses, reduce cooperation, and make it all the more difficult for the Senate as a whole to do the work we have been elected to do.”
Under the plan, the Senate would hire an investigator to evaluate the stories of the parties involved. The investigator would not be required to follow the standards of due process required by the American judicial system, including the right of cross-examination and the ability to argue for the inclusion of evidence. The innocent-until-proven-guilty standard would not be employed.
In her letter, Becker says Republicans agree the matter should be investigated, but at this point it is more properly a matter for law enforcement or for the courts. “For the Senate to conduct an investigation without a legislative purpose is absurd. No one has alleged any wrongdoing involving legislative activities or at any time during [Fain’s] term of office. Any legitimate purpose is gone.
“To pursue this matter at this point raises obvious questions about your motives and those of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
“Democratic members have defended this effort using such rhetoric as ‘standing with survivors.’ We can only conclude that many of your members have prejudged this case, and that the true reason for the investigation is to destroy the reputation of a member of the Senate, and to please special interests, activists and others.”
Becker notes that the same type of accusation could be leveled against any member of the Senate, and that standards of fairness should be observed by both political parties. “This effort dishonors the Senate,” she says.