An apocalyptic book series shows the type of society Rep. Matt Shea and his allies dream of rebuilding

click to enlarge Spokane Valley Rep. Matt Shea, pictured in 2014. He's currently under investigation to determine if he's ever promoted political violence. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Spokane Valley Rep. Matt Shea, pictured in 2014. He's currently under investigation to determine if he's ever promoted political violence.

When Jay Pounder leaked "Biblical Basis for War," a document authored by state Rep. Matt Shea, it focused a national spotlight on the controversial Spokane Valley politician.

Last month, as the state House of Representatives opened an investigation into whether Shea promoted political violence, Pounder, a former Shea ally, followed it up with a sequel, leaking a document called "Restoration."

That document imitates the outline style of "Biblical Basis of War" exactly, but instead of focusing on warfare tactics, it appears to be a blueprint for establishing a new society after a catastrophic event.

In the society outlined in "Restoration," abortions, unions, civil forfeiture, monopolies, centralized welfare, property taxes and "teachers under 30" would be banned. The Constitution would be changed to glorify Jesus Christ, and Christianity would get "elevated protection." Immigration would be tied to the existing ethnic percentage.

One bullet point reads: "Reinstitute Capital Punishment for Murder, Rape, Molestation, Bestiality, Kidnapping, Adultery (discuss), Treason, and Sodomy."

Unlike "Biblical Basis of War," Shea hasn't admitted to writing the "Restoration" document, yet he's ignored repeated opportunities to deny it.

Yet former Spokane Valley City Councilman Mike Munch, who listed Shea as a reference when he applied for the council, tells the Inlander that he does recognize "Restoration." But he argues that it's not fair to simply refer to it as Shea's document.

"Many people were involved in forming it," Munch writes in an email. He explains that there was a meeting where a group started out with a basic outline of the "patriot"-led new society imagined in the post-apocalyptic book series, 299 Days, and then modified it by adding or subtracting sections.

"This was all done as a fictional study on what to do in the event of a catastrophic failure of the United States," Munch says. "As I recall we spent a day discussing and adding details to it and then never revisited it."

Munch did not respond to follow-up questions asking for more details. Among the local sphere of self-described preppers (survivalists who stock up on food and ammunition), the 299 Days fiction series is well-known.

Described as a "best seller" by its pseudonymous author, Glen Tate, the book series sparked both a spinoff authored by Tate's new wife — she uses the pen name Shelby Gallagher — and its own line of AR-15-style rifles.

Both former Spokane Valley Councilman Caleb Collier and former Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase say they've read several books in the series. Shea has repeatedly called it crucial reading for patriots to prepare for the days ahead.

"Read Glen Tate's and Shelby Gallagher's books," Shea says on Tate's July 3 Prepping 2.0 podcast. "They're awesome primers."

299 Days follows the character Grant Matson, a Washington state lawyer-turned-prepper based on the author, across 10 books and 3,600 pages. It starts with fights with his then-wife about stocking up on food and ammo, and then leads to the partial financial collapse of the United States, gunfights to liberate Olympia, and finally to the "restoration" of "New Washington," a new, more libertarian society.

Tate did not respond to requests for interviews. But in his recorded speeches and podcasts, Tate's argued a governmental collapse is both an inevitability and an opportunity. He presents his book series as a roadmap for rebuilding the kind of world he wants to live in.

"America as it presently exists is completely unsustainable and will not be sustained and will go down kicking and screaming as described in the books," Tate tells his supporters on a 2015 YouTube video. "You're going to be these leaders who are called upon to form the next government, and the next government is going to be better."

SHIT-HITS-THE-FAN FICTION

Nonfiction author J.M. Berger, who studies online extremism, says that post-apocalyptic survivalist fiction is actually a fairly large genre.

"Dystopian and apocalyptic novels are extremely useful tools for shaping all manner of radical and extreme politics," Berger says. "They offer a crisis narrative that can be more convincing than a nonfiction tract on the same subject, thanks to their immersive nature."

Most infamously, there's The Turner Diaries, a racist, anti-government novel that inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The work was also influential among militia, patriot and anti-government types.

To be clear, 299 Days is not a white supremacist series. Instead, the new society in 299 Days purports to essentially end racism, and not through segregation. Unlike the "Restoration" outline Pounder leaked, in the New Washington created at the end of Tate's books there's nothing about basing immigration on ethnic percentages. In 299 Days, the death penalty is prescribed for corrupt contractors, but not for "sodomy." Separation of church and state is maintained.

For the most part, Tate envisions New Washington as a libertarian paradise, defined by flat taxes, minimal regulation and self-reliance.

But some passages may raise eyebrows. In New Washington, rape sends you to jail for life, but requires two witnesses for a conviction.

"Gone were the days of an ex-wife in a divorce case sending a man to jail and ruining his life with no evidence," Tate writes.

And no more restraining orders.

"In New Washington the way to prevent people from harassing you was now to exercise your right to keep and bear arms," Tate writes.

The new Constitution not only includes a ban against gun registration, but also hands the citizens the enumerated "right to overthrow any government attempting to infringe their rights."

On his Prepping 2.0 podcast, Tate explicitly says that the goals of what he'd like to see in a new post-collapse Constitution "are all contained in 10 books — 299 Days."

"Almost every single person in this book is real," Tate says, donning a fake beard and glasses, in a YouTube interview. "It's the story of people I know and how I think things will turn out for them."

BASED ON A TRUE STORY

From early on, Tate has bragged to readers that he was bringing them an inside scoop. He had a front-row seat in government in Olympia and had a front-row seat on governmental corruption.

"'Glen' keeps his real identity a secret so he won't lose his job because, in his line of work, being a prepper and questioning the motives of the government is not appreciated," Tate writes at the beginning of each book.

Tate obscures his face with props like a fake beard, a "Patiently Awaiting the Collapse" sticker, and an "I Miss America" bandana. In the photo announcing his 2018 marriage to Gallagher, he covered their picture with a heart.

But according to records, "Glen Tate" is actually Greg Overstreet, who served as Washington state's open government ombudsman in the Attorney General's Office from 2005-07.

Overstreet, who also goes by Stephen H.G. Overstreet, has also served as an attorney for two powerful Republican lobbying groups — the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Freedom Foundation — and has been a lobbyist for payday loan operator Moneytree.

It's not just that the biography of the main character of the series is almost identical to Overstreet. Overstreet's 2017 divorce papers explicitly award him all "business or intellectual property interests" for "299 Days."

As for Gallagher, Tate's wife and fellow prepper author? According to the Jefferson County auditor's office, last year Overstreet married Anne Marie Gurney, the Freedom Foundation's former Oregon state director and a Portland-area state representative candidate in 2012.

Today, Overstreet is an attorney for Security Services Northwest and Fort Discovery, two organizations run by a Joe D'Amico — a man who's been tangled up with various legal and regulatory battles in Jefferson County for nearly 15 years. The latest conflict stems from D'Amico's planned Cedar Hills Recreational Facility, a proposed 40-acre gun range and recreational facility on the Olympic Peninsula.

And at first, a group of property owners opposing the project formed the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, simply worried about the disruption from guns and helicopters.

But then, Tarboo President Scott Freeman says, his nephew stumbled across the 299 Days series. And they figured out that Tate had clearly based the character "Joe Tantori" on Joe D'Amico.

"Very, very quickly we realized the issue was much deeper," Freeman says.

Freeman and another Tarboo board member pored through the series. By the end of it, Freeman came away worried that D'Amico's new facility "was going to be a paramilitary training center for anti-government groups."

After all, according to court documents, D'Amico "conducted military and paramilitary weapons training" at his previous facility, Fort Discovery in Sequim, Washington.

D'Amico even sold a custom AR-15-style rifle with "Rally Point" GPS coordinates on it. The coordinates would lead purchasers to D'Amico's facility, and the gun would grant them access during a serious disaster.

"As in, if you have one of his rifles, you have an invitation to come to his facility when the collapse comes and be with like-minded people," Tate writes on his blog in 2014. "We're at a thrilling time in our history."

(After Fort Discovery left its former facility, a judge forced D'Amico to post a notice clarifying that the "Rally Point" doesn't exist.)

When reached by phone and asked about 299 Days, D'Amico said he didn't know what the Inlander was talking about, called it a "weird phone call" and hung up. D'Amico did not respond to a follow-up email and phone call. However, D'Amico acknowledged being the inspiration of the Joe Tantori character in a 2014 podcast interview.

Overstreet and the Tarboo Ridge Coalition, meanwhile, continue to be locked in litigation. After Freeman heard from the Inlander that Tate and Overstreet were the same person, he said, the fact that D'Amico and Overstreet were working together deepened his concern. "I consider it a threat to our democracy," Freeman says. "This is an apocalyptic vision."

THE WARM JOY OF GOVERNMENTAL COLLAPSE

This week Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich planned to give an updated version of his "Threats We Face Presentation" on the local dangers of extremism. Asked about the prepping movement, Knezovich says that he applauds those who want to be prepared for potential disaster. On the other hand, he accuses Shea and his allies of actually trying to bring about disaster and collapse.

Shea's supporters say that couldn't be further from the truth.

"Nobody on the conservative spectrum that I am aware of is promoting any type of violence," says Collier, the former councilman and Shea supporter. "None of the people that I associate with want a government collapse."

click to enlarge Screenshot of "Glen Tate," author of 299 Days, wearing a fake beard to obscure his identity.
Screenshot of "Glen Tate," author of 299 Days, wearing a fake beard to obscure his identity.

Instead, he says, preppers just want to be prepared for the worst. In a blog post, Tate claims a law-enforcement friend told him that his 299 Days book series was cited in a Homeland Security training as a group "fantasizing about the collapse of society." He scoffs, arguing that nobody wants the suffering that comes with the collapse.

On the other hand, in 299 Days, Tate writes that the central character, Grant Matson, experiences the collapse with a rush of "warm joy."

"Grant didn't want all the bad things to happen to the mostly innocent people out there, but he knew that it was the only way things would change," Tate writes.

In another blog post, Tate stresses that it's good to get mad at the evil people who screwed up this country, but that violence should only be used in self-defense.

"Do not initiate violence," Tate writes. "I want to stress that point: Do not initiate violence. If you think 299 Days is persuading you to go out and hurt people, then you do not understand the book."

Yet at times his series revels in violence, including against prisoners. After the good guys capture a teenager who killed a member of their squad, a team member knifes the traitor to death.

"The kid tried to scream but he couldn't because of the damage to his throat," Tate writes. "They hoisted the mutilated and blood-soaked teenager up and put a noose around his neck."

The good guys wear the teenager's blood stains as a badge of honor.

In another passage, Tate describes how Grant, with just a touch of guilt, soaks in the "warm adrenaline and joy pulsing through him" after his team smashes another teenage traitor's hands.

In real life, Tate describes a similar sort of warmth.

At the Northwest Preparedness Expo, held in Prosser in 2017, Tate talks about how good he felt seeing "the good guys going to get in a fight with the bad guys" in Seattle on May Day.

"That sounds violent?" Tate says. "I don't care, it was heartwarming." So was watching antifa folks "get beat up pretty badly" elsewhere, he says.

"You watch that stuff and say, 'Dang, it's about time,' don't you?" he says.

These days, Tate's Prepping 2.0 podcast and related sites sport a recurring feature called "Live or Die," where, say, he'll post a photo of an awkward guy sleeping in a Gov. Jay Inslee T-shirt and then invite commenters to predict whether the person will survive the collapse.

"Live as a concubine with a ball gag, or die on a roasting spit," one commenter theorizes. "Wow, this kid has shoot me now written all over him," another quips.

Since his series' publication, meanwhile, both he and Gallagher have become fervent supporters of Shea's proposal to turn Eastern Washington into a new state called Liberty.

"Oh really, you want to enforce this court order?" Tate says at the 2017 Northwest Preparedness Expo, envisioning a potential rejoinder to the feds from a place like Liberty state. "Why don't you come through this mountain pass right here. Things may get noisy."

And the support is mutual. Shea appeared on the video for Tate's failed 2017 Kickstarter campaign to raise money for 299 Days: The Movie. "This movie is a wake-up call," Shea says. "The patriot community has to come together to make this happen."

On the video, Shea says he makes an appearance in the seventh book of the series and wants to play a character in the movie.

On Aug. 27, the same day Pounder leaked the "Restoration" document, Tate appeared on Shea's podcast. Violence is only going to get worse, he says. If Donald Trump gets re-elected, the left is going to go crazy, Tate says.

And if a Democrat wins, he says, then the Democrats are going to "push and prod and poke traditional Americans," in revenge and retaliation.

"And our side is going to say, 'Heck no, no more,'" Tate tells Shea. "And then stuff is going to get super violent." ♦

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...