This morn­ing, at the Sec­re­tary of State’s Elec­tions Annex in Olympia, Tim Eyman and his pals Eddie Agazarm and Paul Jacob showed up to deliv­er what they said were 345,000 sig­na­tures for Ini­tia­tive 517, Eyman’s lat­est scheme, which is intend­ed to make it eas­i­er and cheap­er for Tim Eyman to qual­i­fy ini­tia­tives for the bal­lot every year, so he can eke even more prof­its out of his ini­tia­tive factory.

I attend­ed Eyman’s press con­fer­ence and respond­ed after­wards on behalf of all of the good peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton State who are sick and tired of destruc­tive, self-serv­ing Tim Eyman ini­tia­tives that drain our com­mon wealth, under­mine our plan of gov­ern­ment, and weak­en the vital pub­lic ser­vices we all rely on.

Fol­low­ing Eyman’s remarks, I announced that NPI is spear­head­ing the for­ma­tion of a new polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee to oppose I‑517: Stop Tim Eyman’s Prof­it Machine. Our goal is to build a strong and diverse statewide coali­tion to defeat this mea­sure and pro­tect the ini­tia­tive process — which Eyman already exploits on an annu­al basis — from fur­ther abuse and manip­u­la­tion. The ini­tia­tive and ref­er­en­dum were cre­at­ed to allow the peo­ple to

Stop Tim Eyman’s Prof­it Machine is not an NPI project. It is a coali­tion open to all who are tired of destruc­tive Tim Eyman ini­tia­tives and want to help orga­nize oppo­si­tion to Eyman’s most self-serv­ing scheme yet. Twice dur­ing the past few years, Wash­ing­ton’s pro­gres­sive move­ment has come up short against Tim Eyman because no one stepped up to jump­start the oppo­si­tion. We can­not afford such a lead­er­ship vac­u­um now… or ever again. There is too much at stake.

I have been work­ing against Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tives for near­ly eleven years now, as long­time NPI read­ers and sup­port­ers know.

I’m com­mit­ted to oppos­ing Eyman and his prof­it machine because I care about Wash­ing­ton. I was born here, raised here, and have no inten­tion of ever liv­ing any­place else. I love to trav­el, but I also love to come home to Washington.

I want to live in a state that invests in its schools and uni­ver­si­ties, that keeps its parks and pub­lic lands open and acces­si­ble, that makes men­tal health treat­ment and restora­tive jus­tice a pri­or­i­ty, and that pays its teach­ers and first respon­ders a liv­ing wage. I want to live in a state where it is easy to start a busi­ness or a non­prof­it, where gov­ern­ment is open and respon­sive to the needs of the peo­ple, and where the most vul­ner­a­ble get the help they need instead of being ignored.

Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tives rep­re­sent a threat to that vision.

For more than a decade, Eyman has sought to turn Wash­ing­to­ni­ans against their own gov­ern­ment. He is relent­less; fail­ure does­n’t faze him (and why should it, for he makes mon­ey whether he wins or los­es). His ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry has churned out one destruc­tive mea­sure after anoth­er with each pass­ing year, backed by wealthy bene­fac­tors such as invest­ment banker Michael Dun­mire of Wood­inville, Belle­vue devel­op­er (and light rail oppo­nent) Kem­per Free­man, Jr., and big oil com­pa­nies like BP, Shell, Cono­coPhillips, and Tesoro.

Tim Eyman likes to por­tray him­self as a vir­tu­ous cham­pi­on of the peo­ple. But that’s a fic­tion. Eyman does not rep­re­sent the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State. He has nev­er had the courage to run for elect­ed office him­self. Instead, he belit­tles and insults peo­ple who do, while ped­dling schemes that make their jobs harder.

Nor is his ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry a grass­roots oper­a­tion. Mon­ey from pow­er­ful inter­ests lubri­cates its gears, and Eyman serves as the pitch­man for his schemes. Rarely does he take a back­seat. In 2002, after he admit­ted hav­ing tak­en more than $150,000 from his own sup­port­ers for his per­son­al use, he went into self-imposed exile, and turned over the I‑776 cam­paign check­book to his asso­ciates — but not before he said this to Asso­ci­at­ed Press’ David Ammons:

Eyman said he intends to con­tin­ue push­ing ini­tia­tives, but he intends to be paid, and to be up front about it.

“I want to con­tin­ue to advo­cate issues and I want to make a lot of mon­ey doing it,” he said.

That is one of my favorite Eyman quotes. It’s worth noth­ing that Eyman did­n’t tell Ammons, “I’d like rea­son­able com­pen­sa­tion for the work I’m doing” or “I’ve spear­head­ed ini­ti­atves in the past as a vol­un­teer, but I real­ize now I need to find a way to pay the bills… I’m going to ask my sup­port­ers if they mind if I take a salary.” No, what he Eyman said was, “I want to con­tin­ue to advo­cate issues and I want to make a lot of mon­ey doing it.”

And he has. Last year, it appears he made out like a bandit.

We can see from look­ing at PDC records that more than $1.2 mil­lion was spent by the Ini­tia­tive 1185 cam­paign committee.

Of that $1.2 mil­lion, $1,173,324.99 went to “Cit­i­zen Solu­tions”, a shell busi­ness run by Eyman’s asso­ciates Roy Ruffi­no and Eddie Agazarm.

I use the words shell busi­ness because “Cit­i­zen Solu­tions” is not run like a legit­i­mate firm by hon­est entre­pre­neurs. Roy and Eddie were actu­al­ly fined more than $8,000 in 2011 by the Depart­ment of Labor & Indus­tries for vio­lat­ing Wash­ing­ton’s work­er pro­tec­tion laws. Since being audit­ed and fined, Roy and Eddie have dis­solved and reformed “Cit­i­zen Solu­tions” as a lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­ny, or LLC.

They now require peti­tion­ers to self-reg­is­ter with the Depart­ment of Rev­enue and the Depart­ment of Labor & Indus­tries as a con­di­tion of being offered a con­tract. That way, Roy and Eddie don’t have to wor­ry about tak­ing care of the peo­ple who work for them. (So much for com­pas­sion­ate con­ser­vatism, right?)

Over the course of the past year, we have learned a lot about how Roy and Eddie oper­ate. Peo­ple they have mis­treat­ed have brave­ly stepped for­ward to tell their sto­ries, includ­ing Rick Walther, Steve Bur­dick, and Miles Stanley.

Thanks to their tes­ti­mo­ny, we know that back in April, Roy and Eddie attempt­ed to force all of their peti­tion crews to gath­er equal num­bers of sig­na­tures for I‑1185 and I‑517, while only receiv­ing pay­ment for the I‑1185 sig­na­tures. Peti­tion­ers who did­n’t like this arrange­ment were told they would be fired. Ulti­mate­ly, Roy and Eddie came up with a new arrange­ment: Instead of pay­ing around $1.00 for every I‑1185 sig­na­ture, peti­tion­ers would receive sev­en­ty-five cents for each I‑1185 sig­na­ture and twen­ty-five cents for each I‑517 signature.

Tim Eyman has claimed that no mon­ey for I‑1185 was used to pay for I‑517 sig­na­tures. But he could be lying, as he often has in the past. We’d like to see a foren­sic account­ing done of his and Cit­i­zen Solu­tion’s finances to see whether pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws were fol­lowed or not.

This much we do know: Most of the mon­ey that went to Cit­i­zen Solu­tions to pay for I‑1185 sig­na­tures did not go to the peti­tion crews. It was pocked by Ruffi­no and Agazarm (and pos­si­bly Eyman as well) as prof­it. Miles and Steve have tes­ti­fied in sworn affadi­v­its that they were being paid a dol­lar per sig­na­ture, and we know that oth­er peti­tion­ers were col­lect­ing for the same lev­el of com­pen­sa­tion. The Sec­re­tary of State’s office report­ed last July that 320,003 sig­na­tures were sub­mit­ted for I‑1185. If each sig­na­ture cost Ruffi­no and Agazarm a dol­lar, that would mean the cost of the sig­na­ture dri­ve was around $320,000.

For argu­men­t’s sake, let’s assume the total costs of the sig­na­ture dri­ve actu­al­ly came to $1.25 a sig­na­ture. That’s more than what the peti­tion­ers were being paid, but it allows us to sup­pose there may have been oth­er costs asso­ci­at­ed with the sig­na­ture dri­ve. If we mul­ti­ply $1.25 by 320,003, we get $400,003.75. That still leaves more than $700,000 unac­count­ed for.

What hap­pened to all of that mon­ey? Where did it go? We know it did­n’t go to the work­ers who gath­ered sig­na­tures out­side of shop­ping malls, sta­di­ums, and fer­ry ter­mi­nals. We can only con­clude it was pock­et­ed as profit.

Ruffi­no, Agazarm, and Eyman have the means to take good care of the peo­ple who col­lect sig­na­tures for them. But they don’t. They are inter­est­ed in mak­ing mon­ey on their terms, and they have no com­pul­sion about exploit­ing oth­er peo­ple to do that.

If I‑517 pass­es, Ruffi­no, Agazarm, and Eyman will be able to turn peti­tion­ing into a year-round busi­ness. State law cur­rent­ly pro­vides for a six-month win­dow for gath­er­ing sig­na­tures on ini­tia­tives to the peo­ple (Jan­u­ary to July). Eyman wants to length­en that peri­od by six months, so that each July, right after sub­mit­ting sig­na­tures for one ini­tia­tive, he could imme­di­ate­ly begin work­ing on a scheme for the ensu­ing year. Eyman does­n’t care that ini­tia­tives to the Leg­is­la­ture already have a longer-win­dow of about nine months — a win­dow he just took advan­tage of to get the sig­na­tures he need­ed for I‑517. He wants his schemes to go direct­ly on the bal­lot with­out hav­ing to wait for poten­tial leg­isla­tive action.

Eyman does a good job of mak­ing him­self sound like an all-around good guy… a guy with good and noble inten­tions. He knows how to put peo­ple at ease… he can be dis­arm­ing, even charm­ing, when talk­ing to reporters. And he excels at orches­trat­ing media cov­er­age for his schemes. The most dan­ger­ous place in Wash­ing­ton is between Tim Eyman and a tele­vi­sion cam­era, as the Post-Intel­li­gencer’s Joel Con­nel­ly likes to say.

But there is noth­ing noble about Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry. It is fueled by greed and exploita­tion. Eyman has said that he’s in this to make mon­ey for him­self, as I showed ear­li­er. And coin­ci­den­tal­ly, his pal Eddie Agazarm has been even more explic­it. Last year, only hours after Agazarm con­clud­ed a meet­ing about I‑517 with peti­tion crew chiefs, he sent out an email try­ing to assuage con­cerns that ask­ing peo­ple to col­lect I‑517 sig­na­tures for no com­pen­sa­tion was unfair:

Some­body said that they’d have to be ask­ing their peo­ple to work I‑517 for free.

That is def­i­nite­ly not the case as ALL peti­tion­ers and ALL man­agers will get paid very hand­some­ly once I‑517 pass­es. Think of the extra mon­ey we ALL make when we can work big turf ALL the time. Think of the mon­ey we can ALL make when we have peti­tion­ing year round. Think of all the extra peti­tions we can car­ry. Oh… we are gonna get paid for sure.

That sec­ond para­graph there pret­ty much says it all. Mon­ey is what this is real­ly all about. Prof­it­ing from pro­mot­ing an end­less series of destruc­tive, cyn­i­cal ini­tia­tives that harm Wash­ing­ton’s qual­i­ty of life. That is the last thing our state needs.

We some­times get asked, by the way, if we are auto­mat­i­cal­ly opposed to every­thing Tim Eyman spon­sors. We are not, but as I said this morn­ing, we have nev­er seen a Tim Eyman ini­tia­tive to end home­less­ness. Or an Eyman plan for clean­ing up Puget Sound. Or a pro­pos­al to repair the dam­age caused by his own ini­tia­tives from the ear­ly 2000s. All we have ever seen from Tim Eyman are ini­tia­tives that cause harm and inflict pain, often in unseen ways (think death by a thou­sand cuts).

Eyman avoids talk­ing about the costs and con­se­quences of his schemes, pre­fer­ring to stick to his talk­ing points even when challenged.

That is why I went down to Olympia this morning.

When Tim Eyman goes unre­spond­ed to, we don’t have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about those costs and con­se­quences, because the con­ver­sa­tion becomes one-sided and dom­i­nat­ed by Eyman.

Reporters from the Asso­ci­at­ed Press, The News Tri­bune, The Her­ald of Everett, KING5, and KCPQ (Q13 Fox) attend­ed Eyman’s press con­fer­ence. Most of them lat­er report­ed on the sig­na­ture turn-in for their respec­tive pub­li­ca­tions. What fol­lows are some excerpts from the sto­ries they wrote, or seg­ments they filed.

From Q13 Fox:

Eyman’s crit­ics were quick to pounce on his new effort.

“This is a made up prob­lem, a man­u­fac­tured, pre­tend prob­lem, and it’s not a cri­sis,” said State Rep. Reuven Car­lyle.  “No one else is com­plain­ing about this issue. The time under state law is absolute­ly sufficient.”

A new group formed to fight back at Eyman’s lat­est effort Thursday.

“This is not about grass­roots democ­ra­cy,” said Andrew Vil­leneuve, Co-Chair of No on I‑517.  “This ini­tia­tive is real­ly about mak­ing it eas­i­er for Eyman to do peti­tion­ing year round, for his asso­ciates to do peti­tion­ing year round, because that is their busi­ness. That is how they make their money.”

From the Seat­tle Post-Intel­li­gencer:

A com­mit­tee called Stop Tim Eyman’s Prof­it Machine:  No on 517 announced its for­ma­tion in Olympia moments after Eyman filed his mea­sure.  It is the brain­child of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, a hand-to-mouth group of young “net­roots” activists that has opposed past Eyman initiatives.

The com­mit­tee charges that I‑517 is designed for the pri­ma­ry pur­pose of enrich­ing Eyman.  The ini­tia­tive would, it charges, make it “eas­i­er and cheap­er for Eyman to oper­ate his ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry, in part by mak­ing peti­tion­ing a year-round busi­ness for Eyman and his associates.

From The Her­ald of Everett:

Andrew Vil­leneuve of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, a long­time Eyman neme­sis, watched the trio speak to reporters then announced for­ma­tion of a com­mit­tee to fight the mea­sure. Its name, he said, will be “Stop Tim Eyman’s Prof­it Machine.”

Vil­leneuve said if the ini­tia­tive became law spon­sors of ini­tia­tives would gain six addi­tion­al months to gath­er sig­na­tures. That means peti­tion­ers could be out and about year-round which would make the busi­ness of ini­tia­tives and sig­na­ture gath­er­ing more lucra­tive, he said.

“This ini­tia­tive is just intend­ed to make it eas­i­er and cheap­er for peo­ple like Tim Eyman to do ini­tia­tives,” he said.

And the Asso­ci­at­ed Press:

Andrew Vil­leneuve of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, who has long opposed Eyman’s ini­tia­tives, issued a state­ment Thurs­day crit­i­ciz­ing the mea­sure, say­ing that the aim of I‑517 “is to make it eas­i­er and cheap­er for Tim Eyman to run initiatives.”

If you want to help get involved in the coali­tion to defeat Ini­tia­tive 517 and stop Tim Eyman’s prof­it machine, please sign up to help today over at Per­ma­nent Defense. This isn’t going to be easy. We would appre­ci­ate hav­ing you on board.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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2 replies on “Tired of destructive, self-serving Eyman initiatives? Help us stop Tim’s profit machine”

  1. Even though Eyman claims to want small­er gov­ern­ment, his ini­tia­tive is noth­ing but an ear­mark that ben­e­fits his own business.

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