Washington State’s Public Disclosure Commission will investigate allegations that Tim Eyman and his associates failed to timely register a committee for Initiative 517 and failed to timely report contributions and expenditures for the I-517 campaign, its Director of Compliance said this week.
- double the length of time that initiative sponsors have to gather signatures for initiatives to the people;
- dubiously require that cities and counties put initiatives up for a vote even if they exceed the scope of the local initiative power,
- and unconstitutionally infringe on the First Amendment rights of initiative opponents by attempting to criminalize decline-to-sign activities.
Eyman began quietly working on I-517 a year ago with his associates Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm, who run a petitioning business called “Citizen Solutions” that has repeatedly run afoul of Washington State’s worker protection laws (Eddie and Roy were audited and fined by the Department of Labor & Industries in 2011 for this reason). The trio and their other associates failed to timely register a political committee for I-517 with the Public Disclosure Commission and then failed to timely report the committee’s contributions and expenditures.
This prompted Tacoma activist and fellow Eyman watchdog Sherry Bockwinkel (who used to run a signature gathering firm herself) to file a complaint with the PDC against Eyman and his initiative factory last August.
Up until this week, the complaint had been in limbo. But on Tuesday, the PDC’s Philip Stutzman formally acknowledged that it had been received, and that PDC staff would be conducting an investigation. The case number is 13-027.
Phil’s letter began as follows:
Dear Ms. Bockwinkel:
The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) received a complaint from you on August 21, 20112, alleging that the Protect Your Right to Vote on Initiatives political committee (PRVI) violated RCW 42.17A.205 by failing to timely register its campaign in support of Initiative 517 to the legislature, and violated RCW 42.17A.235 and RCW 42.17A.240 by failing to file timely, accurate reports of contributions and expenditures. On August 29, 2012, you provided supplemental information relevant to your allegations.
PDC staff will investigate these allegations and notify you of the results when the investigation is complete. All laws cited in this letter can be found on our website, under “Home” and “Laws and Rules.”
It’s a relief to know that the PDC is going to take action and investigate Sherry’s complaint. It should not have taken seven months for them to send a letter saying they’re opening an investigation. Of course, the PDC is a public service, and like most of our state’s other public services, it is underfunded.
(If the PDC had more staff and a bigger budget, it could be more nimble and responsive, and redesign its website to be more accessible and reliable using newer technologies. But that’s a subject for another post).
Tim Eyman may think that he is above the law (and above our state Constitution), but he is not. Citizenship comes with responsibilities as well as rights. If Eyman wishes to exercise his right as a citizen to sponsor initiatives (even unconstitutional ones) then he needs to file his C1-PCs, C4s, and C3s on time.
Eyman has been in business with his initiative factory for over ten years; he should be very familiar with the law by now and be in full compliance all of the time.
But he has not been. His history of delinquent reporting and willful ignorance of our public disclosure laws demonstrates that he does not care about the people’s right to know who is trying to influence their votes during election season or get their signatures during a signature drive.
And speaking of signature drives, the PDC’s decision to act on this complaint comes just a few weeks after after a probe by the Secretary of State’s Elections Division found thousands of apparently fraudulent signatures on I-517 petitions.
The matter has since been turned over to the Washington State Patrol for investigation and potential referral for prosecution.
The fraudulent signatures we know about were submitted by three signature gatherers who also worked on the campaign to qualify I-522, and then turned in to Eyman and his associates, who evidently did not bother to conduct checks of their own petition sheets prior to turning them over to the Elections Division.
We hope that the PDC and State Patrol’s investigations will be thorough and will have repercussions. Tim Eyman and his associates need to be held accountable for the sketchy, shady campaign that they ran last year to qualify I-517. Allowing their lawbreaking to go unpunished would set a bad precedent.