Remem­ber back in June when Tim Eyman filed a statewide ini­tia­tive to pre­vent cities like Seat­tle from rais­ing the min­i­mum wage above the lev­el set by state law?

Sev­er­al media out­lets, includ­ing the Puget Sound Busi­ness Jour­nal, erro­neous­ly assumed — and then wrong­ful­ly report­ed — that Eyman was already col­lect­ing sig­na­tures for the mea­sure, when in fact all he had done was attach his name to some­body else’s bad idea as a pub­lic­i­ty stunt.

(As we sub­se­quent­ly point­ed out, it’s actu­al­ly not pos­si­ble to begin col­lect­ing sig­na­tures for any ini­tia­tive until it has been assigned a num­ber, bal­lot title and bal­lot sum­ma­ry. That had­n’t hap­pened at the time those reports were published).

The fol­low­ing day (June 5th), after reporters had noticed the ini­tia­tive, Eyman sent out an email explain­ing that he was “doing research and development”.

Said Eyman:

As for [sic] our Fair and Uni­form Min­i­mum Wage Ini­tia­tive is con­cerned, our goal is to illus­trate to the small busi­ness own­ers and oth­er con­cerned cit­i­zens a smart, effec­tive ini­tia­tive pro­pos­al that gives every­one in Wash­ing­ton a voice in the eco­nom­ic future of our state. For those inter­est­ed, we have attached the final text for it.

Lat­er in June, as it became appar­ent that Eyman’s I‑1325 was head­ed for the dust­bin and would not qual­i­fy for the Novem­ber 2014 bal­lot, we began hear­ing that Eyman was approach­ing peo­ple opposed to the min­i­mum wage increase approved in Seat­tle and SeaT­ac, and try­ing to involve him­self in their efforts to seek its repeal. More recent­ly, how­ev­er, we received con­crete evi­dence — in the form of a memo — that Eyman wants to spear­head a com­bined effort himself.

This memo, which The Seat­tle Post-Intel­li­gencer’s Joel Con­nel­ly report­ed on a cou­ple of days ago, reads like a poor­ly writ­ten invest­ment prospec­tus. Its tar­get audi­ence is rep­re­sen­ta­tives of lob­by­ing groups and busi­ness­peo­ple with access to mon­ey. It asks for $1.1 mil­lion to qual­i­fy the afore­men­tioned scheme to pre­vent cities from set­ting their own min­i­mum wages as an ini­tia­tive to the Leg­is­la­ture, and anoth­er $1.1 mil­lion to sell the ini­tia­tive to the vot­ers, assum­ing it gets on the ballot.

It begins as follows:

August 18th, 2014

To: Sup­port­ers of the Fair & Uni­form Min­i­mum Wage Ini­tia­tive PAC
From: Tim Eyman

Here’s our sit­u­a­tion in Wash­ing­ton state:

PROBLEM: The $15 min­i­mum wage has been passed in SeaT­ac, Seat­tle, and Port of Seat­tle and con­tin­ues to spread (Taco­ma, Olympia, Belling­ham, and oth­er cities). The good guys have been fight­ing back city-by-city. They’ve failed every time. A leg­isla­tive bill in Olympia on state pre­emp­tion was intro­duced last ses­sion and it went nowhere.

SOLUTION: A statewide ini­tia­tive to the Leg­is­la­ture has been already been filed by Fer­nan­do Neuen­schwan­der of Seat­tle. The sig­na­ture dri­ve for it can begin imme­di­ate­ly – its bal­lot title reads: This mea­sure would require the min­i­mum wage to be uni­form and con­sis­tent statewide for the employ­ees of all employ­ers sub­ject to Washington’s Min­i­mum Wage Act, and pro­hib­it any con­flict­ing local min­i­mum wage require­ments. Should this mea­sure be enact­ed into law? Yes [ ] No [ ].

Just to reit­er­ate, the sen­tence “pro­hib­it any con­flict­ing local min­i­mum wage require­ments” in the bal­lot title excerpt­ed above means pre­vent cities like Seat­tle and SeaT­ac from set­ting high­er min­i­mum wages. It is the lat­est in a long line of Eyman ini­tia­tives that assail home rule and local control.

It should be not­ed that in the case of SeaT­ac, the min­i­mum wage was increased by pop­u­lar vote, where­as in Seat­tle, pub­lic opin­ion research shows that the ordi­nance passed by the city coun­cil and signed by May­or Ed Mur­ray is popular.

Why, exact­ly, is Eyman so bent on over­turn­ing the will of the peo­ple (and the peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives) in juris­dic­tions where he does­n’t even reside?

The answer is sim­ple: He sees an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a nice pile of mon­ey and get back in the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty’s good graces after burn­ing them two years ago, when he report­ed­ly used mon­ey intend­ed for I‑1185 to qual­i­fy I‑517.

It is iron­ic that Eyman is seek­ing to prof­it from a run­ning an ini­tia­tive that would cut the pay of thou­sands of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans. If there is any­one left who still wrong­ly thinks that Tim Eyman is a cham­pi­on for the com­mon man, they ought to read this memo. Eyman is noth­ing but a char­la­tan. He mas­quer­ades as a pop­ulist in pub­lic while court­ing busi­ness­es and their lob­by­ists as clients.

And with this lat­est gam­bit, he wants to make big bucks while rolling back the hard-won gains of some of Wash­ing­ton’s low­est-paid work­ers. No inhab­i­tant of the State of Wash­ing­ton per­son­i­fies greed bet­ter than Tim Eyman does.

In the next part of the memo, Eyman claims that in order to be suc­cess­ful, he needs lots of mon­ey, and he needs it fast:

TIMELINE: We have from now until the end of the Decem­ber to col­lect the nec­es­sary sig­na­tures (the pub­lic vote on it will be Novem­ber, 2015). How­ev­er, this sig­na­ture dri­ve has to be done quick­ly. The Seat­tle ref­er­en­dum failed to qual­i­fy because the busi­ness groups push­ing it made a rook­ie mis­take: their fundrais­ing was death­ly slow, putting the sig­na­ture dri­ve on a slow roll-out, giv­ing the SEIU and oth­er oppo­nents time to coun­ter­at­tack with block­ers (peo­ple who stand around the peti­tion­er and scare away sign­ers). That rad­i­cal­ly drove up their costs and even­tu­al­ly shut down their sig­na­ture dri­ve. Our plan is to have our sig­na­ture dri­ve start on Sep­tem­ber 1 and end on Octo­ber 31. That gives oppo­nents very lit­tle time to react. But since it is a “ped­al to the met­al” strat­e­gy, it requires all fund­ing to be avail­able upfront.

COST: $2.2 mil­lion. $1.1 mil­lion for the fall 2014 sig­na­ture dri­ve, min­i­mum $1.1 mil­lion for the fall 2015 campaign.

Actu­al­ly, the main rea­son the sig­na­ture dri­ve for the Seat­tle ref­er­en­dum end­ed in fail­ure was that there were a very high num­ber of invalid and fraud­u­lent sig­na­tures sub­mit­ted by the peti­tion­ers who were hired to gath­er the signatures.

The firm that employed those peti­tion­ers and was award­ed the con­tract to run the sig­na­ture dri­ve for For­ward Seat­tle is none oth­er than Cit­i­zen Solu­tions, the trou­bled com­pa­ny oper­at­ed by Eyman’s bud­dy Roy Ruffi­no, and the same that Eyman has used for years for his ini­tia­tives’ sig­na­ture drives.

No doubt Eyman is plan­ning to give Cit­i­zen Solu­tions the con­tract for the statewide ini­tia­tive he is attempt­ing to sell in this memo — or arrange for them to get it.

The memo pro­vides no details on how the $2.2 mil­lion that Eyman is request­ing would be spent. Telling­ly, there is no bud­get and no cam­paign plan (which a true polit­i­cal pro­fes­sion­al would offer as part of a pitch to a prospec­tive client).

And that’s because this is a scam.

$1.1 mil­lion is a lot of mon­ey — a lot more than would be need­ed to run a sig­na­ture dri­ve for a statewide ini­tia­tive, par­tic­u­lar­ly one that begins so far advance of the dead­line to sub­mit sig­na­tures and does­n’t face com­pe­ti­tion from oth­er cam­paigns for peti­tion­er labor. How do we know? Because we’ve been watch­dog­ging Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry and inves­ti­gat­ing the shady, under­ground sig­na­ture gath­er­ing indus­try for over twelve years.

We know from talk­ing to peti­tion­ers and crew chiefs involved with I‑1185 and I‑517 two years ago that they were only being paid a dol­lar a sig­na­ture, and that was for a dri­ve that did­n’t start until spring­time. Sher­ry Bock­winkel’s PDC com­plaint alleg­ing law­break­ing on the part of Eyman’s I‑517 cam­paign com­mit­tee was even accom­pa­nied by signed affi­davits attest­ing to this.

We can see from look­ing at PDC records that more than $1.2 mil­lion was spent by the I‑1185 cam­paign. Of that, $1,173,324.99 went to Cit­i­zen Solutions.

But there’s no way that the sig­na­ture dri­ve actu­al­ly cost that much.

Again, we know that peti­tion­ers were being paid $1.00 a sig­na­ture by Rob Har­wig, Cit­i­zen Solu­tions’ main sub­con­trac­tor – ulti­mate­ly, sev­en­ty-five cents for a I‑1185 sig­na­ture and twen­ty-five cents for a I‑517 signature.

The Sec­re­tary of State report­ed that 320,003 sig­na­tures were sub­mit­ted for I‑1185. If, for the sake of argu­ment, we assume the sig­na­ture dri­ve had over­head of twen­ty-five per­cent (twen­ty-five cents a sig­na­ture) — which seems awful­ly high — we end up with a total cost of $400,003.75. Even if we assume there was an addi­tion­al $100,000 in over­head, that still leaves over half a mil­lion dol­lars unac­count­ed for.

What hap­pened to the rest of the $1,173,324.99? Where did it go? We know it did­n’t go to the peti­tion­ers. Per­haps some went to the subcontractors.

But most of the mon­ey, we sus­pect, end­ed up in the pock­ets of Tim Eyman, Roy Ruffi­no, and Eddie “Spaghet­ti” Agazarm. It seems they all made out like ban­dits from that cam­paign. And now, they want to do it again.

No per­son or busi­ness who cares about what hap­pens to their mon­ey should give Tim Eyman so much as a cent. Eyman has proven time and again that he is com­plete­ly unwor­thy of any­one’s trust.

Twelve and a half years ago, we found out Eyman had been help­ing him­self to his cam­paign’s bank account, tak­ing dona­tions for his own per­son­al use, and then repeat­ed­ly lying about it. The Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion inves­ti­gat­ed, con­clud­ed Eyman broke the law, and asked Attor­ney Gen­er­al Chris Gre­goire to take Eyman to court, which she did. Eyman sub­se­quent­ly set­tled with the state, pay­ing a $50,000 fine and agree­ing nev­er again to serve as cam­paign treasurer.

That inci­dent should have end­ed Tim Eyman’s polit­i­cal career and scared off any­one from giv­ing to him. But unfor­tu­nate­ly, it didn’t.

Eyman’s fundrais­ing did suf­fer, pre­vent­ing him from qual­i­fy­ing an ini­tia­tive to the bal­lot the fol­low­ing year (2003) but Eyman rebound­ed in 2004 by con­vinc­ing the gam­bling indus­try to fund an ini­tia­tive that would have legal­ized elec­tron­ic slot machines out­side of trib­al reser­va­tions. It was sound­ly reject­ed by voters.

As the I‑892 cam­paign was being waged, Eyman found a new wealthy bene­fac­tor who would go on to pro­vide the vast major­i­ty of the mon­ey for his next five ini­tia­tives: invest­ment banker Michael Dun­mire. In 2010, with Dun­mire unwill­ing or unable to con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing more than three-fourths of the mon­ey Eyman need­ed to buy his way onto the bal­lot, he turned to the Asso­ci­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton Busi­ness, which act­ed as a bundler for I‑1053 that year and I‑1185 two years later.

In between, in 2011, Eyman qual­i­fied an anti-light rail, anti-tolling ini­tia­tive to the bal­lot with Kem­per Free­man’s mon­ey, which vot­ers defeated.

There have been two oth­er notable instances when Eyman made pacts with oth­er inter­ests to spear­head bal­lot mea­sures, using their mon­ey and resources and act­ing as the sales­man. The first was in 2000, when, in addi­tion to qual­i­fy­ing I‑722 to the bal­lot (I‑722 sought to impose restric­tions on prop­er­ty tax­es), Eyman worked with the asphalt pavers’ lob­by to qual­i­fy I‑745 for the bal­lot. I‑745 attempt­ed to redi­rect nine­ty per­cent of trans­porta­tion fund­ing to road-build­ing and high­way expan­sion. It was the first Eyman ini­tia­tive to be defeat­ed by voters.

In 2006, Eyman teamed up with fun­da­men­tal­ist theo­cons like Ken Hutch­er­son (the founder of the Anti­och Bible Church) to push a ref­er­en­dum seek­ing to over­turn Wash­ing­ton’s his­toric new law ban­ning dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion. How­ev­er, it failed to make the ballot.

Remark­ably, so did Eyman’s oth­er scheme that year — Ini­tia­tive 917, which sought to repeal vehi­cle weight fees enact­ed as part of the 2005 Trans­porta­tion Package.

I say remark­ably because I‑917 was the sec­ond of the five afore­men­tioned ini­tia­tives under­writ­ten by Michael Dun­mire and the only Eyman ini­tia­tive to fail to qual­i­fy due to mis­man­age­ment as opposed to lack of resources.

Eyman had the mon­ey to buy his way on to the bal­lot (he had access to Dun­mire’s check­book), but inex­plic­a­bly, he did not col­lect enough extra sig­na­tures to ensure I‑917 had a cush­ion to off­set invalid and dupli­cate signatures.

How­ev­er, he claimed he had.

On turn-in day, Eyman announced he had sub­mit­ted 300,353 sig­na­tures. But after tal­ly­ing up the sig­na­tures on all the peti­tions they had — twice! — the Sec­re­tary of State said that only 266,034 sig­na­tures had been submitted.

The ques­tion now was whether enough of those sig­na­tures were valid. To find out, the Sec­re­tary of State was forced to under­take (at tax­pay­er expense!) a full check of all the sub­mit­ted sig­na­tures, as opposed to a ran­dom sam­ple check.

Eyman accused the Sec­re­tary of State of “pil­fer­ing” nonex­is­tent peti­tions, osten­si­bly to shift blame away from him­self and his asso­ciates. But no one bought this sto­ry, not even peo­ple sym­pa­thet­ic to Eyman’s cause. (Con­ser­v­a­tive talk show host John Carl­son had to urge Eyman to stop mak­ing base­less alle­ga­tions against the Sec­re­tary of State’s office, held then and now by a Republican.)

Eyman was forced to admit that nei­ther he nor his asso­ciates had made pho­to­copies of the peti­tions before sub­mit­ting them, or kept any records that would authen­ti­cate his claims. They had weighed the box­es the peti­tions were kept in, but they wrote the num­bers on the box­es, which were recy­cled. (Some professional!)

A few weeks lat­er, we caught Eyman in yet anoth­er lie after we com­pared a let­ter Eyman had sent to his sup­port­ers in August try­ing to explain I‑917’s prob­lems with con­tra­dic­to­ry emails and pub­lic state­ments made at a press con­fer­ence in June.

Giv­en Eyman’s long his­to­ry of lying, repeat­ed­ly flout­ing our state’s pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws, and run­ning slop­py, unpro­fes­sion­al cam­paigns, he ought to have been reduced to a polit­i­cal pari­ah a long time ago. Sad­ly, he’s man­aged to keep his lucra­tive ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry going by per­suad­ing peo­ple to write big checks to him.

That did­n’t hap­pen this year, which is won­der­ful, but an Eyman-free bal­lot needs to become the norm, not the excep­tion to the norm.

As I said above, no one, no mat­ter their polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy, should trust Tim Eyman or give Tim Eyman mon­ey to do any­thing. Any­one who has received this memo from Eyman, along with phone calls and emails ask­ing for mon­ey, should polite­ly respond with a strong, firm, “No thanks, Tim. We’re not interested.”

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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3 replies on “Tim Eyman wants $2.2 million for statewide initiative to repeal $15/hour minimum wage”

  1. An ini­tia­tive requir­ing Eyman to move would­n’t be con­sti­tu­tion­al, but it would be fun­ny, espe­cial­ly since Tim’s own ini­tia­tives aren’t constitutional… 

    Tim needs to get a real job. 

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