NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Tim Eyman’s paid signature drive for I‑1366 is done — so why is he still fundraising for it?

For the past four days, ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman has been send­ing out dai­ly emails ask­ing his fol­low­ers to give gen­er­ous­ly so he can make a final pay­ment to his asso­ciates to fin­ish the sig­na­ture dri­ve for Ini­tia­tive 1366, his lat­est attempt to sab­o­tage Wash­ing­ton’s cher­ished tra­di­tion of major­i­ty rule.

I‑1366, as reg­u­lar read­ers will recall, is a do-over of last year’s I‑1325, which did­n’t qual­i­fy. It would slash the state sales tax by next April, result­ing in the loss of about $1 bil­lion a year, unless, by that time, the Leg­is­la­ture has passed a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment per­ma­nent­ly requir­ing a two-thirds vote to raise rev­enue.

“It’s crunch time — ini­tia­tives don’t qual­i­fy unless there’s a big surge in dona­tions and sig­na­tures at the end,” Eyman declared in an email sent Mon­day, June 22nd.

“We are ago­niz­ing­ly close to qual­i­fy­ing,” he added. “We just need every­one to help raise the mon­ey nec­es­sary to col­lect the required sig­na­tures. We’ve worked too hard and invest­ed too much to fall short now. Please help us make it hap­pen.”

The next day, June 23rd, Eyman was more explic­it in his appeal for mon­ey.

“On day one, I took out a 2nd mort­gage on my home and loaned the cam­paign $150,000,” Eyman wrote in his Tues­day email.

“Why? So we could imme­di­ate­ly con­tract with a pro­fes­sion­al sig­na­ture gath­er­ing firm to sup­ple­ment our vol­un­teers. For months, they’ve been out there ask­ing vot­ers through­out the state to sign peti­tions for I‑1366. Our final pay­ment of $100,000 for their ser­vices is due one week from tomor­row — on July 1st.”

Yes­ter­day and today, Eyman sent fol­low-up emails thank­ing six fol­low­ers who have stepped for­ward to answer his call — and plead­ing for more fol­low­ers to do like­wise.

What’s miss­ing from all of these Eyman emails is the truth about the I‑1366 sig­na­ture dri­ve. By com­par­ing what Eyman is say­ing with Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion data and the field intel­li­gence we’ve gath­ered, we can see the details he’s con­ve­nient­ly leav­ing out. And sad­ly, the evi­dence demon­strates that Eyman is once again dup­ing his own fol­low­ers — pre­sum­ably for per­son­al prof­it.

Here is what we know about the I‑1366 sig­na­ture dri­ve, its costs, and its time­frame:

  • In Feb­ru­ary, Eyman announced that he was tak­ing out a sec­ond mort­gage on his house to “jump­start” a sig­na­ture dri­ve for I‑1366.
  • Not long after, we began receiv­ing reports of peti­tion­ers col­lect­ing sig­na­tures for the ini­tia­tive. For about the first six weeks of the dri­ve, com­pen­sa­tion was sev­en­ty-five cents per sig­na­ture, which isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly high.
  • In March, Eyman’s trea­sur­er filed reports with the PDC show­ing the loan, ini­tial pay­ments to Cit­i­zen Solu­tions, and a big infu­sion of cash from a new wealthy bene­fac­tor, Clyde Hol­land, and an old one, Kem­per Free­man Jr.
  • In April, a sec­ond round of reports showed anoth­er mas­sive infu­sion of cash, with anoth­er big check from Hol­land account­ing for much of that. Six weeks into the dri­ve, peti­tion­ers began receiv­ing com­pen­sa­tion of $1.25 per sig­na­ture, up from sev­en­ty-five cents.
  • In May, a third round of reports revealed that Eyman had raised near­ly a mil­lion dol­lars for I‑1366, not count­ing his loan to him­self. For the final weeks of the dri­ve, peti­tion­ers were receiv­ing com­pen­sa­tion of $1.50 a sig­na­ture.
  • Ear­li­er this month, the paid sig­na­ture dri­ve for I‑1366 came to an end, pre­sum­ably because Eyman has the sig­na­tures he needs to qual­i­fy. The most recent PDC reports, filed June 9th, show that a total of $1 mil­lion ($1,000,000 exact­ly) has been trans­ferred to Cit­i­zen Solu­tions since Feb­ru­ary.

Here is a list of all report­ed pay­ments to Cit­i­zen Solu­tions so far by Eyman’s cam­paign com­mit­tee, which is a new incar­na­tion of Vot­ers Want More Choic­es (VWMC). Note that it is ordered by the amount of the pay­ment, not the date.

CITIZENS SOLUTIONS2015-03-30 (Mar)$300,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS2015-03-02 (Mar)$150,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS2015-02-03 (Feb)$150,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS2015-03-05 (Mar)$100,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS2015-05-06 (May)$100,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS2015-05-01 (May)$50,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS2015-05-11 (May)$50,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS2015-05-22 (May)$50,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS2015-04-10 (Apr)$50,000

Total: $1,000,000

Now, let’s do some math. If we were cor­rect­ly informed about peti­tion­ers being paid $0.75, $1.25, and $1.50 dur­ing the dri­ve (an aver­age of $1.17), and if the labor­ers Eyman’s tak­ing advan­tage of gath­ered around 320,000 sig­na­tures before stop­ping (which is all that’s need­ed), then an amount some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of $374,000 went to com­pen­sate peti­tion­ers for their labor.

What­ev­er sig­na­tures Eyman’s asso­ciates don’t dis­card will be sub­mit­ted to the Sec­re­tary of State by July 2nd, and those will be count­ed. So, in a mater of days, we’ll have an exact fig­ure. It stands to rea­son that Eyman & Co. aren’t going to pay peti­tion­ers for sig­na­tures Eyman does­n’t need, and isn’t going to sub­mit.

Even if we assume a cost of $1.50 per sig­na­ture (the high­est report­ed rate) for the dura­tion of the entire dri­ve, that still works out to less than half a mil­lion dol­lars for the peti­tion­ers’ labor (again, assum­ing pay­ment for around 320,000 sig­na­tures).

We also have to account for what is known in this under­ground indus­try as over­ride costs. The “over­ride” is what’s paid to coor­di­na­tors like John Michael and Brent John­son, who col­lect sheets from the peti­tion­ers. We under­stand the typ­i­cal over­ride is between twen­ty-five and fifty cents per sig­na­ture; it varies by vol­ume. If the over­ride was fifty cents, then that adds around $160,000 in over­head.

Some addi­tion­al funds might have been spent bring­ing in out of state labor from Cal­i­for­nia or else­where, because vet­er­an local peti­tion­ers are reluc­tant to car­ry Eyman peti­tions after hav­ing been cheat­ed on their pay­ments in the past by Eyman and his asso­ciates. But bus tick­ets for a few dozen indi­vid­u­als don’t cost that much.

So where did the rest of the mil­lion dol­lars go?

We can only assume that Ruffi­no and Agazarm pock­et­ed it as prof­it. And per­haps Eyman is get­ting a kick­back from them in the form of a prof­it-shar­ing arrange­ment. We can’t be sure, because we can’t ver­i­fy the mon­ey trail beyond the pay­ments to Cit­i­zen Solu­tions. But we know that Eyman and his asso­ciates love to make mon­ey. This is a busi­ness for them. A lucra­tive busi­ness and a shady busi­ness.

An above­board busi­ness would com­ply with fed­er­al and state work­er pro­tec­tion laws, pay­ing work­er’s com­pen­sa­tion pre­mi­ums and tax­es that can amount to 15% of the wages paid to their employ­ees. But no reports have been filed with the Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice or the Depart­ment of Labor & Indus­tries by Cit­i­zen Solu­tions demon­strat­ing that these laws are being com­plied with and the peti­tion­ers pro­tect­ed. Their coor­di­na­tors (John Michael and Brent John­son) haven’t filed employ­ee pay­roll reports either, and the first quar­ter pay­ments are past due.

Ruffi­no and Agazarm are cer­tain­ly being paid well enough to take care of the peo­ple who are work­ing them. They’re also being paid well enough to afford to hire a good accoun­tant who could man­age their pay­roll and L&I account for them. But they’d rather oper­ate an under­ground cash busi­ness than play it straight.

The email cam­paign Eyman launched this week makes it sound like Eyman and his asso­ciates are in a sprint to the fin­ish, fran­ti­cal­ly try­ing to gath­er enough sig­na­tures in time to meet the dead­line stip­u­lat­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion for statewide ini­tia­tives to the peo­ple.

But we know that’s not true. From look­ing at our field intel­li­gence, we can con­clude that the paid sig­na­ture dri­ve for I‑1366 is over.

Reports filed by Eyman’s own trea­sur­er show his cam­paign com­mit­tee has already trans­ferred more than twice the amount of mon­ey need­ed to com­pen­sate peti­tion­ers for 320,000 sig­na­tures, which, again, is all that’s need­ed. Why does Eyman need to send Agazarm and Ruffi­no anoth­er $100,000?

It is worth not­ing that this isn’t the first time that Eyman has inflat­ed the cost of a sig­na­ture dri­ve. Pri­or to 2015, the last time that Eyman did a paid sig­na­ture dri­ve with Roy and Eddie was in 2012, when he qual­i­fied I‑1185 as an ini­tia­tive to the peo­ple while at the same time run­ning a stealth sig­na­ture dri­ve for a sec­ond ini­tia­tive, I‑517. I‑517 was an ini­tia­tive to the Leg­is­la­ture; it lat­er appeared on the Novem­ber 2013 bal­lot and was over­whelm­ing­ly defeat­ed by vot­ers.

As with I‑1366, Eyman raised over $1 mil­lion to qual­i­fy I‑1185 to the statewide bal­lot, and trans­ferred most of that to Cit­i­zen Solu­tions for sig­na­ture gath­er­ing expens­es. Most of the mon­ey for I‑1185 came from large cor­po­ra­tions like BP and Cono­coPhillips, but small­er com­pa­nies gave as well. (I‑1185 was Eyman’s most recent I‑601 clone. It attempt­ed to require a two-thirds vote to raise rev­enue, but this scheme was struck down by the state Supreme Court in Feb­ru­ary 2013.)

The Asso­ci­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton Busi­ness (AWB) act­ed as Eyman’s bundler dur­ing the I‑1185 cam­paign, and even paid out large chunks of Cit­i­zen Solu­tions direct­ly, with­out going through Eyman’s cam­paign com­mit­tee.

What the AWB did­n’t know was that the actu­al cost to run the sig­na­ture dri­ve was much less than $1 mil­lion. How do we know that? Because we know how many sig­na­tures were sub­mit­ted, and we know what the peti­tion­ers were paid:

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 [peti­tion­ers who worked on the cam­paign] 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.

The affadi­v­its men­tioned in the excerpt above were sub­mit­ted to the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion as part of a com­plaint filed by activist Sher­ry Bock­winkel of Taco­ma in August of 2012. While the I‑517 stealth sig­na­ture dri­ve was still under­way, she noticed that a num­ber of things did­n’t add up, and filed a com­plaint with the PDC alleg­ing that the stealth cam­paign was being ille­gal­ly run.

It’s been near­ly three years since that com­plaint was filed, and over two years since the PDC con­firmed it would look into it, but it’s still unre­solved.

When asked about the sta­tus of the case, PDC staff will only say that the inves­ti­ga­tion is still open and that com­plaints can take time to resolve.

Is it any won­der Eyman thinks he can get away with con­tin­u­al­ly dup­ing his own fol­low­ers? His past wrong­do­ing keeps get­ting over­looked or ignored. We reg­u­lar­ly talk about it here, and occa­sion­al­ly, so do big­ger media out­lets.

But it has not led to any action on the part of the PDC.

The only time the PDC ever real­ly went after Eyman was in 2002, after he admit­ted tak­ing over $100,000 in cam­paign mon­ey for his own per­son­al use and lying about it. The PDC referred that case to Attor­ney Gen­er­al Chris Gre­goire. Gre­goire took Eyman to court, but decid­ed the next year to set­tle the law­suit for $50,000 and the stip­u­la­tion that Eyman nev­er again serve as a cam­paign trea­sur­er.

As we have seen, Eyman does not need to be his own trea­sur­er to con­tin­ue prof­itably oper­at­ing his ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry. Eyman was off the bal­lot for only one year after get­ting caught with his hand in the cook­ie jar. Then he was back in busi­ness. Last year was just the first time since 2003 that Eyman did­n’t have enough mon­ey to make the statewide bal­lot with the scheme that he tried to qual­i­fy.

(He also failed to qual­i­fy any­thing in 2006, though that was due to mis­man­age­ment, incom­pe­tence, or a com­bi­na­tion of both, not lack of funds.)

The peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton have increas­ing­ly begun to real­ize that Eyman is a snake oil sales­man. Over the last ten years, the vot­ers have defeat­ed near­ly every Eyman ini­tia­tive that had a well-orga­nized, vig­or­ous oppo­si­tion cam­paign.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Eyman keeps get­ting on the bal­lot, because he’s man­aged to per­suade a whole bunch of wealthy con­ser­v­a­tives that he walks on water. And those are the peo­ple who real­ly mat­ter to Eyman. They’re the ones with the mon­ey.

Eyman and his asso­ciates are the only peo­ple deriv­ing any ben­e­fit from his ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry. They’re the win­ners in this long-run­ning, fif­teen-year con.

The rest of us, includ­ing Eyman’s own fol­low­ers, are the losers. Whether they real­ize it or not, they’re help­ing to make us all poor­er. So long as Eyman’s bene­fac­tors keep patron­iz­ing him, and so long as the state con­tin­ues to allow his wrong­do­ing to go unpun­ished, Eyman will stay in busi­ness, prof­it­ing from greed.

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