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Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Déjà vu: Unmasking of Tim Eyman’s deceptions leads to media field day

Yesterday, September 21st, 2015, felt a lot like February 5th, 2002. That was the day that people all over Washington State woke up to the news that Tim Eyman had confessed to taking over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars of campaign funds for his own personal use while falsely claiming he was working as a volunteer.

The story had been broken the night before by The Associated Press’ Dave Ammons, who now works for Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Ammons was telephoned by Eyman two days after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a story by reporter Neil Modie which questioned Eyman’s suspicious payments to himself.

The story Ammons subsequently put out on the wire was a doozy, chock full of quotes from Eyman that revealed his true sleazy character. In one fell swoop, Eyman admitted to deceiving the press, the public, his followers, and even his own co-sponsors, Jack and Mike Fagan and Monte Benham. Here’s a selection:

  • “The fact is, it is true that I made money in past campaigns and planned to make money on future campaigns… I want to continue to advocate issues and I want to make a lot of money doing it.”
  • “The Permanent Offense Inc. organization was set up to have a way to cover the fact that I was making money sponsoring initiatives, and none of my co-sponsors knew that was the case.”
  • “I was in lie mode… I became riddled with guilt. It was the biggest lie of my life and it was over the stupidest thing in the world. The biggest thing I’m guiltiest of is an enormous ego. Hubris.”
  • “This entire charade was set up so I could maintain a moral superiority over our opposition, so I could say our opponents make money from politics and I don’t… It was addictive. I was getting deeper and deeper and deeper into this charade. I thought I found a way to make money off our initiatives without our opponents knowing it, or knowing it for sure. I was too clever by half. I just got deeper and deeper into this lie.”

The next day, the story was carried in the papers:

Tim Eyman: I took money, lied about it

Eyman admits to lying (Seattle P-I)

Thirteen and a half years have gone by since, but Eyman’s behavior has not changed. The Public Disclosure Commission’s investigation into his I-517 finances runs two hundred and forty-four pages, and the included documentation confirms what we have long suspected: Eyman flouted Washington’s public disclosure law by illegally using dark money to qualify Initiative 517.

What’s truly fascinating are the transcripts of the interviews conducted by PDC staff with Eyman and his associate Eddie Agazarm. These interviews detail the extent to which Eyman made unwritten side deals with his associates that his other associates were apparently unaware of. It’s quite the tangled web.

The following exchange, in particular, is very revealing. It’s an excerpt from an interview between PDC staff and Eddie Agazarm, who owned the old Citizen Solutions along with Roy Ruffino. (Citizen Solutions was dissolved and reformed as an LLC a few years ago.) In the interview, Agazarm claims that Ruffino was not enamored with I-517, Agazarm and Eyman’s initiative on initiatives, which NPI fought and defeated two years ago with a diverse, bipartisan coalition.

Eddie Agazarm: [Tim] was angling to get paid earlier, right there in that letter.

(Discussing nature of “partnership” described in July 8, 2012 email exchange)

Eddie Agazarm: Tim and I and William and Roy and I had discussed at one time, Tim becoming a partner in Citizen Solutions. But that’s been, probably for that reason, never discussed again.

PDC’s Phil Stutzman: What do you think [Paul Jacob was expecting a payment from Tim] for?

Eddie Agazarm: Maybe for consulting.

(Discussing the “something” Tim was working on with Paul Jacob that could result in some national recognition.)

Eddie Agazarm: I would think it would be 517, but I cannot say that on firsthand knowledge. So I’m speculating that it was 517, but it could also be other things.

PDC’s Tony Perkins: What would they be working on together that Tim would be reluctant to explain to Roy Ruffino?

Eddie Agazarm: 517.

PDC’s Tony Perkins: Why would he be reluctant to explain that?

Eddie Agazarm: Roy doesn’t have anything to do with 517. Roy didn’t like 517. If Tim wanted to get paid to hurry up and help 517, or anything to do with 517, Roy wouldn’t… Roy was like, “no on 517” the whole time.

The above on-the-record interview took place on November 8th, 2013 (which was after I-517 had been defeated), according to the transcript of the conversation.

Here’s a rundown of the players involved in the I-517 signature drive:

  • I-517 was a project of Eddie Agazarm, Tim Eyman, and Paul Jacob. Jack Fagan was also involved, as he filed paperwork for the initiative campaign committee with the Public Disclosure Commission.
  • Eddie came up with the idea for I-517 during the planning for I-1185 and involved Tim in it. However, Eddie’s longtime partner at Citizen Solutions, Roy Ruffino, was mostly left out of the loop as he wasn’t enamored with I-517.
  • Eyman was paid $308,000 by Citizen Solutions during the summer of 2012, ostensibly as a consulting fee. This was just the latest in a series of kickback payments made to Eyman by Citizen Solutions. The Fagans were apparently not aware of these payments or Eyman’s ongoing “consulting” arrangement.
  • Eyman subsequently loaned some of his I-1185 kickback money to his friend Paul Jacob, who then donated a nearly identical sum to the I-517 campaign committee through his Citizens in Charge organization.
  • Eyman did not tell Agazarm about the loan to Jacob, and Eyman claims he didn’t know what Jacob did with the money after he loaned it. The zero-interest loan was not formalized with a written agreement, and Eyman told the PDC during his deposition he could not recall exactly how much of it had been paid back. The PDC subpoenaed his bank records to find out.
  • Eyman, Agazarm, and Jacob later appeared together in Olympia in January of 2013 at the Secretary of State’s Elections Annex to submit signatures for I-517 and speak to the media. I was present at this press conference.
  • Eyman and Ruffino retained the services of the very same lawyer, Mark Lamb, to represent them while answering questions from the PDC on July 11th, 2014. The preceding November, Eddie Agazarm evidently came in without being accompanied by legal counsel.

Many people try to make a habit of learning from their mistakes. Tim Eyman clearly doesn’t. He has chosen, over and over and over again, to make his PDC reporting as convoluted and confusing as possible, to frustrate those of us who are trying to track his initiative factory. He deliberately chose to conceal money during the I-517 signature drive. He has himself to thank for the trouble he’s in.

The PDC’s release of its findings yesterday led to a media field day. KING5 made the completion of the investigation its top story on the 5 PM evening news broadcast, running not one, but two segments by Natalie Brand and Elisa Hahn.

KING5: Eyman Personally Benefited From Campaign Funds

(In the thumbnail above, Paul Jacob can be seen standing behind Eyman.)

KIRO ran its own story at 11 PM, which hasn’t been posted to the Web.

Every major newspaper in the state ran the story too, from The Seattle Times to the Spokesman-Review to The News Tribune of Tacoma and The Herald of Everett.

The Times Company’s Walla-Walla Union Bulletin picked up the Times story, while The Olympian and The Bellingham Herald carried The News Tribune’s story (all three papers are owned by McClatchy).

Even more papers carried an Associated Press wire version of The News Tribune’s story, like the Yakima Herald, Longview Daily News, Tri-City Herald, and The Columbian. Broadcast outlets also had the AP version, from KCPQ to KXLY.

The Puget Sound Business Journal felt it merited a blog post.

Public radio’s Austin Jenkins filed a report for WSU’s NW News Network, which was also carried by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Online-only publications, from the Seattle P-I to Crosscut, had the news as well.

Here’s a look at some of the above-the-fold headlines in this morning’s papers:

The Olympian: Eyman used I-1185 funds personally

Seattle Times: Eyman received secret payments, PDC says

The News Tribune: Eyman used I-1185 funds for "living expenses"

Finally…. finally! Tim Eyman’s past misdeeds are catching up to him.

Eyman’s attorney says Eyman will not be attending this Thursday’s enforcement hearing at Public Disclosure Commission headquarters in Olympia. But we will.

PDC staff are recommending that the Commission vote to refer the linked cases concerning Eyman’s extremely serious public disclosure law violations to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for prosecution. The Commission may vote to refer the matter to Ferguson on Thursday after hearing the staff report.

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