A complaint alleging that Tim Eyman failed to follow Washington’s public disclosure law back in April when he launched an ad campaign excoriating Democratic lawmakers for not doing his bidding has been returned to Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office for further action by a unanimous Public Disclosure Commission.
In an early afternoon teleconference, Commissioners Anne Levinson, John Bridges, Katrina Asay, and Jack Johnson heard a presentation from PDC compliance officer Tony Perkins summarizing the staff’s findings. Staff determined that there were “multiple apparent violations” of RCW 42.17A and recommended that the Public Disclosure Commission refer the matter to Ferguson’s office. The Commission accepted the recommendation with a unanimous vote.
This is the second time in the past twelve months that the PDC has finished investigating a complaint against Tim Eyman and concluded he broke the law.
The first time was last September, when the Commission heard a staff report documenting a number of egregious violations (including concealment) and voted unanimously to refer the matter to Ferguson with a request that his office initiate a broader, more expansive follow-up investigation.
Ferguson promptly proceeded to do just that, but Eyman and his associates Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm refused to cooperate, leaving the AG’s office with no choice but to go to court to get their subpoenas enforced. Judges in Snohomish and Thurston County Superior Courts last month signed orders compelling Eyman and his cohorts’ cooperation. They have until next Wednesday to turn over bank statements, tax returns, and other statements sought by Ferguson’s office.
The complaint acted on by the PDC today began as a forty-five day citizen action notice filed by Washingtonians For Ethical Government (WFEG), of which I am a boardmember. RCW Chapter 42.17A provides that a citizen or group of citizens may bring an enforcement action on behalf of the state if they believe that public disclosure law has been violated. Upon receiving the notice, Attorney General Ferguson asked the PDC to investigate the matter and determine if the law was violated. Having now done so, the PDC is sending the matter back to Ferguson.
Prior to the PDC’s vote, Commission Chair Anne Levinson engaged in a dialogue with staff about the case, noting that the Attorney General already has one open case against Eyman, and expressing a concern that Eyman is dodging disclosure requirements in order to exploit Washington’s initiative process for personal profit.
“This case seems to also raise whether there’s a concern about people using the initiative process potentially for self-advantage,” she said, “that, by filing a number of different initiatives — whether they actually have an intention to run [one of them], to collect signatures, or to successfully get it on the ballot — seems to allow for raising of quite a bit of money, potentially transferring, or co-mingling, or using money for different purposes than for which it was ostensibly raised.”
“It’s not clear to me that the rules and statutes which we normally rely on sufficiently address this,” she added.
“One might also ask whether this is the sort of activity that should require these officers to not continually file different committees, but to be a continuing political committee that has regular reporting obligations, given the patterns here, of expenditures and soliciting of dollars, and sort of affiliated committee structures… It’s concerning to me, so I wonder if that’s the case for my colleagues or staff, and if we might need to use this to do some further thinking about how to address this so that there is more transparency for the public.”
As it so happens, the PDC may be asked within days by Ferguson’s office to launch yet another probe to ascertain whether Tim Eyman and three of the committees he controls are breaking the law by failing to report on the status of loans received by the committees, and also failing to report interest from what are apparently a set of loans made on extremely generous terms as in-kind contributions.
Keep Washington Rolling, which NPI worked with to defeat Initiatives 912 and 1125, notified Ferguson’s office last month with its own set of forty-five day notices that it intends to bring a lawsuit against Eyman in superior court over these additional violations unless Ferguson’s office strikes first.
Should the PDC find even more “apparent violations”, it could result in Ferguson’s office landing a third case against Tim Eyman — all in the span of a year.
And that would be fitting. Eyman’s misdeeds are finally catching up to him.
As has been noted many times here, Eyman is a serial public disclosure law violator with a long history of sloppy reporting, delinquent filing, and concealment. Many PDC complaints have been filed against him over the years, with some resulting in penalties, but Eyman’s behavior hasn’t changed. It’s only gotten worse.
Perhaps Eyman’s legal problems, coupled with the smackdown of Initiative 1366 in the courts, have given his wealthy benefactors pause.
So far this year, they have chosen not to supply him with the megabucks required for a successful signature drive. As a result, the two initiatives Eyman said he was going to qualify for the 2016 ballot earlier this year never got off the ground, putting Eyman in an incredibly awkward and embarrassing position.
Nor is there any sign that they have turned on the money spigot to jumpstart I-869, the initiative Eyman now claims to be doing to the 2017 Legislature. The clock is ticking — there’s now less than six months to go before 2016 ends. If Eyman doesn’t have more than 300,000 signatures by around Christmastime, then his latest scheme — perhaps scam would be a better word — won’t make it.
Not having to fight another malicious government-wrecking scheme from Eyman this year is a huge blessing, but that’s how it should be every year.
We urge Attorney General Bob Ferguson to hold Eyman accountable for his unabashed lawbreaking. We will continue to do all we can to bring about a future for Washington that is free from Eyman’s destructive initiatives and toxic politics.