State of Washington v. Tim Eyman et al
State of Washington v. Tim Eyman et al

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.

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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