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.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Tim Eyman broke the law with ad campaign against Democratic legislators, PDC confirms

Ini­tia­tive prof­i­teer Tim Eyman has once against been bust­ed for seri­ous vio­la­tions of Wash­ing­ton State’s pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws.

Staff at the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion — Wash­ing­ton’s equiv­a­lent of the Fed­er­al Elec­tions Com­mis­sion — have fin­ished inves­ti­gat­ing a com­plaint filed by NPI part­ner Wash­ing­to­ni­ans For Eth­i­cal Gov­ern­ment sev­er­al weeks ago which alleges that Eyman and his asso­ciates vio­lat­ed RCW 42.17A when they launched a series of ads against the major­i­ty of Wash­ing­ton State’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic law­mak­ers in April.

Their ver­dict? Eyman and his asso­ciates broke the law. Again.

RCW Chap­ter 42.17A requires that any per­son or enti­ty that inde­pen­dent­ly spends at least $1,000 sup­port­ing or oppos­ing any can­di­date for state/local office report the expen­di­ture to the PDC, and iden­ti­fy its tar­get. Inde­pen­dent expen­di­ture adver­tis­ing must also con­tain cer­tain dis­clo­sures, includ­ing the state­ment, “No can­di­date autho­rized this ad. It is paid for by (name, city, state)”.

When Eyman decid­ed to launch an ad cam­paign attack­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic law­mak­ers who defied his demands for a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to sab­o­tage our state’s major­i­ty vote require­ment for leg­is­la­tion, he failed to fol­low the rules, once again demon­strat­ing his con­tempt for our cit­i­zen-cre­at­ed cam­paign finance laws.

The ads col­lec­tive­ly cost $45,318, and appear to have financed prin­ci­pal­ly by Eyman’s wealthy bene­fac­tors Clyde Hol­land and Ken­neth Fish­er, who each donat­ed $22,500 to the Eyman-con­trolled PAC that paid for the ads to be produced.

A few weeks fol­low­ing the launch of the ads, after Eyman had failed to take any cor­rec­tive action, Wash­ing­to­ni­ans For Eth­i­cal Gov­ern­ment (which I sit on the board of) noti­fied Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son and King Coun­ty Pros­e­cut­ing Attor­ney Dan Sat­ter­berg of its intent to bring a law­suit against Eyman on behalf of the state if they did not com­mence action against Eyman with­in fifty-five days.

Fer­gu­son’s office referred the mat­ter to the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion and the PDC opened an inves­ti­ga­tion. Around the same time, Eyman took down the ads and their accom­pa­ny­ing web­site. Now it appears the PDC will be send­ing the mat­ter back to Fer­gu­son with a request to pros­e­cute. Here’s the PDC staff’s find­ings:

Inves­tiga­tive Find­ings and Conclusion

Based on the fac­tors iden­ti­fied in the inves­ti­ga­tion, staff found and con­clud­ed as follows:

Bring Back Our $30 Car Tabs – VMWC – 2016 filed a C‑4 Sum­ma­ry, Full Report of Receipts and Expen­di­tures on April 11, 2016, dis­clos­ing more than $45,000 in expen­di­tures paid in March of 2016 to spon­sor 21 Web videos that opposed 49 can­di­dates for state leg­isla­tive office. The ini­tial C‑4 did not dis­close that the pur­pose of the expen­di­tures was to oppose a can­di­date for office, as required by RCW 42.17A.240(6) and WAC 390–16-037(1), and did not describe the expens­es as inde­pen­dent expen­di­tures. That pur­pose and descrip­tion was first dis­closed 44 days late, on an amend­ed C‑4 report filed on May 25, 2016.

Based on the pro-rat­ed val­ue of these com­mu­ni­ca­tions per can­di­date, it appears that ten of the 21 videos at issue met the statu­to­ry def­i­n­i­tion of “inde­pen­dent expen­di­ture.” Per RCW 42.17A.320(4) these ten videos were required to include the “No can­di­date autho­rized this ad” dis­claimer; the sponsor’s name, city and state; and accu­rate “Top 5 con­trib­u­tors” information.

The spon­sor ID state­ment in the videos con­tained an abbre­vi­at­ed ver­sion of the sponsor’s name (“Vot­ers Want More Choic­es”) but did not con­tain the committee’s city or state. The videos also did not include the state­ment “No can­di­date autho­rized this ad.” Final­ly, the videos list­ed incor­rect “Top 5 Con­trib­u­tors” information.

C‑1pc Polit­i­cal Com­mit­tee Reg­is­tra­tions cur­rent­ly on file for Bring Back Our $30 Car Tabs – VMWC – 2016 indi­cate the committee’s sole pur­pose is to sup­port Ini­tia­tive 1421 in the 2016 gen­er­al elec­tion. The committee’s C‑1pc reg­is­tra­tions do not iden­ti­fy any can­di­date that the com­mit­tee will sup­port or oppose.

Although the issue was not raised in the Cit­i­zen Action Notice, with­in ten days of spon­sor­ing the committee’s March 28, 2016 expen­di­tures to oppose a can­di­date, or to sup­port a bal­lot propo­si­tion oth­er than I‑1421, Bring Back Our $30 Car Tabs – VMWC – 2016 was required under RCW 42.17A.205(4) to file an amend­ed C‑1pc indi­cat­ing the committee’s updat­ed pur­pose. This amend­ment, due no lat­er than April 7, 2016, is 89 days late as of the date of this exec­u­tive summary.

Final­ly, in their Cit­i­zen Action Notice, the com­plainants did not make a spe­cif­ic alle­ga­tion con­cern­ing any alleged fail­ure by Bring Back Our $30 Car Tabs – VMWC – 2016 to file C‑6 Inde­pen­dent Expen­di­ture reports. Nev­er­the­less, PDC staff reviewed a pos­si­ble C‑6 fil­ing require­ment for the polit­i­cal com­mit­tee, and found no such require­ment under any of the rel­e­vant statu­to­ry pro­vi­sions: RCW 42.17A.255, RCW 42.17A.260, and RCW 42.17A.305.

Recommendation

For the rea­sons described above, staff rec­om­mends that the Com­mis­sion find mul­ti­ple appar­ent vio­la­tions of RCW 42.17A.205, RCW 42.17A.240, and RCW 42.17A.320, and rec­om­mend to the Wash­ing­ton Attor­ney Gen­er­al that that office take appro­pri­ate action con­cern­ing the appar­ent fail­ure of Bring Back Our $30 Car Tabs – VWMC – 2016 and its offi­cers Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, Mike Fagan, and Bar­bara Smith to sup­ple­ment the committee’s polit­i­cal com­mit­tee reg­is­tra­tion by dis­clos­ing updat­ed infor­ma­tion, its fail­ure to dis­close expens­es incurred to oppose can­di­dates for leg­isla­tive office in a com­plete and time­ly man­ner, and its fail­ure to include com­plete and accu­rate spon­sor iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and con­trib­u­tor infor­ma­tion in the committee’s inde­pen­dent expen­di­ture polit­i­cal advertising.

The Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion is slat­ed to hear the above-excerpt­ed staff report at a meet­ing this Fri­day, where it will like­ly vote to accept the rec­om­men­da­tion to send the mat­ter to Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son for fur­ther action.

Fer­gu­son’s office is already inves­ti­gat­ing Eyman for seri­ous vio­la­tions of RCW 42.17A com­mit­ted dur­ing the last pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cycle in 2012, and attempt­ing to ascer­tain if the law was vio­lat­ed dur­ing oth­er time peri­ods. Judges in Sno­homish and Thurston Supe­ri­or Courts have signed off on orders request­ed by the Attor­ney Gen­er­al to enforce sub­poe­nas issued months ago as part of that inves­ti­ga­tion, which Tim Eyman and his asso­ciates were refus­ing to com­ply with.

Eyman and com­pa­ny have until next Wednes­day to turn over the doc­u­ments the Attor­ney Gen­er­al wants. If they don’t, they could be held in con­tempt of court.

With­in a few days, it looks like the AG will have a sec­ond set of Chap­ter 42.17A vio­la­tions com­mit­ted by Eyman to pros­e­cute. And there could be more on the way.

Eyman is in unques­tion­ably in a world of legal trou­ble — and deserved­ly so.

For far too long, Eyman has oper­at­ed as though the law sim­ply does­n’t apply to him. He has been active in Wash­ing­ton pol­i­tics for about two decades now, and he should know what the rules are and how to fol­low them. He also has the mon­ey to afford a first-rate trea­sur­er. Yet his pat­tern of incom­plete report­ing, delin­quent fil­ing, con­ceal­ment, and slop­py record­keep­ing has con­tin­ued unabated.

Eyman’s con­tempt for our pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws can­not be tol­er­at­ed. It’s time for Eyman and his asso­ciates to be held account­able and to pay a steep price for their law­break­ing. We com­mend the staff of the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion for swift­ly wrap­ping up this inves­ti­ga­tion and for rec­om­mend­ing this mat­ter be referred to Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son for fur­ther action.

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2 Comments

  1. Tim Eyman’s con­tempt for the law is exposed yet again. He has fleeced his fun­ders, his sup­port­ers, and the state that allows him to hold a busi­ness license. It’s about time this crook feel the full force of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem because he thinks he’ll get away with it the next time.

    # by Rep Gael Tarleton :: July 6th, 2016 at 3:53 PM
  2. I wish I could be there Fri­day, but I have com­mit­ments else­where. The next court hear­ing in Sno­homish Coun­ty I want to be there.

    # by Joe :: July 7th, 2016 at 6:15 PM

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