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

Respond­ing to a set of cit­i­zen’s action notices sent ear­li­er this year by Wash­ing­to­ni­ans For Eth­i­cal Gov­ern­ment and Keep Wash­ing­ton Rolling, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son’s office announced this morn­ing it has filed three new com­plaints in Thurston Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court against Tim Eyman and his asso­ciates for seri­ous vio­la­tions of Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws.

“Washington’s cam­paign finance laws require — and Wash­ing­to­ni­ans deserve — fair, accu­rate and time­ly dis­clo­sure,” Fer­gu­son said in a statement.

“When polit­i­cal com­mit­tees cre­ate con­fu­sion rather than trans­paren­cy, I will hold them and the peo­ple in charge accountable.”

Fer­gu­son’s action means that there are now offi­cial­ly four cas­es against Tim Eyman and his asso­ciates in the courts. Here’s a sum­ma­ry of each:

  • The first active case con­cerns numer­ous vio­la­tions uncov­ered by a mul­ti­year Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion inves­ti­ga­tion into the financ­ing of Eyman’s self-serv­ing I‑517, Eyman’s failed attempt to make it eas­i­er and cheap­er for him to run future ini­tia­tive cam­paigns. The inves­ti­ga­tion was sparked by a com­plaint filed in August 2012 by Sher­ry Bock­winkel. The Attor­ney Gen­er­al took over the case last autumn after the PDC turned it over with a request to pros­e­cute, but progress has been very slow due to Eyman’s stonewalling.
  • The sec­ond active case, one of the three just filed, con­cerns improp­er repay­ment of more than a mil­lion dol­lars in loans made by Eyman and his wealthy bene­fac­tors to one of Eyman’s com­mit­tees. This case stems from a cit­i­zen action notice sent by Keep Wash­ing­ton Rolling in June.
  • The third active case, anoth­er of the three just filed, prin­ci­pal­ly con­cerns an ille­gal inde­pen­dent expen­di­ture Eyman launched back in April of this year against Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors from sub­ur­ban and rur­al dis­tricts who refused to do his bid­ding dur­ing the 2016 leg­isla­tive ses­sion. This case stems from a cit­i­zen action notice sent by Wash­ing­to­ni­ans For Eth­i­cal Gov­ern­ment in May.
  • The fourth active case, the last of the three just filed, con­cerns Eyman and his asso­ciates’ fail­ure to dis­close an inter­est pay­ment on a loan made to one of Eyman’s com­mit­tees as the law requires. This case also stems from a cit­i­zen action notice sent by Keep Wash­ing­ton Rolling in June.

Cit­i­zen action notices, for read­ers who don’t know, are a mech­a­nism for enforc­ing Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws. RCW Chap­ter 42.17A pro­vides:

(4) A per­son who has noti­fied the attor­ney gen­er­al and the pros­e­cut­ing attor­ney in the coun­ty in which the vio­la­tion occurred in writ­ing that there is rea­son to believe that some pro­vi­sion of this chap­ter is being or has been vio­lat­ed may him­self or her­self bring in the name of the state any of the actions (here­inafter referred to as a cit­i­zen’s action) autho­rized under this chapter.

The law goes on to say that a cit­i­zen’s action can only be brought if the Attor­ney Gen­er­al and the req­ui­site Pros­e­cut­ing Attor­ney have failed to com­mence an action against the vio­la­tor with­in a cer­tain peri­od of time.

Because Fer­gu­son’s office has cho­sen to take over the cas­es, they will be pros­e­cut­ed by the State of Wash­ing­ton’s own attor­neys instead of by Wash­ing­to­ni­ans For Eth­i­cal Gov­ern­ment or Keep Wash­ing­ton Rolling on behalf of the state.

Fer­gu­son’s deci­sion to pros­e­cute these cas­es renews a promise he made to vig­or­ous­ly enforce Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws dur­ing and after his 2012 cam­paign. He faces only token oppo­si­tion this year for reelection.

Tim Eyman has been oper­at­ing as though he were above the law for a very long time. He has been giv­en many chances — far more than he deserves — to clean up his oper­a­tion, and he has spurned those opportunities.

Now he and his asso­ciates must suf­fer the consequences.

We thank Attor­ney Gen­er­al Fer­gu­son and his team for bring­ing these cas­es. Jus­tice is bet­ter served when fla­grant vio­la­tions like these are prompt­ly prosecuted.

As men­tioned, Eyman has been stonewalling in the extreme in an attempt to post­pone his day of reck­on­ing in the first active case, con­cern­ing vio­la­tions that are sev­er­al years old. Over the sum­mer, Fer­gu­son was com­pelled to request that Eyman be held in con­tempt of court for fail­ing to turn over mate­ri­als in a time­ly and com­plete fash­ion. Eyman’s stonewalling so far has cost him and his asso­ciates more than $30,000 in attor­ney’s fees and court expenses.

Let’s hope those judg­ments are mere­ly the begin­ning of the penal­ties Eyman will have to pay for flout­ing our pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws for so long.

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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