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.