Count Tim Eyman among those who will surely be glad to see 2016 disappear into the rearview mirror. The brash-talking, braggadocios initiative profiteer had arguably his worst year yet since establishing his initiative factory around the turn of the century. In this post, we’re going to look back at Eyman’s awful year with a blow-by-blow accounting of Eyman’s many defeats and setbacks.
Let’s rewind to January of 2016 and begin our chronology there. About one year ago, Eyman’s I‑1366 was being challenged in King County Superior Court, and Eyman was confident that it would be upheld. We’d characterized I‑1366 and its abandoned predecessor I‑1325 from the get-go as blatantly unconstitutional.
But Eyman was sure that I‑1366 would survive judicial scrutiny and even went so far as to predict the lawsuit against I‑1366 would fail.
That set the stage for one of the most memorable moments of the year.
January 19th, 2016: King County Superior Court Judge William Downing rules Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking I‑1366 is unconstitutional, striking down the initiative in its entirety. Eyman receives the news on his smartphone while in Olympia, having just participated in an episode of The Pam Roach Show.
Footage shot by KING5 of Eyman trying to digest the news on his smartphone immortalizes his shock and confusion. He had expected a different outcome.
February 8th, 2016: Tim Eyman holds a press conference at the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia to announce that he is launching a new initiative to defund Sound Transit — I‑1421. NPI crashes the press conference and vows that I‑1421 will be met with vigorous opposition should it qualify for the ballot.
February 12th, 2016: Refusing to capitulate to Tim Eyman’s blackmail scheme, Senate Democrats defeat an attempt by Senate Republicans to amend Washington’s Constitution to require a two-thirds vote to pass any revenue increase. They vote down Pam Roach’s SJR 8211 in a show of unity.
March 15th, 2016: The Washington State Supreme Court hears oral argument in Lee v. State, with the justices asking attorneys for both sides a slew of critical questions. Eyman shows up for the hearing wearing a yellow t‑shirt with the words Persistence: Never Give Up! The next day, he writes: “Sitting in court yesterday, I was so proud of our brilliant attorney Dick Stephens and the unflappable Deputy Solicitor General Callie Castillo. They did a fantastic job defending I‑1366.”
May 13th, 2016: Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson orders that Tim Eyman be sanctioned and pay a $600 fine for maliciously withdrawing an anti-tolling initiative (I‑1525) just prior to when Wilson was to have heard arguments over whether the measure’s ballot title should be changed. Several weeks later, The Herald condemns Eyman’s practice of ballot title shopping and his more recent, related practice of withdrawing and re-filing initiatives challenged in court by NPI allies in an editorial entitled Eyman’s games costing the taxpayer.
May 20th, 2016: Eyman breaks his shoulder while bicycling. In a subsequent email to his followers, he explains his injury: “I got into a nasty bicycle accident and broke my shoulder (they said I fractured the neck of my left humerus). It hurts like a son-uv-a-gun. So for the next 12 weeks, we’re gonna find out if I can do political activism with one hand tied behind my back (figuratively speaking). I’ll tell you this: typing this update one handed sure was a challenge!”
May 24th, 2016: Acting on NPI research, Washingtonians For Ethical Government (WFEG), an NPI partner founded to serve as a people’s campaign finance watchdog for the Evergreen State, announces the filing of a citizen’s action against Eyman and his associates for failing to properly report a set of videos attacking Democratic state legislators as independent expenditures. As required by state law, WFEG notifies Attorney General Bob Ferguson and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg it is prepared to sue Eyman on behalf of the state if they decline to prosecute the violations.
May 26th, 2016: A unanimous Washington State Supreme Court affirms Judge Downing’s ruling that I‑1366 is unconstitutional in its entirety, burying Eyman’s scheme to coerce the Legislature into sabotaging Washington’s cherished tradition of majority rule. I‑1366 is the sixth Eyman initiative to be struck down as unconstitutional, after I‑695, I‑722, I‑747, I‑960, I‑1053, and I‑1201.
June 2nd, 2016: Tim Eyman admits to The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield that he’s abandoned I‑1421, a whole month ahead of the deadline to submit signatures. Having run out of time to qualify anything to the November 2016 ballot, Eyman announces he’s doing a follow-up initiative to the 2017 Legislature (I‑869) to again attempt to wipe out funding for Sound Transit and Amtrak Cascades.
June 7th, 2016: Attorney General Bob Ferguson refers WFEG’s citizen action notice to the Public Disclosure Commission. Two days later, the PDC confirms it has opened an investigation, led by Tony Perkins (Case No. 5729). The next day, Eyman undergoes surgery to repair his injured shoulder.
June 9th, 2016: Attorney General Bob Ferguson announces his office has filed motions requesting that courts in Thurston and Snohomish counties enforce subpoenas issued in the state’s investigation of Tim Eyman, his associates, and the political and for-profit entities they control. “Tim Eyman and Citizen Solutions refuse to cooperate with my investigation. I will not accept that,” Ferguson says.
June 11th, 2016: NPI breaks the news that Eyman has taken down the collection of attack ads he launched against Democratic legislators following the filing of WFEG’s citizen action against him and his associates.
June 14th, 2016: Keep Washington Rolling, a statewide coalition of labor, business and environmental organizations and community leaders that works together to advocate for transportation investments, submits three citizen’s action notices of its own to Attorney General Bob Ferguson, identifying additional public disclosure law violations committed by Eyman, his associates, and their tangled web of political committees.
June 29th, 2016: Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair orders Tim Eyman to cooperate with Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s probe into his concealment and pay attorney’s fees to the State of Washington. Eyman is given until July 13th, 2016 to produce the documents the AG wants.
July 1st, 2016: Following a hearing in Thurston County Superior Court, Judge Mary Sue Wilson (who’d previously sanctioned Eyman) orders Eyman’s associates Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm to also cooperate with Ferguson’s probe.
July 6th, 2016: Having reviewed WFEG’s complaint alleging that Eyman’s ads targeting Democratic lawmakers were illegal, PDC staff find “multiple apparent violations” of Washington State’s public disclosure law. Staff recommend the Commission refer the matter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for further action, and the Commission does so at a special meeting two days later.
July 27th, 2016: AG Ferguson announces he is asking Judges Wilson and Fair to hold Eyman and his associates in contempt of court for failing to turn over all of the records sought by state’s attorneys. In court filings, the State explains it needs the materials to ascertain whether Washington’s public disclosure laws were violated, as the Public Disclosure Commission previously concluded that they were.
August 5th, 2016: Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson orders Eyman’s associates to pay $9,975.00 in reasonable attorneys fees and $494.50 in court costs for holding up Ferguson’s probe. She opts not to consider a motion that would hold Eyman’s associates in contempt for the time being.
August 12th, 2016: Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair finds that Tim Eyman failed to abide by her order requiring he turn over documents requested by AG Ferguson’s office by July 13th. She signs off on a new order drafted by the state and by Eyman’s attorney Mark Lamb which empowers the state to get Eyman’s tax records directly from the Internal Revenue Service and his bank records directly from Bank of America.
September 16th, 2016: Again acting on NPI research, Washingtonians For Ethical Government files another citizen’s action alleging that Tim Eyman, his treasurer Barbara Smith, and “We Love Our Cars” (the committee formed to promote I‑869) broke Washington’s public disclosure law by failing to disclose where the committee’s initial seed money came from.
September 22nd, 2016: Eyman is ordered to pay $20,000 in attorney’s fees and enforcement costs to the State of Washington for holding up Ferguson’s probe. “Since the AG filed his contempt motion, Eyman and the committees produced additional tax records and some banking records, but still failed to produce all the records as requested,” Ferguson’s office says. ”Now that the court-ordered releases and costs and fees associated with the enforcement of the Attorney General’s subpoenas have been received, the investigation continues.”
September 26th, 2016: Attorney General Bob Ferguson announces he has filed a set of three lawsuits in Thurston County Superior Court against Eyman and his associates. The complaints are based on the allegations raised by Washingtonians For Ethical Government and Keep Washington Rolling in the aforementioned May and June citizen’s action notices.
September 30th, 2016: Eyman goes under the knife again, this time to surgically repair a hernia. In an email to his followers, he requests they pray “that my surgeon’s hands are steady so I don’t get turned into a Eunuch”. Eyman also mentions that sometime after his nasty bicycle accident, he fractured the ring finger of his left hand. “Now that I’ve turned fifty, it’s clear that my warranty is up. I’ve been having a heck of a time lately,” he says wryly.
November 8th, 2016: Washington voters reelect Governor Jay Inslee and Supreme Court Justices Barbara Madsen, Charlie Wiggins, and Mary Yu, all of whom Eyman despises and had campaigned against. Wiggins’ and Madsen’s decisive victories are particularly notable considering that Eyman’s wealthy benefactors gave Rodney Tom hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund a disparaging attack ad against them. Voters also pass a slew of progressive initiatives Eyman had urged a no vote on. Meanwhile, at the local level, voters handily pass Sound Transit 3 (a $54 billion mass transit expansion plan), which Eyman had vocally opposed.
Asked for his reaction to ST3’s victory, Eyman calls it “a gut punch”.
November 30th, 2016: Attorney General Bob Ferguson files more charges against Eyman, adding Eyman’s “We Love Our Cars” committee as a defendant in one of the September lawsuits after reviewing WFEG’s notice of a citizen action and determining that sufficient evidence existed to move forward with prosecution.
December 30th, 2016: Tim Eyman’s I‑869 fails to qualify as an initiative to the Legislature with the passing of the deadline to submit signatures. I‑869 is the third initiative Eyman said he would be doing in 2016 that did not qualify.
We still have a few hours to go before 2016 is completely over and in the books. But it’s safe to say at this point that it has been a brutal year for Tim Eyman — chock full of setbacks, bad turns, and defeats of all kinds.
Not every moment this year was a bad one, of course. Eyman celebrated his twenty-second wedding anniversary and his oldest son’s eighteenth birthday. Congratulations to him on those milestones.
Eyman, a big baseball fan, told followers that the family commemorated the occasion with the Mariners at Safeco Field. The Safe, as it’s known around these parts, is one of the publicly-financed sports stadiums Eyman bitterly opposed back in the 1990s. Despite having fought to prevent Safeco from getting built, Eyman sure seems to spend quality time there. He’s a regular in the stands.
This year, Eyman also got to personally meet a hero of his: Neofascist tycoon Donald Trump. Eyman got his picture taken with Trump in August when Trump came to Everett to raise money. No doubt Eyman is over the moon that Trump is due to become the United States’ forty-fifth President.
But while Trump may have found success this year, Eyman did not, as the chronology above documents. And his bad run looks likely to continue into 2017.
Eyman remains under investigation for serious alleged violations of Washington’s public disclosure laws and will also have to defend himself against those three lawsuits alleging an additional slew of violations.
He can also expect vigorous, immediate opposition if he attempts to qualify anything to the 2017 ballot as an initiative to the people.
We believe the Eyman error of Washington politics needs to be over. It’s time for our state to move forward and fix its upside-down tax code. Eyman has long been an impediment to implementation of solutions that would address our state’s fiscal problems. With his initiative factory out of the picture, the path forward towards progressive revenue reform would be simpler and clearer.