Twenty years ago, before Tim Eyman had become a household name and a master media manipulator, he was a seller of wristwatches to fraternities and sororities, residing near Green Lake in Seattle. This was, for many years, the text that greeted visitors to Eyman’s Insignia Corporation website, greekwatch.com:
Established in 1989, Insignia Corporation is officially licensed with over 60 National Fraternities and Sororities.
We specialize in a wide selection of logo wrist watches carrying the official Coat-of-Arms and Greek letters for all groups.
All our watches carry a generous multi-year warranty and every purchase includes our 90-day money-back guarantee.
And you’ll be glad to know we contribute half of the profits from the sale of these watches to the educational programs and activities of your organization.
In 1999, Eyman sponsored Initiative 695, which gutted the statewide motor vehicle excise tax (MVET), which funded roads, ferries, transit, public health, and a host of other public services. The campaign catapulted Eyman into the public eye, and he relished the attention. In the wake of I-695’s passage and eventual demise in the courts, Eyman’s watch business fell by the wayside as he began raising money to qualify more destructive initiatives to Washington’s statewide ballot.
By 2002, Eyman had begun raiding his campaign treasury for his own personal use. When questioned about suspicious transfers from his Permanent Offense political committee to a for-profit corporation he’d set up with the same name (Permanent Offense, Inc.), Eyman maintained he was a volunteer and was not getting paid to work on initiatives. But of course, that was a lie. Eyman was helping himself to the money he was raising from donors without telling them.
In February of 2002, after again lying to the public and the press about his payments to himself, Eyman unloaded his guilty conscience in a Sunday evening phone call to The Associated Press’ David Ammons, who is now retired after a long career in journalism and public service. Some notable quotes from that story:
“The fact is, it is true that I made money in past campaigns and planned to make money on future campaigns.”
“This entire charade was set up so I could maintain a moral superiority over our opposition, so I could say our opponents make money from politics and I don’t.”
“It was addictive. I was getting deeper and deeper and deeper into this charade. I thought I found a way to make money off our initiatives without our opponents knowing it, or knowing it for sure. I was too clever by half. I just got deeper and deeper into this lie.”
“I was in lie mode… I became riddled with guilt. It was the biggest lie of my life and it was over the stupidest thing in the world. The biggest thing I’m guiltiest of is an enormous ego. Hubris.”
“I want to continue to advocate issues and I want to make a lot of money doing it.”
“I am worth every penny.”
I’ve bolded the last two quotes because they exemplify how, even as Eyman was admitting his big lie, he was still exalting himself. I’m not sure he has ever learned the virtue of humility, as humble is about the last word that I’d use to describe him. He’s certainly engaged in self-deprecation at times, but that isn’t the same thing.
There is arguably no one in Washington State more shameless at asking for money than Tim Eyman. Legendary KOMO commentator Ken Schram used to regularly berate Eyman for his dishonesty and self-serving appeals for campaign cash.
Fifteen years ago Tuesday, Schram aired a memorable commentary in which he said:
I’m tryin’ to iron out this new Tim Eyman wrinkle.
Let’s see if I got it right:
Tim’s asking people to send him money to bail him out of the trouble he’s in for taking money that at one time he said he never took.
Now, since Tim certainly couldn’t pay taxes on money he lied about taking, he’s in that hole.
And, since he got caught with campaign dollars stuck to his fingers, Tim’s also being sued by the state.
Which means he’s got legal bills and fines likely lurking in his future.
And so, that’s why Tim has come back to the people whose money he took, asking them to send him more money.
I’ve now got a whole new image of Tim now.
I see a Tim who’s not too proud to beg; a Tim who’s not afraid of stooping to new lows.
I see a Tim who’s not ashamed to say, ‘Sure, I took your money before and lied about it. But send me your money now and I’ll tell you the truth: It’s for me. All of it. Every penny goes into my pocket.’
Me? I think Tim can go out and earn all the money he wants.
He should just hit the professional tennis circuit.
He’s already got all the racket he’ll ever need.
It is remarkable how this commentary rings true fifteen years later. Once again, Tim Eyman is being sued by the state and is asking those of his followers who still believe in him to bail him out, claiming to be the victim of a “stunning witch hunt” by Democratic State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
In reality, all of Eyman’s legal woes are self-inflicted. He got himself in trouble by arrogantly refusing to obey our state’s public disclosure laws.
But Eyman does not want to be held to account for those mistakes. He doesn’t want to work off the court costs and the legal bills himself by finding a new, more respectable line of work. Rather, he wants his supporters to take care of that.
In a letter sent by U.S. Mail to a list of potential donors, Eyman says he is aiming to raise $600,000 for his legal defense. “I need help, a lot of help,” Eyman says.
At the same time, Eyman is trying to secure hundreds of thousands of additional dollars to finance a signature drive for I-947. Without commitments from wealthy benefactors, I-947 is doomed to suffer the fate of the last four initiatives Eyman printed up petitions for, which all ended up in the dustbin.
Eyman happily collected donations for each of those four failed initiatives. Then he turned around and dispensed the money to himself and his associates the Fagans (Jack, Mike, and Janet) in the form of payouts and reimbursements.
Since Eyman wasn’t able to lock down commitments from his wealthy benefactors to launch signature drives for any of those initiatives, he became a lobbyist, using the donations made to his fake initiatives to subsidize his travel.
This past legislative session, Eyman tightly aligned himself with Mark Schoesler and the Senate Republicans, even withholding criticism of them for proposing to raise the property taxes of suburban homeowners like himself.
Now Eyman is trying to get his initiative factory restarted. And once again, he is shaking his electronic tin cup and exhorting his followers to give, give, give.
If you support sticking it to Sound Transit by Bringing Back Our $30 Tabs for everyone in the state of Washington (for cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, motorcycles, motor homes, RVs, 5th wheels, and other vehicles), then please send us a donation for $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1000, $2500, $5000 or more (there are no limits on how much can be given). You can go to our website right now and make a secure on-line contribution by PayPal or VISA or M/C. OR, you can print this form, fill it out, and return it with a check or credit card information.
For as long as I can remember, the standard Eyman fundraising pitch has always included this line: There are no limits on how much can be given.
Eyman emphasizes this because he really, really, really wants your money. Give him some, and you can expect in short order to be asked to give him more.
To be a patron of this man, you’ve got to be willing to put up with a lot.
That is certainly true of Eyman’s wealthy benefactors, who have been less and less generous to Eyman since 2015. Because they’ve pulled back and stopped writing six figure checks, Eyman hasn’t been able to run any signature drives.
If you are a voter who resents paying taxes to Sound Transit and are intrigued by the prospect of helping Eyman “stick it to Sound Transit”, realize that in the long run, supporting Tim Eyman is going to cost you more than the vehicle fees you currently pay, unless you donate only very small sums. (Eyman would prefer that you give him large sums — as much as you can possibly afford.)
If you give Eyman a few hundred bucks for I-947, like he’s asking right now, you’re not going to “save” any money should vehicle fee increases be repealed, certainly not in the first year, unless you own a lot of cars.
The money you hear Eyman talking about going back into your pocketbook will have gone to him instead. You won’t be any better off financially than if you’d simply continued to pay vehicle fees to Sound Transit… which is a far better investment. (With Sound Transit you’re at least getting something tangible for your money.)
And if you give Eyman thousands?
Well, then, you’re really parting with your money.
Finally, realize that if you choose to stay on his list, Eyman will NEVER stop asking you for money. You will get appeals for dollars at least twice a week.
If you’re an Eyman fan reading this post, you may think I’m being unfair. After all, everyone fundraises in politics. Including us.
But here’s the thing: Most campaigns and organizations are not fundamentally dishonest like Tim Eyman is.
Eyman has a long track record of duping his donors. He has taken campaign cash to pay himself while lying about it. He has miscalculated how many signatures he needed to buy and missed the ballot. He has used money raised for one initiative to qualify a completely different initiative. He has arranged, illegally, to receive kickbacks from the company he contracts with to run his signature drives (“Citizen Solutions”). He has kept on fundraising for initiatives he’s given up trying to qualify.
There’s just no limit to his dishonesty. Or his greed. It goes on, and on, and on.
Eyman’s credibility has taken a lot of hits over the years due to his lying, cheating, and double-dealing, and deservedly so. But he still has some fans out there. And what’s disheartening is that once again, Eyman is trying to exploit them to get ahead. He sees an opportunity to revive his failing, flailing operation.
If you’re someone reading this post who is upset about vehicle fees, understand that helping Tim Eyman “stick it to Sound Transit” isn’t a good investment. Many Republican activists and captains of industry in Washington have gotten burned by doing business with this man, and regretted it, deeply. If you care about what happens to your money, don’t entrust a cent of it to Tim Eyman.