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.

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

“There are no limits on how much can be given”: Tim Eyman would like your money

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.

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