For most of the past two decades, disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman has been willfully and blatantly violating Washington State’s public disclosure laws, making a mockery of the campaign finance monitoring system established by the people of Washington to shine a spotlight on money in politics. And for almost as long, Eyman has avoided being held accountable for his lawbreaking.
But that changed last year when Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s campaign finance unit began acting on a series of complaints against Eyman referred to his office by Washingtonians For Ethical Government, Keep Washington Rolling, and the Public Disclosure Commission. The state has now filed a total of four lawsuits against Eyman as a result of the complaints, the most prominent of which is in response to an egregious case of concealment dating back to the summer of 2012.
All of Eyman’s legal woes are entirely self-inflicted (meaning they could have easily been avoided through sound bookkeeping and compliance practices), but you wouldn’t know that from reading Eyman’s endless fundraising appeals.
Eyman has no occupation other than peddling destructive, unconstitutional initiatives, so he has to be in fundraising mode all of the time to keep the money rolling in. In the past, his initiative factory has been a lucrative source of income. But now that his lawbreaking is catching up with him, it’s become a liability.
Since he hadn’t planned on being held accountable for his crooked ways, Eyman is now feverishly trying to raise money for his legal defense via direct mail in addition to buckraking electronically for Initiative 947, his latest assault on Sound Transit, which he wants to get on the 2018 ballot.
Riling up gullible right wingers is Eyman’s preferred way of reeling in the Benjamins, so he almost always crafts his fundraising appeals around a foil or villain. Usually, the foil is an elected official like Governor Jay Inslee, Senator-elect Manka Dhingra, or Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers.
In this case, the foil is Bob Ferguson, because it is Ferguson who is responsible for bringing cases against lawbreakers like Eyman as Attorney General.
“It’s a stunning witch hunt that’s been going on for a while,” wrote Eyman. “For the past five years, the AG has been investigating me and it has been incredibly stressful, burdensome, and costly to me and my family.”
It’s worth noting that Ferguson’s office didn’t actually start investigating Eyman’s initiative factory until two years ago, when the Public Disclosure Commission unanimously voted to refer the aforementioned egregious case of concealment to his office for follow-up and potential action.
The Commission concluded — after having investigated an August 2012 complaint filed by Tacoma-based activist Sherry Bockwinkel — that Eyman and his associates had committed multiple, serious violations of the law.
Six months elapsed following the submission of the complaint before the PDC confirmed its intent to an open an investigation, then another thirty months went by before PDC staff presented their findings to the Commission.
Since this backstory contradicts Eyman’s persecution narrative, Eyman left it out of his fundraising solicitation, opting instead to falsely tell the recipients of his letter that he has been under the cloud of an AG investigation for five years.
If that were really true, then the investigation Eyman says has been so stressful, burdensome, and costly to him would have begun under the auspices of Republican Rob McKenna, as McKenna was still Attorney General back in 2012.
Last week, Eyman followed up with a second legal defense fund solicitation in which he took his criticism of Ferguson to a whole ‘nother level, having apparently figured there was an opportunity to cash in on Republican irritation with Ferguson. The enigmatic Attorney General, who won reelection in a landslide, has been filing suit against Donald Trump and his regime every time his team concludes that Trump has broken the law or run afoul of the United States Constitution.
“Aren’t you sick and tired of Democrat [sic] Attorney General Bob Ferguson forcing taxpayers to pay for his run for Governor in 2020 by filing almost daily lawsuits against our President, an old woman who didn’t want to do the flowers for a gay wedding, a high school football coach who prayed after games, numerous business owners, and me?,” Eyman wrote. “Ferguson’s clearly trying to impress liberal voters by suing conservatives. His taxpayer-funded lawsuits allow him to constantly promote himself in newspapers, radio, and TV. It’s a blatant abuse of power.”
Eyman also characterized Ferguson as attempting to “personally profit off of his persecution of me” — an accusation echoed in an email Eyman sent to his followers and reporters the same day his solicitation began landing in mailboxes, which included a copy of this story published by The News Tribune of Tacoma.
Unusually, that email did not conclude with a plea for money as Eyman’s emails ordinarily do. The email instead simply ended in a question posed to Eyman’s followers (“What are your thoughts on this?”)
The solicitation, however, ended with a very personal, anxious appeal for money along with Eyman’s home address and an instruction to pay by check.
“I know you may have already donated to me this year, but in light of our court victory and the resulting increase in legal costs, I must ask you again to please help me with my legal defense fund (FYI — donations to legal defense funds are considered part of attorney-client privilege and thus are anonymous and not publicly reported). I hope you can help me during this difficult time,” Eyman wrote.
It is truly absurd that a man who has long personally profited from politics would have the gall to criticize someone else for allegedly doing the same thing.
Anyone who knows Bob Ferguson (as I do) knows Ferguson doesn’t bring lawsuits out of a desire for fame or fortune. He brings them in order to see that the rule of law and our plan of government are upheld. It is job as the chief legal officer of the state to defend the Constitution and the laws of the State of Washington… a job he takes very seriously and is paid $160,989 a year (as of 09/01/2017) to do.
When Ferguson’s office was tasked with defending Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking, blatantly unconstitutional I‑1366 in court last year, his office put forth its best effort, earning lavish public praise from Eyman in the process.
The state lost the case and I‑1366 was struck down, but that was expected: I‑1366 was unconstitutional every way to Sunday. Still, Ferguson had a duty under the law to defend I‑1366, and he did not shirk from that duty.
Ferguson has repeatedly stated throughout this year that no one is above the law, not even the President. If Donald Trump won’t voluntarily follow the Constitution, then Bob Ferguson will go to court to compel him to, as many times as necessary. Are Democratic voters appreciative? No doubt, just as Republican voters were happy when Ferguson’s predecessor Rob McKenna joined a multi-state lawsuit against the Patient Protection Act back when he had the job.
Eyman never complained that McKenna was using taxpayer-funded lawsuits (or the plethora of “public service announcements” McKenna recorded) to bolster his name recognition prior to running for governor in 2012. (And that’s because Eyman subscribes to the IOKIYAR doctrine… It’s Okay If You’re A Republican.)
Unlike Ferguson, Eyman has never run for or held public office, and doesn’t seem to understand that not everyone is in politics for selfish reasons like he is.
There is arguably no one in Washington State who better personifies greed than Tim Eyman. Those who had suspected that Eyman was a lying, cheating con artist were proved right when Eyman was infamously caught siphoning large sums of money out of his initiative factory for his own personal use in early 2002.
After admitting that he had lied what he claimed he wasn’t raiding his campaign funds to pay himself, Eyman declared, on the record, to the Associated Press: “I want continue to advocate issues and I want to make a lot of money doing it.”
Eyman proceeded to begin openly paying himself out of his campaign funds and also raising money for a “compensation fund” on an annual basis.
But Eyman wanted more… and he figured out how to get it.
Thanks to the Public Disclosure Commission’s investigation of that egregious case of concealment I mentioned earlier, we now know for a fact that Eyman received secret kickbacks from the company he used to contract with for signature drives — Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm’s “Citizen Solutions”. That enabled Eyman to profit twice from every campaign: once from the salary he took as compensation for his efforts, and again via the secret kickbacks received through his buddy Eddie.
Eyman’s profiteering mindset explains his absurd characterization of Ferguson as a profiteer. To Eyman, politics is a means to an end: getting rich.
Eyman likes winning and also getting on television, but whether he wins or not, he still personally profits from peddling initiatives. It’s been very lucrative for him.
Were Eyman the Attorney General, his focus would be on figuring out how to personally profit from holding the position… of that, I have no doubt.
Eyman sees Ferguson raising money for his campaign in the wake of the lawsuits he’s been filing (particularly against Trump) and figures that’s Ferguson trying to line his pockets… because that’s what Eyman would be doing.
But Bob Ferguson is not in politics to exploit people and get rich. I know this because I know Bob Ferguson. He believes in the same values I do: freedom, mutual responsibility, empathy, prosperity, inclusion.
Bob Ferguson is someone who takes a very dim view of the kind of behavior we see from Eyman. It’s why he has prioritized enforcement of the state’s campaign finance laws as Attorney General. When a citizen complaint comes along, the campaign finance unit investigates it. If it has merit and the violations appear to be severe enough, state attorneys file an action in Superior Court.
Eyman isn’t the only one who has been sued. Ferguson’s campaign finance unit has gone after the Grocery Manufacturers Association (and won a record judgment against them), the Freedom Foundation, and the Port of Tacoma, as well as candidates and local party organizations affiliated with both major parties.
Eyman knows full well that Ferguson’s office has commenced litigation against many Democratic Party organizations and some of the state’s most prominent unions for failing to fully comply with the state’s public disclosure laws, because his pal Glen Morgan is behind the complaints that led to most of those lawsuits.
The defendants in many of these cases have negotiated settlements with the campaign finance unit to avert costly legal battles.
But Eyman doesn’t want to settle. What Eyman wants is to escape accountability for his past lawbreaking so he can continue to break the law in the future. Accordingly, Eyman’s response to Ferguson’s investigation and the lawsuits Ferguson has filed has been to stonewall, obfuscate, and delay. At every turn.
As we saw last year when courts in Thurston and Snohomish counties ordered Eyman and company to pay for obstructing the AG’s investigation, there is a cost to these tactics, and that’s why Eyman is soliciting funds for legal defense.
Eyman and his attorney Mark Lamb have done everything they can to put off Eyman’s day of reckoning for as long as possible, presumably to give Eyman more time to regain the relevance he has lost by getting something on the ballot.
Lamb and Eyman would love to depose Ferguson as part of their countersuit against the state’s main case against Eyman for public disclosure law violations.
Their efforts so far to depose Ferguson have been quashed, but they haven’t given up on the idea yet. Eyman is so enamored with the idea of deposing Ferguson that he talks about it in his fundraising solicitation as if it’s an imminent development.
It is not, but that doesn’t matter to Eyman. The truth is simply not important to him. It never has been. What is important is figuring out how to stay in business so Eyman can continue to part fools from their money for years to come.