Serial public disclosure law offender Tim Eyman has registered with the Public Disclosure Commission to run for Governor of Washington State as an independent, violating (once again!) the very laws the Commission is charged with enforcing on behalf of the people of America’s forty-third state.
Eyman’s C1 (candidate registration statement) is one of two bits of paperwork he is required to file with the state’s campaign finance agency within two weeks of becoming a candidate. The other is his F1 — Personal Financial Affairs Statement.
Eyman claimed today at a media event he called in Olympia at the Secretary of State’s office that he hasn’t put his F1 together yet because his bankruptcy attorneys at Vortman & Feinstein are out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday.
On his candidate registration statement, on his campaign website, and in promotional emails, Eyman has chosen to call his unconventional gubernatorial bid “Governor Tim Eyman for Washington,” which is illegal, because it implies that Eyman is the incumbent governor, when in fact he is not (Jay Inslee is).
RCW 42.17A.335(1)(b) explicitly forbids such conduct:
(1) It is a violation of this chapter for a person to sponsor with actual malice a statement constituting libel or defamation per se under the following circumstances:
(a) Political advertising or an electioneering communication that contains a false statement of material fact about a candidate for public office;
(b) Political advertising or an electioneering communication that falsely represents that a candidate is the incumbent for the office sought when in fact the candidate is not the incumbent;
The PDC’s political advertising guide, which is easily accessible, warns candidates not to do what Eyman is doing. “Do not falsely imply incumbency in a political advertisement about a candidate who does not hold the office,” it admonishes.
Examples of correct syntax for a challenger’s campaign are “John Smith for Governor” or “Suzie Q. Public for Secretary of State”. Alternatively: “Elect Michael Rogers Treasurer.” The candidate’s name needs to comes first, as opposed to the title of the office, because putting the title first implies incumbency.
Responsible candidates campaign responsibly within the bounds of the law. Masquerading as an incumbent in campaign advertising is a big no-no.
Eyman, of course, does not care. He has been violating RCW Chapter 42.17A (our body of public disclosure laws) with impunity for years. What’s more, he has so far successfully evaded having to pay a penalty for doing so. He may not be able to hold off Attorney General Bob Ferguson forever, but he’s certainly trying.
Unlike the landmark case Ferguson has going against Eyman in Thurston County Superior Court, which is complex and concerns a multi-year kickback and concealment scheme, this is a fairly straightforward case of wrongdoing.
Washingtonians For Ethical Government (WFEG) — which I cofounded to hold unethical political figures like Eyman accountable for their wrongdoing with Sherry Bockwinkel and Knoll Lowney — is pushing for a prompt investigation.
To secure one, we filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission this afternoon alleging that Eyman is in violation of the aforementioned RCW.
“The PDC must act swiftly to discipline Tim Eyman for this violation of our laws,” our complaint states in its concluding paragraph, observing: “Past complaints against Eyman have taken years to investigate. This complaint must be investigated immediately. Eyman, a serial offender, will benefit from any delay in addressing this violation of our public disclosure laws.”
Eyman will make his unconventional gubernatorial bid as an independent instead of as a Republican or Libertarian. He told the gaggle of reporters gathered at the Secretary of State’s office to hear his monologue that he contemplated affiliating with a political party, but decided against doing so.
Eyman has named Dave Hobley as his campaign manager, Michele Darnell as his volunteer coordinator, and Sarah Eckert as his Treasurer.
Eckert handles the books for Eyman’s initiative factory in a ministerial capacity and Darnell occasionally accompanies Eyman to speaking appearances.
Darnell has previously run for state level office herself several times as a Libertarian, losing repeatedly to well regarded Democrats like Patty Kuderer.
Several Republicans are already expressing annoyance with Eyman over his longshot gubernatorial bid, including Phil Fortunato, an archconservative Republican state senator who is a candidate for governor himself.
“This is a serious thing,” Fortunato remarked.
“Republicans have a window of opportunity this year… His entering into the race, especially as an independent, makes the thing a circus.”
State and national politics were arguably already a circus, but we can understand Fortunato’s annoyance. If it makes him feel any better, he should know that Eyman’s gubernatorial bid faces steep odds. Eyman is an unpopular, divisive figure, and no independent has ever been elected as Governor of Washington State.
Except for the state’s third governor, John Rankin Rogers, every single person previously elected to the state’s highest office has been elected with the support of either the Democratic or the Republican Party going back to statehood. Rogers was initially elected with the support of the People’s Party, but then switched his party affiliation to Democratic (and was reelected with Democratic support.)
Republicans, however, haven’t won a gubernatorial race in a while.
The last time a non-Democratic candidate was elected Governor of Washington was in 1980, when Republican John Spellman sought the state’s top job.
That was almost forty years ago.
The Washington State Democratic Party boasts the longest active streak of consecutive gubernatorial wins in the country, with nine: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016.
The party hopes to make it ten next year with Inslee, who is seeking a third term.
Eyman has made no secret of his dislike for Inslee, although it’s hard to tell who he dislikes more: Inslee or Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Both are frequent targets of his trash talk. Eyman also despises King County Executive Dow Constantine and everyone who is an elected representative of the City of Seattle.
Eyman has signaled he will run on a platform of Seattle-bashing. Republicans have tried doing that for several years now in key races, like the special election in the 45th Legislative District two years ago. It has not yielded favorable results.
Despite claiming to have an opinion on every issue imaginable, Eyman demurred when asked by reporters about his positions on topics like the abolition of Washington’s death penalty, a cause NPI emphatically supports and has advocated for. Eyman was repeatedly invited to share his views on abolition and refused, although he criticized Inslee for imposing a moratorium on executions and hinted he wouldn’t support eliminating the state’s death penalty statute, which the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional but which remains on the books.
Voters will decide who should serve as Governor through 2024 in a little less than a year. The November 2020 general election will be preceded by Filing Week (in May of 2020) and the Top Two elimination election (in August of 2020).
Eyman’s candidacy will be at an end if he does not secure one of the top two spots in the elimination election. The trial in the campaign finance enforcement lawsuit Eyman is embroiled in is presently scheduled for the previous month (July), which could severely complicate Eyman’s ability to campaign in the home stretch.