On Wednesday, dishonest initiative promoter Tim Eyman’s years of lying and double-dealing finally caught up with him when Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon found Eyman guilty of egregious violations of Washington State’s public disclosure laws. Eyman was hit with a record $2.6 million fine (not counting attorney’s fees that the state may try to collect) and a slew of restrictions limiting his ability to engage in financial chicanery in the future.
Dixon’s decision was especially significant because it marks the first time in Eyman’s political career that he has been properly punished for flagrantly violating the law. Eyman has been found to have committed violations before, and even fined, but those penalties amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.
But at last, Eyman’s skating days are over. Judge Dixon has subjected Eyman to long overdue and much needed accountability for his wrongdoing. That’s a hugely positive development for Washington State politics. Eyman’s punishment sends a clear message that there will be consequences for blowing off the Fair Practices Campaign Act and concealing information the public has a right to know.
In his decision, Judge Dixon noted that Eyman was first found to have broken Washington State’s public disclosure laws almost twenty years ago. And indeed, that is how long this pattern of behavior has been ongoing. Eyman is the very definition of a serial offender. He has on a few occasions expressed remorse for lying and cheating people, but such expressions have always been fleeting.
Eyman likes to say he’s an ideas guy, and he describes his political involvement in very lofty, principled terms. The reality is that for Eyman, politics is more about the pursuit of money than the advancement of a cause.
We know this because over the span of more than two decades, Eyman has consistently made enriching himself his top priority. He is never satisfied and never content with how much he has. He always wants more.
To help people who are interested in Eyman’s history understand it better, we’ve created a cartoon guide that explains the many different schemes Eyman has cooked up to rake in the Benjamins, going back to the turn of the century. It’s available below as a PNG and also as a high resolution PDF.
Something we didn’t put into the cartoon guide — but which I will mention here — is that Eyman has repeatedly tried to convince companies like Cooke Aquaculture or groups like the Washington Retail Association to give him money to run campaigns for them on issues unrelated to taxes.
In the case of Cooke, Eyman wanted to run a ballot measure to repeal the Legislature’s phaseout of fish farms in Puget Sound, whereas with the Retail Association, Eyman wanted to be entrusted with running a measure to preempt local jurisdictions from setting their own minimum wages.
And of course, there was the time that Eyman tried to repeal Washington’s law against discrimination on behalf of the religious right. That failed, too, with the signature drive ending unsuccessfully and the effort collapsing.
The reason this doesn’t have an entry in the cartoon above is that Eyman was unsuccessful in making out like a bandit from branching out and hijacking other causes as he had hoped. Much to his frustration, his overtures were rejected.
He did, in 2004, succeed in persuading a foreign gambling conglomerate, Great Canadian Gaming, to bankroll a measure to open up gambling across the state. However, that imploded spectacularly in 2004 when voters rejected it.
All of what I’ve just said reinforces the point I was making earlier in this post. Eyman is not being truthful about his principal reason for being in politics. To him, politics is primarily a dash for cash. His actions prove it. Eyman is a schemer. He is always trying to figure out new ways to part fools from their money. Probably ninety-nine out of one hundred emails he sends include a plea for money.
In the wake of Judge Dixon’s court decision, in addition to sending out his email missives, he predictably was on John Carlson and Dori Monson’s shows pitching his legal defense fund and name-checking his website as frequently as possible.
As mentioned, at every turn, Eyman has made getting his hands on money his priority. Even when that has meant breaking his word. Eyman’s followers may not remember all those broken promises, but my team and I do.
Eyman, who runs a fraternity watch business out of his Mukilteo home, conceded that he and the Fagans had repeatedly said they would ask for salaries only if they qualified one or both of their 2003 initiatives for the statewide ballot.
He announced Thursday that neither measure had gained enough voter signatures to qualify. They dealt with state tax-and-spending limits and light rail in Puget Sound. Eyman is best known for initiatives that provided $30 car-license tabs and property-tax limits.
Earlier today, Eyman asked supporters for their understanding, and their checks.
Emphasis is mine.
The late Ken Schram, who worked for Fisher Broadcasting for years as a radio host and TV commentator, was one of the few people working in local media during the 2000s who saw right through Eyman’s schemes. We have a collection of his Eyman-related commentaries up at Permanent Defense.
In one July 2002 commentary, Schram neatly captured the absurdity of Eyman going back to his followers to bail him out of the trouble he got himself into:
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.
A year later, in another summer commentary, Schram opined:
Maybe it’s something Pavlovian, but I just can’t ignore Tim Eyman.
How Tim has duped so many for so long is mystifying to me.
He’s lied. He’s cheated. He says one thing, does another.
Eyman has helped no one more then he’s helped himself, and he’s at it again.
Those words were uttered and written all the way back in 2002 and 2003. Here we are, nearly two decades later, and Eyman is still running cons, preying on the gullible, against the backdrop of one of the biggest cons ever in American political history… the Trump organization takeover of the Republican Party.
We truly do seem to be living in the age of the con man.
Thankfully, though, as a result of Judge Dixon’s decision, it will be harder for Eyman to run his cons than it was before. That’s progress. That’s worth celebrating. So is the fact a growing number of people in Washington State politics have realized that Tim Eyman is toxic and untrustworthy. It has happened too slowly for my liking, but again, progress is progress, and worth celebrating.
Next week, we will be sharing some material from Attorney General Ferguson’s lawsuit against Tim Eyman that will allow Washingtonians to better understand how Tim Eyman’s profit machine works. Look that for series starting in a few days, right here on NPI’s Cascadia Advocate.