Inside Tim Eyman's Profit Machine: A Cartoon History
Inside Tim Eyman's Profit Machine: A Cartoon History (Promo Banner)

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.

Inside Tim Eyman's Profit Machine
Inside Tim Eyman’s Prof­it Machine: A graph­ic cre­at­ed by our team at NPI

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.

Like this one from 2003:

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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