This morning, on the very day that NPI’s Permanent Defense is celebrating its nineteenth anniversary, The Seattle Times published an important front page story by reporter David Gutman on the fallout from last week’s hugely consequential ruling against Tim Eyman for violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.
The story (which quotes me, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, talk radio host John Carlson, and Eyman) examines Eyman’s prior claim that Attorney General Bob Ferguson was seeking a “lifetime ban” on his “future political activity” in response to Eyman’s violation of the law, and then beautifully knocks it down, noting that Eyman himself has now admitted that’s not true. From the story:
Tim Eyman had said losing his court case would end his career in politics. Now he proclaims: ‘full steam ahead.’
Tim Eyman has spent years vilifying Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, calling him a “fascist,” complaining of persecution and saying the campaign finance lawsuit Ferguson brought against him would essentially bar him from politics forever.
But in the wake of that lawsuit, which last week resulted in nearly unprecedented punishments and restrictions on Eyman’s future political and financial activity, the Republican activist has come to agree with the Democratic attorney general on at least one thing: Eyman’s political career need not be finished.
Eyman previously argued in court that such a punishment “deprives me of all rights protected under the First Amendment.”
He previously said the punishment amounted to a “lifetime ban on all my future political activity.”
He now admits that is not the case.
The story then quotes Bob Ferguson as saying he’s glad that Eyman now admits what his office has said all along: the relief sought by the state (and granted by Judge Dixon) doesn’t bar Eyman from exercising his First Amendment rights to speak freely, write freely, or petition freely. He can continue to be involved in state politics if he likes. He’s just not able to engage in financial machinations like he was before, because he has proven himself to be both untrustworthy with money and unwilling to follow the Fair Campaign Practices Act (Chapter 42.17A RCW).
Those familiar with the work that my team at NPI and I do won’t be surprised to hear me say that the aforementioned concession is actually part of an established pattern of Eyman changing his tune upon having reached the point where there is no longer a benefit to continuing to peddle a fabrication.
For example, back in the early 2000s, Eyman was going around insisting that he didn’t get paid for his political work. That was a lie, and people like Democratic consultant Christian Sinderman and Seattle P‑I reporter Neil Modie knew it was a lie, because there was a paper trail showing Eyman was moving money out of his campaign accounts into an identically named for-profit corporation he controlled.
“I get no money promoting the various initiatives. I make a lot of money selling watches. I don’t need any extra,” Eyman told Modie.
Suzanne Karr, who worked with Eyman in those early days, could not take the lying anymore, even if Eyman could, and blew the whistle on him, leaving him little choice but to pivot and admit the painful truth.
On Super Bowl Sunday nineteen years ago, Eyman telephoned the AP’s David Ammons to fess up. Ammons’ article ran above the fold in both the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer the following morning.
“It was the biggest lie of my life,” Eyman told Ammons, of his claim about being an uncompensated promoter of destructive right wing initiatives.
Debunking himself, he conceded: “The fact is, it is true that I made money in past campaigns and planned to make money on future campaigns.”
Foreshadowing his future actions and intentions, he also told the veteran Associated Press reporter, who would go on to chair the PDC: “I want to continue to advocate issues and I want to make a lot of money doing it.”
Boy, has he ever.
Another, more recent example of Eyman changing his tune once there was no longer a benefit to keeping the lie going was in November of 2019, after Initiative 976 passed. Eyman had marketed I‑976 as a measure that would deliver “thirty dollar car tabs” to all auto-owning Washingtonians. In fact, I‑976 did not provide for anyone’s vehicle fees to be set at thirty dollars, and Eyman knew that. He admitted it, on the record, in an interview with McClatchy’s James Drew:
“We were going after the big ones, the big guys. The fee itself is $30. There are some ancillary fees on there,” he said.
The initiative eliminates the additional fee the state charges based on the weight of a vehicle, which can range from $25 to $65. It also bars local governments from tacking on car tab fees through transportation benefit districts.
Eyman said he doesn’t see a problem because the initiative will cut car tabs substantially by eliminating the weight fees and targeting Sound Transit’s MVET, which is collected in the urban areas of Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.
“Are voters going to be furious because it’s $43? I don’t think so.”
In one fell swoop, Eyman neatly undercut his own prior arguments about voters being furious about vehicle fees creeping higher (what’s $13.25, anyway!?) while simultaneously conceding that I‑976 would not deliver what it promised, even if were to be implemented, which it will never be, due to being unconstitutional.
$43.25 is not $30, as the Supreme Court recognized in its ruling against I‑976.
Ironically, the votes that enabled I‑976 to pass came from areas of the state where vehicle fees are often not that much higher than $43.25.
Within the Sound Transit jurisdiction in central Puget Sound, where vehicle fees are significantly higher, I‑976 failed, showing that a majority of voters didn’t have buyer’s remorse about Sound Transit 3 like Eyman claimed they did.
Eyman’s convenient pivot away from Help me — Attorney General Bob Ferguson is trying to ban me from politics for life! to Full steam ahead — nothing’s gonna stop me was entirely predictable. Eyman needs people to open their wallets to keep his political operation going. He needs them to feel compelled to give.
The pretext can be real, it can be one hundred percent made up, or it can be a mixture of truth and hyperbole — that doesn’t matter.
All that matters is whether it works on the gullible.
The objective of the exercise is figuring out how to get fellow members of the Trump cult to write checks and whip out their credit cards… and then get them to do it again just as soon as possible. Eyman is good at conveying urgency and making something sound like a matter of life and death, even if it isn’t.
Since Eyman didn’t prevail in Judge James Dixon’s courtroom, he changed his tune, so he could portray himself as a survivor still in the arena despite getting knocked down. In the process, he reminded us that he’s a shameless fibber.
As Attorney General Bob Ferguson said:
“It’s ironic, throughout this case he wrote over and over how if we were successful he could no longer do this work […] Now he’s saying what we said all along, ‘Yes he can continue doing this work, yes, I agree.’ That’s what we’ve been saying from day one.”
“He can conceive of initiatives, draft an initiative, promote an initiative, speak about an initiative […] He just can no longer be involved in the financial affairs of the initiative because he’s demonstrated repeatedly that he will engage in illegal kickbacks.”
Last Friday, we published a cartoon guide to the many mechanisms Eyman has come up with over the years for raking in the Benjamins. If you’re new to Washington, or just want a refresher on how Eyman’s profit machine works, check out this post and learn more about how Eyman parts fools from their money.