Tim Eyman waves dismissively
Tim Eyman gladly puts lives at risk in order to stroke his own ego (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

Though he has yet to break the news to his fol­low­ers, ex-ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman has appar­ent­ly decid­ed to start mak­ing a belat­ed effort to com­ply with a series of rul­ings issued by Thurston Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge James Dixon in the State of Wash­ing­ton’s main cam­paign finance enforce­ment case against him.

A copy of an email for­ward­ed to NPI indi­cates that Eyman has got­ten seri­ous about try­ing to find some­one to help him reg­is­ter as a con­tin­u­ing polit­i­cal com­mit­tee and file reg­u­lar reports with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion (PDC). Eyman was ordered to do this by Dixon but has so far utter­ly failed to comply.

As Eyman freely admits in the email, he had been hop­ing that the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court would reverse Judge Dixon, after the Court of Appeals declined to do so, but the Supreme Court refused to take the case. Eyman seems to have real­ized that con­tin­ued stonewalling and non­com­pli­ance would be point­less and only get him into more trou­ble. So, he’s mak­ing inquiries.

Here’s the mes­sage we were forwarded:

From: Tim Eyman
Sent: Thurs­day, August 17, 2023 at 01:11:18 PM PDT
Sub­ject: Trea­sur­er for “Tim Eyman, Con­tin­u­ing Polit­i­cal Committee”
Date: August 17, 2023

Mes­sage body:

From the PDC’s web­site, I learned that you are a pro­fes­sion­al trea­sur­er for var­i­ous polit­i­cal com­mit­tees here in Wash­ing­ton state.

Would you be will­ing to serve as the non-min­is­te­r­i­al trea­sur­er for “Tim Eyman, Con­tin­u­ing Polit­i­cal Com­mit­tee”? As you may already know, the low­er court deter­mined that I, Tim Eyman per­son­al­ly, fit the def­i­n­i­tion of a “con­tin­u­ing polit­i­cal com­mit­tee” and have been ordered to reg­is­ter and file as one. Since the state supreme court has recent­ly declined to review the Court of Appeals rul­ing that affirms that des­ig­na­tion, I am now sub­ject to its require­ments. There­fore, I am attempt­ing to com­ply with the court’s ruling.

The attached (page 31, sub­sec­tion 9) requires that a non-min­is­te­r­i­al trea­sur­er han­dle this reporting.

Would you be will­ing to serve in that capacity?

I ask you to please call me to dis­cuss this further.

My cell phone num­ber is [redact­ed].

Thank you for your time and con­sid­er­a­tion of this request.


Tim Eyman

Our team found this mes­sage par­tic­u­lar­ly strik­ing because we are very accus­tomed to read­ing Eyman’s semi-week­ly, brava­do-filled email mis­sives, and this is so dif­fer­ent from those. Notice how refresh­ing­ly can­did and direct the mes­sage is. There are no denun­ci­a­tions of Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, no memes, and no recita­tion of griev­ances. Instead, Eyman gets right to the point in a busi­nesslike man­ner: he has to com­ply with a court order and respect­ful­ly asks for an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss his needs with a per­son he thinks could help him.

He sure does need the help. Due to hav­ing signed a set­tle­ment agree­ment with the state twen­ty years ago after hav­ing been caught vio­lat­ing the Fair Cam­paign Prac­tices Act, Eyman is barred from serv­ing as a com­mit­tee trea­sur­er. He can­not file his own reports — he real­ly and tru­ly does need some­one to help him. He ought to have found reli­able help many, many years ago, but he chose not to.

Now he’s belat­ed­ly chang­ing course.

It is Eyman’s fault that he has found him­self in the posi­tion of being sub­ject­ed to court-ordered restric­tions on his oper­a­tions. For years, Eyman has freely mixed per­son­al and polit­i­cal funds. His utter lack of inter­est in keep­ing prop­er books of account made it extreme­ly dif­fi­cult for inves­ti­ga­tors to unrav­el the web of dark mon­ey under­pin­ning his now defunct ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry, and prompt­ed Fer­gu­son’s office to request that Dixon order Eyman to take spe­cif­ic steps to reg­is­ter and report with the PDC. Eyman has made no effort to com­ply… until now.

Eyman has repeat­ed­ly argued that a per­son can­not be a polit­i­cal com­mit­tee, but the law actu­al­ly plain­ly states oth­er­wise. Here’s the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion:

A polit­i­cal com­mit­tee is any per­son, group, club, orga­ni­za­tion or col­lec­tion of indi­vid­u­als (except a can­di­date or indi­vid­ual deal­ing with his or her own funds) expect­ing to receive con­tri­bu­tions or make expen­di­tures in sup­port of or in oppo­si­tion to any can­di­date or bal­lot propo­si­tion, includ­ing annex­a­tion and incor­po­ra­tion bal­lot issues.

Most peo­ple active in pol­i­tics fol­low the law — they keep their per­son­al funds sep­a­rate from their polit­i­cal funds. For exam­ple, a wealthy indi­vid­ual want­i­ng to run ads in oppo­si­tion to a can­di­date they don’t like would not write a check out of per­son­al funds to a media com­pa­ny to buy the ads. The indi­vid­ual would hire a con­sul­tant and a trea­sur­er to form a polit­i­cal com­mit­tee, then write a check to the com­mit­tee to fund its oper­a­tions. The com­mit­tee would then pay for the ads and report them. That’s an exam­ple of the legal way to trans­form per­son­al funds into polit­i­cal funds. The com­mit­tee does the report­ing, there­by sat­is­fy­ing the law.

Eyman, on the oth­er hand, has been care­less­ly oper­at­ing as an unreg­is­tered polit­i­cal com­mit­tee. He did not want the pub­lic or some of his donors to know what he was up to, espe­cial­ly when he decid­ed in 2012 to use mon­ey raised for one ini­tia­tive to fund a dif­fer­ent, unre­lat­ed ini­tia­tive that was designed to make it eas­i­er and cheap­er for him to do even more ini­tia­tives in the future.

Instead of rout­ing polit­i­cal funds through prop­er, estab­lished chan­nels (like his com­mit­tee Vot­ers Want More Choic­es), he tried to con­ceal his activ­i­ties by mov­ing mon­ey intend­ed to influ­ence an elec­tion through per­son­al and busi­ness accounts.

It was only after inves­ti­ga­tors uncov­ered all of this decep­tion that Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son request­ed this accountability.

Specif­i­cal­ly, Dixon’s order requires:

Eyman shall not direct­ly solic­it con­tri­bu­tions for him­self or his fam­i­ly to sup­port his polit­i­cal work with­out estab­lish­ing a polit­i­cal com­mit­tee, which must prop­er­ly report the con­tri­bu­tions to the PDC in com­pli­ance with the FCPA. Any con­tri­bu­tions must be made direct­ly to the polit­i­cal com­mit­tee, not direct­ly to Eyman. Any con­tri­bu­tions made to the polit­i­cal com­mit­tee, whether or not intend­ed to com­pen­sate Eyman, must be report­ed to the PDC as a polit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tion, and, if dis­bursed to Eyman, dis­bursed by the polit­i­cal com­mit­tee and report­ed as a polit­i­cal expen­di­ture. The deci­sion to make the expen­di­ture must be made inde­pen­dent of Eyman by the com­mit­tee and approved by the Committee’s trea­sur­er, who must not be pure­ly min­is­te­r­i­al, and who must be some­one oth­er than Eyman.

It is espe­cial­ly nec­es­sary that Eyman com­ply with Dixon’s rul­ing giv­en that he con­tin­ues to fundraise for him­self on an ongo­ing basis. Some of that mon­ey is no doubt going to his legal defense and house­hold needs, but it is evi­dent that some is also being spent to enable him to con­tin­ue to influ­ence leg­is­la­tion and elections.

Just to give you a sense of how long this cam­paign finance enforce­ment case has dragged on and how com­plex it is, here is a time­line of the key events:

  • August 2012 (eleven years ago): NPI mem­ber Sher­ry Bock­winkel files a com­plaint against Tim Eyman and his asso­ciates over alleged vio­la­tions of the Fair Cam­paign Prac­tices Act
  • March 2013: The Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion opens an investigation
  • Sep­tem­ber 2015: The PDC hears a staff report con­clud­ing that Eyman broke the law, with “mul­ti­ple appar­ent vio­la­tions,” and votes to refers the case to Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son’s office for fur­ther action
  • March 2017: After a year and half of addi­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tion, Fer­gu­son brings a law­suit against Eyman to hold him accountable
  • Novem­ber 2018: Eyman announces he is fil­ing for bank­rupt­cy, despite not actu­al­ly being bank­rupt at that point, in an attempt to dodge the state’s cam­paign finance enforce­ment law­suit, or at least buy him­self more time
  • Jan­u­ary 2019: Fer­gu­son wins a com­fort order from the bank­rupt­cy court, unfreez­ing the cam­paign finance enforce­ment case after only a few weeks
  • Jan­u­ary 2021: The law­suit final­ly goes to tri­al, after near­ly four years of court pro­ceed­ings and tri­al prepa­ra­tion, includ­ing depositions
  • Feb­ru­ary 2021: Thurston Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge James Dixon finds for the state, order­ing Eyman to pay a big fine and open up his books

As men­tioned, over two years have elapsed since the tri­al end­ed and Dixon’s ver­dict got hand­ed down. Eyman has spent that time try­ing to escape jus­tice and pay­ing Richard Sanders to file appeals, rather than complying.

But all that stonewalling has been for naught. Eyman remains in legal jeop­ardy and has found him­self in an even deep­er finan­cial hole than before.

So, at long last, he’s search­ing for a trea­sur­er to help with his com­pli­ance needs. We don’t know if he approached Dawn Appel­berg, who has been Per­ma­nent Offense’s trea­sur­er for sev­er­al years, but if he did, it seems the answer was “no.” Why else would Eyman be brows­ing the PDC web­site look­ing for trea­sur­ers and then send­ing them emails in the hopes of arrang­ing a phone call?

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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