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
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.
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?