NPI’s Permanent Defense responds to the discovery of thousands of fraudulent I-517 and I-522 signatures

This afternoon, the Secretary of State Kim Wyman announced that, after reviewing petitions submitted for Tim Eyman’s I-517 and Chris McManus’ I-522, her office had asked the Washington State Patrol to open a criminal investigation into what she called “the worst apparent initiative fraud anyone can remember.” As many as eight thousand signatures for I-517 and I-522 may be fraudulent.

Since mid-spring of 2012, when we first learned that Tim Eyman and his friends Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm were making an attempt to quietly and illegitimately collect signatures for a second initiative by piggybacking on the signature drive for I-1185, we have been watchdogging and monitoring the I-517 campaign as closely as possible… a difficult task, given that Tim Eyman and his pals ran the entire operation in stealth mode up until the very end.

Prior to today’s announcement, we had already documented a troubling set of discrepancies with the I-517 campaign, many of which were included in the complaint against the I-517 campaign filed with the Public Disclosure Commission by Sherry Bockwinkel last August. Sadly, the PDC has so far failed to launch a full-scale investigation in response to the complaint. We urge the PDC to bring the complaint out of limbo and open a formal inquiry immediately.

We thank Secretary of State Kim Wyman and her team for referring this matter to the State Patrol for a full investigation. We understand that the State Patrol is already investigating fraudulent signatures that were submitted as part of last year’s charter schools initiative, and we will be following that investigation as well.

However, we need more than an investigation into these fraudulent signatures. The signature gathering industry in our state has been operating for years out of the public eye with next to no oversight. Our research has found that our state’s signature gathering firms, like Eddie Agazarm and Roy Ruffino’s Citizen Solutions, have been exploiting their petition workers for years and failing to comply with our worker protection laws. It is time for lawmakers and the Department of Labor & Industries to fully investigate this industry and ensure that firms like Citizen Solutions are brought into full compliance with our laws. Instances of fraud are less likely to occur if regulators do their job.

We applaud the Secretary of State’s Elections Division for planning to meet with elections officials in Oregon to discuss how to toughen our state’s laws and regulations. We believe we should learn from Oregon’s experience so we can prevent the same kind of problems from getting completely out of hand here.

Tim Eyman would like us all to think that signature fraud is a problem that doesn’t exist. But as this and past incidents demonstrate, he is dead wrong. He’s against oversight anbd regulation of the signature gathering industry because it could negatively affect his profits.

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