Christian Sinderman on Initiative 776 and Tim Eyman’s return from his self-imposed “exile”

Christian Sinderman is a longtime Eyman opponent who pressed the media about Tim Eyman’s finances from the summer of 2001 to his confession seven months later in February 2002. Sinderman made his name in politics working for Maria Cantwell’s 2000 campaign. Since then, he has served as a political consultant to campaigns opposing Eyman’s initiatives. He is the principal of Northwest Passage Consulting. This interview was conducted and published in July of 2002.

Q: When did you first figure Tim Eyman was dishonestly moving funds to Permanent Offense, Inc. from Permanent Offense, and what prompted you to speak out about it?

A: It was clear in the summer of 2001, when every month he would bill his campaign for ‘consulting and management’ services. He didn’t need to move that money unless he was keeping it. It was unethical and misleading, so we made a big deal about it.

Q: What was your initial reaction when you learned Tim Eyman had lied about the transfers?

A: Hardly a surprise, after all, this is not an individual bound by the truth when it comes to his initiatives, why should he tell the truth about money?

Q: Tim Eyman previously said in February, “I wanted to have the moral high ground so I could say our opponents make money from politics and I don’t.” As an Eyman opponent, how do you feel about his trickery?

A: Again, no surprise. He’s a smart guy. He knew that he was only a populist hero so long as he pretended he was just another angry taxpayer. The $200k payday takes the shine off him a little.

Q: What do you think of Permanent Offense’s motto, “We always have and always will be a team”?

A: It’s a little shopworn, not to mention no longer true since Eyman dissed his ‘teammates’ and went solo as soon as he settled with the Attorney General’s office.

Q: Permanent Offense has used paid signature-gatherers to get their measure (I-776) onto the ballot this year and in past years. You have previously termed this as “buying your way onto the ballot.” Do you think Initiative 776 would have had a chance if Permanent Offense had used only volunteers?

A: Of course not.

Q: If the Attorney General’s lawsuit is successful, and supposing I-776 fails at the ballot box, would you say that would be the end of Permanent Offense’s “golden age”?

A: Well, the lawsuit was successful insofar as it codified his wrongdoing. Regardless of the fate of I-776, Permanent Offense seems to be headed into the history books. Eyman solo is a little like a lead singer quitting the band: you never hear much about the other guys any more.

Q: What, in your opinion, was the main reason the No On Initiative 747 campaign was unsuccessful last fall?

A: I-747 offered free money with no consequences (like I-695, and I-722). It was unbeatable. Of course, now we are looking at closed pools and parks, library furloughs, huge cuts in human services, and even police and fire departments facing layoffs.

Essential services aren’t free, no matter what Eyman says.

Q: During his confession, Eyman said he wanted his “ego stroked” and “it was all just a scheme so I could say our opponents make money from politics and I don’t”. Do you agree with Senator Adam Kline’s bill to force initiative sponsors to disclose their finances just as politicians do?

A: Yes. The public deserves that accountability.

Q: Do you believe Eyman’s explanation for being “in exile” for several months?

A: I believe he played a lot of ping pong (what else do you do while in exile?), and I’ve seen him jogging, so yes.

Q: What kind of influence do you think Tim Eyman will have as a public figure once more during the initiative campaign this fall?

A: He is clearly tarnished, and a lot harder to believe than in the past, but he is entitled to a voice like anyone else.

Q: Do you think Initiative 776 is constitutional, and if not, what do you believe is unconstitutional about it?

A: I’m not an attorney, so I really can’t say.

Q: Sound Transit has said it will lose 20% or more of its transportation funding should the MVET (Motor Vehicle Excise Tax) be repealed by I-776. Are there other costs or consequences we should be concerned about?

A: The main impact of I-776 is the loss of local road funds already at work. And there is the simple logic of whether a statewide vote to repeal locally-approved transportation funding is appropriate.

Q: During past initiative campaigns, and most likely this one, Tim has said that the government “will always be able to find money somewhere else”. Obviously this is not true for either Washington State or King County. Why do you think people have tended to agree with Tim’s message, and how could this fabrication be pointed out to voters?

A: When voters see what their money is doing to serve them, they tend to support taxes. Unfortunately, a lot of services are not in the public eye every day. And then Eyman comes along and lies about waste- a cynical but proven strategy to undermine services we depend on.

Q: Will you be working on future campaigns against Tim Eyman, including the upcoming one against I-776?

A: Sure.

Q: Lastly, what is your opinion of the slogan, NO ON LIE-776?

A: That’s just fine. Sums it up nicely.

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