Statistics in the hands of Tim Eyman yield fictional narratives

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and Reframing

“The select language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify. Statistical methods and statistical terms are necessary in reporting the mess data of social and economic trends, business conditions, ‘opinion’ polls, the census. But without writers who use the words with honesty and understanding and readers who know what they mean, the result can only be semantic nonsense,” author Darrell Huff writes in the introduction to his classic How to Lie with Statistics.

This passage came to mind this morning when our team was examining Tim Eyman’s latest email missive, which concerns yesterday’s Senate hearing on House Bill 1876, legislation that would aid Washington State voters by requiring fiscal impact disclosures to appear in ballot titles.

Ballot titles, for anyone who doesn’t know, are the short statements that voters see before being asked to mark “Yes” or “No” to decide the fate of a proposed law. Whatever words they contain are the only words that appear on the actual ballot representing a proposed initiative.

Arguments against, arguments for, fiscal impact statements, the complete text, and related materials don’t show up on the ballot. Only the ballot title does. The ballot title’s composition is thus of paramount importance.

Ballot titles are supposed to be impartial, but in practice, they often aren’t, especially when the measures they are describing are deliberately loaded up with prejudicial language by their sponsors.

Manipulating ballot title language to present destructive tax-cutting schemes in the most favorable terms possible is one of Tim Eyman’s nefarious skills, but it’s a skill that would be of limited use in the future of HB 1876 passes. That’s because 1876 sensibly requires that voters be informed if an initiative has a fiscal impact. There would be a short statement appearing after the concise description but before the Yes or No ovals stating that the measure would either increase or decrease funding for public services, with the affected services then described.

This statement, which would be simple and factual, would be immune from the kinds of manipulations Eyman has perfected… and that makes him very, very angry.

HB 1876 recently passed the House of Representatives and is now being considered in the Senate. On Friday, February 18th, it got its hearing in the Senate State Government Committee. After being caught off guard by the House’s passage of the bill, Eyman made mobilizing his followers against 1876 a top priority, urging them to sign up to testify against the bill, sign in against it, or do both.

Dozens of people and organizations supporting the bill, meanwhile, did likewise, including NPI.

As a consequence of all of the interest, the Senate State Government Committee was not able to hear spoken testimony from everyone who had signed up to testify remotely.

However, each side was given an opportunity to make its case through a selected number of speakers, as is usual for bills that attract both support and opposition.

This morning, Eyman gloated that his followers’ turnout was a “crushing victory”:

Crushing victory at Friday’s hearing: massive # of folks against anti-initiative bill: 857 con, 37 in-person pro.

Someone not familiar with how legislative testimony works might think upon reading this that there were twenty-three times as many people registering opposition to the bill as support.

But that would be an incorrect conclusion. Here, Eyman is comparing two very different things: the total number of people who either signed up to testify or put their names down in opposition to the bill against only the people who signed up to testify in favor of the bill.

(Eyman’s reference to “in-person” is nonsensical, by the way: this was an electronic hearing and no one appeared to testify in person. All testimony was accepted over Zoom.)

When he penned this morning’s missive, Eyman deliberately excluded hundreds of people who put their names down in favor the bill in the interest of peddling his “crushing victory” narrative. It is true that there were just thirty-seven people signed up to testify pro, and true that a total of eight hundred and fifty-seven people signed in con, or signed up to speak against.

But those are cherrypicked figures. An apples to apples comparison shows that the interest in the hearing was not as lopsided as Eyman claims:

Signed up to testify

37 pro
48 con
1 other
86 total sign-ups

Signed in, not wishing to testify

291 pro
2 other
809 con
1,102 total sign ins

Comparisons

Total pro: 328
Total con: 857

Some people signed in more than once, so the above figures include duplicates.

Eyman still could have bragged that the “con” side had higher numbers than the “pro” side without resorting to making a duplicitous comparison. But he went there anyway, because it’s what he does.

The number of sign-ups and sign-ins at a hearing is not a scientific measurement of public support for a bill, only an indication of how many activists or citizens were willing to take the time to respond to calls to action to participate in the legislative process. Looking at the sign-ins, we can see that a large number of people and organizations support the bill, including broad-based organizations with significant memberships, such as the League of Women Voters of Washington.

Eyman can gloat all he wants about his followers’ response to his furious appeals over the past week, but unfortunately for him, most Washingtonians are extremely supportive of legislation like HB 1876 that would add valuable context to initiative ballot titles.

Tim Eyman fails to qualify either I-1373 or I-1408 as an initiative to the Legislature

From the Campaign TrailStatements & Advisories

Tonight, at 5 PM Pacific Time, the deadline to submit signatures for initiatives to the 2022 Washington State Legislature will pass. Having failed to find megabucks to underwrite a signature drive for his scheme to repeal Washington State’s new state capital gains tax on the wealthy, scandal-plagued initiative promoter Tim Eyman’s 2021 will be ending in yet another defeat.

This is the sixth straight July or December signature deadline that will have passed with no turn-in event by Eyman. He last qualified an initiative three years ago, in late 2018 (Initiative 976), which then appeared on the November 2019 ballot. Voters passed it, but it was overturned by the Washington State Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Eyman initially planned on trying to qualify I-1373 to the 2022 Legislature, but switched to I-1408 after a few days, citing legal analysis prepared by Joel Ard, an attorney who has worked with Eyman in the past.

I-1408 was filed by Eyman’s friend Jim Walsh and is very similar to I-1373. Both initiatives were crafted with the goal of repealing the new capital gains tax on the wealthy along with Seattle’s JumpStart revenue plan. Eyman and his new associates Larry Jensen and Sid Maietto made a big show of being the first to sign a super-sized petition for I-1373 at a livestreamed event on September 9th, when they first announced they would attempt to restart Eyman’s initiative factory.

In a September 20th email, Eyman told his followers that getting I-1408 qualified was extremely important, because qualifying an initiative to the people next year would be “impossible.”

He also characterized it as the “only opportunity to kill off these income-based taxes.”

Here’s a lengthy excerpt from that email:

This is our ONLY opportunity to kill off these income-based taxes NOW AND IN THE FUTURE. This is our ONLY chance to get this critically important initiative on the November 2022 ballot (initiatives to the people next year will be impossible — California and other states are going to monopolize paid petitioners next year — Washington will never be able to compete).

Deadline to turn in voter signatures: Dec. 30th

Number of voter signatures needed: 400,000

Cost for a paid signature drive that guarantees I-1408 qualifies for the November 2022 ballot: $2.7 million.

To get that many signatures (400K) in such a short time-frame (Sept 9th through Dec 30th), we NEED a handful of “Mike Dunmires” to quickly step in and finance this signature drive.

We’re going to work really hard to find some Mike Dunmires to make I-1408 a reality. We NEED successful folks who are willing to break open their piggy banks to protect themselves and all of us from any kind of income tax NOW AND FOREVER.

Some of you can be a Mike Dunmire for this critical effort.

Many of you are friends with some Mike Dunmires.

Contact us if you’re able to connect us with them.

Despite publicly pleading for one or more “Mike Dunmires” to step forth and open their wallets, Eyman was unable to find any wealthy benefactors willing to restart his initiative factory.

That’s truly great news for Washington’s communities…. news worth celebrating as 2022 begins.

In recent weeks, Eyman’s focus has shifted back to making personal appeals for himself and denouncing Attorney General Bob Ferguson for seeking to hold him accountable for his repeated violations of Washington State’s public disclosure laws, though as recently as last week, Eyman was still including boilerplate pitches for I-1408 at the end of his email missives, like this:

And now a message from Larry Jensen & Sid Maietto:

We’re asking folks to donate to our PAC so we can stop all current and future income-based taxes with Jim Walsh’s Initiative 1408.

The taxpayers of Washington need our help now more than ever. Donate to our political committee so we can keep fighting for you.

An email sent by Eyman this morning did not include any I-1408 boilerplate or mention I-1408 at all. It’s a tacit admission by Eyman that he came up short.

Eyman has yet to explicitly acknowledge I-1408’s demise to his followers. And it’s possible he’ll never do so, as his usual practice is to quickly move on from failed cons.

As mentioned above, Eyman’s goal for the fourth quarter of 2022 was to raise $2.7 million to enable I-1408 to have a paid signature drive.

But by November’s end, Permanent Offense had only raised about a thousandth of that sum.

As of that point, evidence suggests Eyman had already given up on trying to find big money to qualify I-1408… though, as mentioned, he continued to use the measure’s existence and previously touted plans to qualify it as an excuse to appeal for donations to Permanent Offense in emails.

C4 reports filed by Eyman’s treasurer state that Permanent Offense took in just $566.10 from September 1st-October 11th, $345 from October 12th-25th, and $1,930.55 from October 26th-November 30th (total cash and in-kind contributions). The committee spent $10,990.01, $32,727.61, and $3,326.42 during those same periods. That’s far more than it raised.

“Without an ample supply of money, the gears of Tim Eyman’s initiative factory cannot turn,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve.

“It was refreshing back in September to hear Tim Eyman admit that he needed to find some ‘Mike Dunmires’ to get his con off the ground, after so many years of pretending to be a grassroots campaigner when he was really a rich man’s operative, working furiously to keep Washington’s tax code rigged in favor of the wealthy and powerful through deceitful initiatives. Having failed to land any six-figure donors, Permanent Offense now has less cash than it had before Eyman attempted to qualify I-1408 to the Legislature.”

“Though Eyman has said it will be ‘impossible’ to qualify anything to the ballot next spring due to California and other states monopolizing paid petitioner labor, we won’t be surprised if he tries again. In the event he is able to persuade wealthy benefactors to bankroll him, we will be ready to respond. The adoption of Washington State’s new state capital gains tax is an incredibly important step towards a fairer, more equitable tax code, and must be defended. The tax is slated to begin to be collected in 2022. It will raise hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen public education and childcare. NPI’s polling shows that most Washingtonians support levying a capital gains tax on the wealthy and remain supportive after hearing the false argument that the new capital gains tax is an ‘illegal and unconstitutional income tax.'”

“These are difficult times, and the last thing we need are more threats to Washington’s future. So here’s to the demise of I-1373 and I-1408, and any future initiatives like them.”

“Happy New Year 2022!”

NPI/Permanent Defense statement on conversion of Tim Eyman’s bankruptcy to Chapter 7

Statements & Advisories

Last week, United States Bankruptcy Court Judge Marc Barreca granted the State of Washington’s motion to convert Tim Eyman’s three year old bankruptcy from a Chapter 11 case to a Chapter 7 case and subsequently appointed Virginia A. Burdette to serve as the proceeding’s Chapter 7 trustee, as detailed in this Cascadia Advocate post. Barreca’s order to convert was issued about three months after Tim Eyman began missing deadlines for required monthly payments he was obligated to make to the State of Washington under his previous Chapter 11 plan.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve, who has been keeping an eye on the proceedings, commented that the conversion is a significant development in the bankruptcy case.

“When Tim Eyman first filed for bankruptcy in November of 2018, it appeared that his objective was to halt Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s main campaign finance enforcement lawsuit (case no. 17-2-01546-34) in Thurston County Superior Court,” said Villeneuve.

“At the time, the trial had not taken place and no judgment had been recorded.”

“This gambit failed, however, when Ferguson obtained a comfort order from the Bankruptcy Court allowing the case in Thurston County Superior Court to proceed. Not long after, Eyman tried to get his bankruptcy case dismissed, but Judge Barreca refused to grant his motion, and Eyman thus stayed in Chapter 11.”

“Now, having lost in Thurston County Superior Court and racked up even more legal bills, Eyman really is bankrupt. But he probably could have stayed in Chapter 11 if he had simply continued to make his required monthly payments instead of defaulting.”

“By defaulting, he triggered the provision of his bankruptcy plan that gave the State of Washington grounds to move for a Chapter 7 conversion… an action the State actually requested the Court take more than two years ago, in the spring of 2019, but which Barreca declined to do at the time.”

“Eyman regularly asserts that he is the victim of an unjust persecution. But the reality is, he’s in a hole that he dug for himself… a hole that he continues to enlarge and deepen. Now, a trustee will determine what assets are available to satisfy Eyman’s debts, most of which are owed to the people of Washington State.”

The next big battle in the bankruptcy case will concern the fate of the home that Eyman and his wife Karen (who are separated) own in Mukilteo. The State asserts that the home is a community asset subject to the State’s judgment entered in State of Washington v. Tim Eyman, et al.

Karen Eyman contends the home is her separate property.

A trial has been scheduled for next March to decide the issue.

See this Cascadia Advocate post for a copy of the judge’s ruling and additional case documents.

NPI applauds formation of Washington For Our Kids campaign committee

Eye on Money: DevelopmentsFrom the Campaign Trail

Today, a ballot committee that recently formed to oppose Initiative 1408 held an online event to announce that it is ready to fight Tim Eyman and Jim Walsh’s latest plot to keep the state’s tax code rigged in favor of the wealthy and powerful.

The committee, dubbed For Our Kids: Parents & Teachers Standing Up To Eyman, was formed by SEIU775NW and Nick Hanauer’s Civic Ventures, who have each pledged half a million dollars in funding should Eyman and Walsh move forward with I-1408.

“NPI applauds the recent formation of For Our Kids,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve.

“Defeating destructive, dangerous Tim Eyman initiatives at the ballot has historically been difficult, owing to Eyman’s ability to manipulate the ballot title writing process through abusive practices like ballot title shopping. That’s why it is so important that any opposition campaign to an Eyman measure get an early start. I-1408 may not qualify, but if it does, having an opposition campaign that is already ready to go will be extremely helpful.”

Eyman declared in an email last month that he and his associates will seek to qualify Initiative 1408 as a measure to the 2022 Washington State Legislature.

I-1408 has multiple aims: to repeal Washington State’s recently adopted capital gains tax on the wealthy, to repeal Seattle’s Jumpstart tax on large employers, and to add language to state denouncing the idea of an income tax. (Washington State does not currently levy an income tax, so prohibiting one would not have any practical effect.)

The measure can only qualify if Eyman successfully restarts his initiative factory and finds enough money to hire petition crews to conduct a signature drive.

It has already been nearly a month since Eyman issued a public plea for right wing billionaires to give him millions of dollars for a 2022 campaign.

With the clock ticking, Eyman has been busy sending promotional missives in support of I-1408, but has been unable to land the big whales he needs to move forward.

As of 2021, over 400,000 signatures are needed to qualify a statewide measure, including the number needed to offset duplicate and invalid signatures.

The deadline to submit signatures for I-1408 is the end of December, but statewide petition drives can’t be done in a day or even a week, so Eyman and Walsh have at most a few more weeks to obtain funding from a right wing billionaire or billionaires in order to proceed with their scheme to re-rig the tax code.

 

 

A reminder that Eyman initiatives have consequences: “WSF couldn’t afford to build new boats for a decade, due to fallout from a car tab cut in 2000”

Election PostmortemStatements & Advisories

It has been over twenty years since Tim Eyman’s Initiative 695 appeared before Washington voters, got challenged in court, and then reinstated by Governor Gary Locke and state legislators. But the consequences of I-695 continue to reverberate, as a story published by The Seattle Times this morning illustrates.

Titled “Why your ferry might be late — or canceled — this summer,” the article attempts to explain what’s behind the staffing and equipment problems at Washington State Ferries, the nation’s largest marine highway system.

WSF was among the biggest victims of I-695, as a passage late in the story notes:

WSF couldn’t afford to build new boats for a decade, due to fallout from a car-tab cut in 2000. New taxes since the mid-2010s are replenishing the budget. The next boat, a 144-car hybrid electric-diesel vessel, will begin construction soon at Vigor in Seattle, but won’t sail until 2024. The existing fleet is working past retirement age, and three vessels are at or approaching 60 years old.

“Any time a ferry goes down, it shutters the whole system,” [Ryan] Brazeau [a fourth-generation ferry worker and officer in the Inlandboatmen’s Union] said.

That “car tab cut in 2000” was the implementation of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 695.

Before its elimination, a portion of the statewide motor vehicle excise tax was specifically dedicated to the ferry capital construction account and the ferry operations account. When those dollars were shut off, WSF was put into a precarious position… a position that continues today. As the article notes, it took more than a decade for the Legislature to authorize the construction of any new ferries. The fleet is aging and WSF hasn’t been getting new boats into service fast enough to compensate for problems on the veteran ones.

It is too late to rectify this problem in the short term. The stage for this sorry situation was set long ago. But the Legislature and Governor Inslee can make sure the future is different. Washington State Ferries needs more than a shot in the arm to become healthy in the 2020s. It needs a robust, large, ongoing investment. It needs dedicated revenue.

Legislators should fund all of the new boats the system needs (let’s get some electric ferries!) and increase pay for ferry workers so WSF can address its staffing needs.

While the new boats will take time to build, the staffing problems ought to be more readily addressable. WSF has waited far too long for resources: it’s time to invest now in our marine transportation network, to ensure it can serve the needs of Washingtonians and people visiting Washington well into the future.

Also see: I-695’s devastating impact is no laughing matter

Nineteen Years: Founder’s Retrospective

Statements & Advisories

Today and throughout this month, Permanent Defense celebrates its nineteenth anniversary, marking one two hundred and twenty-eight months of continuous operation.

The past year was unquestionably one of the greatest and most successful years in the history of this project. The movement of people and organizations that Permanent Defense supports succeeded on all fronts — legislative, electoral, and judicial — in protecting Washington from bad ballot measures and holding bad actors like Tim Eyman accountable for their misdeeds.

After an eighteenth year that had its fair share of setbacks, we were ready for a change of pace.

And that’s exactly what we got.

Our nineteenth year was marked by a series of tremendous victories that will resonate for years. Like the final defeat of Tim Eyman’s I-976 in the Washington State Supreme Court. Or the overwhelming approval of Referendum 90, which preserved our comprehensive sexual health education law, last November. Or, just a few days ago, Judge James Dixon’s long-awaited ruling punishing Eyman for his serious violations of our public disclosure laws.

These and other wins have kept intact hard-won progress on a number of issues, from multimodal transportation funding to improved school curricula to meaningful enforcement of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Permanent Defense’s mission is to protect Washington by building a first line of defense against threats to the common wealth and Constitution of the Evergreen State. We ensure that when the right wing attempts to use the ballot to undo progressive policy advances, those efforts are promptly challenged. We know from experience that bad ballot measures take a lot of diligent work to knock down. Consequently, when facing a measure like I-976 or R-90, our top priority is always to support the swift organization of a broad and hopefully bipartisan coalition of like-minded Washingtonians to take that measure down.

Last year, when comprehensive sexual health education came under attack, we sprang into action, and collaborated with our friends at Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and many other organizations to ensure R-90 would be met with a strong response. The Safe & Healthy Youth Washington coalition did a tremendous job uniting Washingtonians in support of sex ed. The result was a landslide electoral victory that left our opposition utterly dumbfounded. The likes of Loren Culp are on record as questioning the legitimacy of the election results not because Democrats won up and down the ballot, but because Safe & Healthy Youth Washington won so overwhelmingly.

The outcome was not a surprise to us, for we knew from NPI’s research that voters in Washington State support comprehensive sexual health education. It was our job as a coalition to tap into that support and unite Washingtonians around an Approve R-90 position, taking nobody’s vote for granted. We did that, and we showed our opposition just how out of touch they are with the voters.

In addition to decisively winning the battle over R-90, we succeeded in our efforts to support the lawsuits aimed at overturning Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive I-976 and forcing Eyman to answer for his egregious violations of our public disclosure laws. Eyman’s gubernatorial campaign also ended spectacularly in failure in the August 2020 Top Two election, putting an end to his ambition to be Governor Jay Inslee’s general election opponent.

Our work is never done, because the right wing will always seek to roll back the progress we have made. However, we now have almost two decades of experience providing vigorous, year-round opposition to their bad ideas. We’ll continue to put that experience to use to protect Washington in the years ahead. Your support enables us to continue our essential work.

Enjoy the following chronology of my favorite moments from our nineteenth year.

Voters put the kibosh on Tim Eyman’s gubernatorial bid

August 4th, 2020

On August 3rd, Tim Eyman’s eight month long gubernatorial campaign ended in embarrassing failure when Eyman — who had repeatedly bragged that he would be more than a match for incumbent Democratic Governor Jay Inslee — finished with a meager 6.41% of the vote, well behind both Republicans Joshua Freed and Loren Culp. Eyman’s campaign failed to carry a single county, not even east of the Cascades. (Raul Garcia, another Republican who performed even worse statewide than Eyman, was able to carry tiny Adams and tiny Garfield counties.)

Eyman initially had little to say about the election results. Within a few days, however, he issued an enthusiastic and ringing endorsement of Loren Culp, and proceeded to start making campaign appearances in support of Culp with his daughter Riley. Culp went on to get clobbered in the November 2020 general election, garnering just 43.12% of the vote.

Tim Eyman campaign sign with abandoned chair
An empty office chair parked next to a Tim Eyman campaign sign in Whatcom County. Tim Eyman was infamously caught on camera in 2019 stealing a chair from a Lacey Office Depot. (Photo: Renee L. Miller)

Supreme Court rules I-976 unconstitutional in its entirety

October 15th, 2020

A few weeks into autumn, the Washington State Supreme Court delivered its verdict on Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976, finding the measure unconstitutional in its entirety.

Writing for the Court, Justice Steve Gonzalez held: “Initiative Measure 976 contains more than one subject, and its subject is not accurately expressed in its title. Accordingly, it is unconstitutional.”

I-976 had previously been blocked from taking effect thanks to an injunction issued by King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson, which the Supreme Court had repeatedly left in place.

The Supreme Court’s decision ensures I-976 will never be implemented, upholding our Constitution and protecting Washingtonians’ freedom of mobility.

The successful conclusion of the legal challenge against I-976, Garfield County v. State, marked the end of a more than two year effort to defeat Tim Eyman’s latest attempt to destroy multimodal transportation infrastructure in Washington State.

Victory: I-976 struck down!
This victory banner, featuring photography from NPI’s staff, depicts a northbound Amtrak Cascades train rolling towards Vancouver, B.C. along the shoreline in North Seattle right at sunset.

Referendum 90 is approved in a landslide

November 3rd, 2020

The electoral work of the Safe & Healthy Youth Washington ended in resounding success in the November 2020 general election with the lopsided approval of Referendum 90, which kept Washington’s comprehensive sexual health education law intact. 57.82% of Washington voters who participated in the election voted to keep the law, with only 42.18% voting to reject it.

Safe & Healthy Youth Washington Campaign Logo
Dozens of organizations joined the Safe & Healthy Youth Washington coalition to protect comprehensive sex ed across Washington State

Right wing fails to qualify Initiative 1109

December 31st, 2020

As 2020 ended, a second attempt to overturn Washington State’s comprehensive sexual health education law also collapsed: Initiative 1109. I-1109 — an initiative to the Legislature for 2020 — sought to replace CSHE with “opt-in sexual health education programs only” for a subset of students (specifically those in grades five to twelve).

School districts would have been required to offer curriculum that “confirms with the values of the parents or legal guardians and the families in their community” — an absurd an impossible mandate given that families in Washington have different values.

No signatures were submitted in support of the measure by the deadline, resulting in the end of another threat to comprehensive sexual health education in Washington State.

Eyman’s day of reckoning finally arrives

February 10th, 2021

Five days before Permanent Defense’s nineteenth anniversary, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon issued his long-awaited ruling in the main State of Washington v. Tim Eyman Fair Campaign Practices Act enforcement case. Judge Dixon ruled that Eyman had committed multiple egregious violations of the FCPA and fined him $2.6 million for his lawbreaking. Dixon also barred Eyman from continuing to engage in financial chicanery in the future by taking away his ability to direct and control money as the officer of a political committee.

The ruling marked the first time in over two decades that Eyman was meaningfully held accountable for disregarding Washington State’s public disclosure laws in his never-ending efforts to dupe voters into destroying funding for the essential public services that make Washington great.

Justice is Served Upon Tim Eyman
Justice at last! Permanent Defense’s victory banner celebrating a successful outcome in the main State of Washington v. Tim Eyman case.

Inspired by Permanent Defense’s nineteen year track record of taking on right wing initiatives and getting results? Donate to Permanent Defense PAC now to keep Washington safe from threats to its Constitution and common wealth

NPI on Judge Dixon’s decision in State v. Eyman: Justice is finally served

In the Courts

Today, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ordered dishonest initiative promoter Tim Eyman to pay $2.6 million for serious violations of Washington State’s public disclosure laws and entered an order enjoining Eyman from having financial control over political committees.

The long-awaited decision comes nearly four years after Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit seeking to hold Eyman accountable for the violations, which were investigated by the Public Disclosure Commission following a complaint from Washingtonians For Ethical Government’s Sherry Bockwinkel.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who serves on WFEG’s board with Bockwinkel, thanked Dixon for a well-reasoned, calmly delivered, dispassionate ruling.

“Justice was served today… long, long overdue justice,” said Villeneuve.

“Tim Eyman has been fined before. He has been found guilty of violations of Chapter 42.17A RCW before. But he has never been held accountable like this.”

“After decades of evading accountability, Eyman has finally been sentenced to a punishment that our team believes fits his crimes. Our Permanent Defense project, which fights destructive initiatives like those Eyman sponsors, is about to turn nineteen on Monday, February 15th. I could not think of more befitting news as we approach that anniversary than this thoughtfully delivered ruling. Our team at NPI is elated.”

“Washington State’s public disclosure laws serve the public interest. What we know today as Chapter 42.17A was created by the very initiative process Tim Eyman says he cherishes. But for too long, Tim Eyman has made a mockery of our public disclosure laws.”

“Now, Tim must face the consequences for his choices. Today, February 10th, 2021, his lying and cheating truly caught up with him. The circumstances he finds himself in are of his own making. He needs only to look in the mirror if he wants to know who to blame for these events.”

“As Judge Dixon said, the relief he’s granting won’t stop Tim Eyman from participating in Washington State politics, and it isn’t meant to. However, the days when Eyman could fly solo and simply disregard the law without consequences and oversight are over. Eyman is a serial offender, and is entirely appropriate that he be barred from engaging in financial chicanery in the future. We expect Eyman may appeal Judge Dixon’s decision, and if that happens, we hope it will be sustained on appeal.”

Washingtonians For Ethical Government boardmember Sherry Bockwinkel, who filed the original complaint, thanked the petitioners who blew the whistle on Eyman and his buddy Eddie Agazarm, the masterminds behind the scheme to divert funds from Initiative 1185 (which concerned restating an unconstitutional two-thirds requirement to pass revenue bills) to Initiative 517. Their evidence provided the basis for the complaint that was filed with the PDC.

“This is great news,” said Bockwinkel. “As I reflect on this ruling, I’m thinking of Steve Burdick and Miles Stanley and all the people who stepped forward to say ‘This is wrong!’ when Tim Eyman and Eddie Agazarm tried to cheat them in their efforts to qualify Initiative 517 to the ballot… a scheme that Eyman and Agazarm hoped would allow them to qualify initiatives more easily and cheaply in the future.”

“Petitioners should be justly and fairly compensated for the work they do, and enjoy the same protections under Washington’s worker protection laws as anyone else. Judge Dixon’s ruling today affirmed that our public disclosure laws have meaning. Now let’s ensure our worker protection laws have meaning, too. We’re in the midst of a pandemic — there’s no better time to ensure petitioners are treated respectfully by the people who employ them.”

Understanding State of Washington v. Tim Eyman

In the Courts

Today, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon is expected to release his ruling in the main State of Washington v. Tim Eyman case, No. 17-2-01546-34, which concerns serious violations of Washington State’s public disclosure laws.

During his more than twenty years of political involvement, initiative promoter and failed gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman has consistently tried to conceal the extent of his fundraising and electioneering from the public, in flagrant violation of RCW Chapter 42.17A, the public disclosure law that voters originally approved by initiative back in the 1970s.

Through the long-running case No. 17-2-01546-34, Attorney General Bob Ferguson is seeking to hold Eyman accountable for these violations.

Below is a Q&A about the case that delves into its history and debunks some of the disinformation that Eyman has been putting out in an effort to evade responsibility for his wrongdoing.

Q: How did this case get started, and what is it about? 

A: The case dates back to the summer of 2012, when Eyman’s opponents noticed he was trying to qualify an initiative on initiatives to the Washington State Legislature (meaning, an initiative that would actually change several RCWs pertaining to qualifying initiatives and collecting signatures for initiatives). One of Eyman’s opponents, Washingtonians For Ethical Government‘s Sherry Bockwinkel, filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission asserting that Eyman’s stealthy I-517 effort violated Washington State’s public disclosure law. I-517 went on to qualify as an initiative to the Legislature, and eventually ended up on the ballot. In the meantime, the PDC opened an investigation into Eyman’s initiative factory that ran for over two years. The investigation was concluded in September 2015, with PDC staff and commissioners having found multiple serious violations. Commissioners voted to refer the case to Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office for further investigation. Ferguson’s office spent a year and a half continuing the investigation before suing Eyman in March of 2017.

Q: What was I-517?

It was an initiative that sought to lengthen the timeframe for gathering signatures on initiatives and give petitioners special privileges in state law that no one else would have, allowing them to have access to venues like Lumen Field (formerly CenturyLink Field) for the purpose of collecting signatures. The overriding objective of I-517 was to make it easier and cheaper for Eyman to qualify initiatives to the ballot in the future. I-517 was fought by a well-organized, bipartisan opposition coalition that included progressive and business groups. Voters overwhelmingly rejected Initiative 517 in November of 2013 in what remains Eyman’s biggest ever electoral defeat if you go by the percentage of No votes the measure received.

Q: Why didn’t Eyman want the public to know he was trying to qualify I-517?

A: Primarily because he was using money raised for another initiative campaign to fund the measure’s signature drive. That other campaign was for I-1185, which appeared on the ballot in November of 2012, but which had its signature drive in the spring of 2012. I-1185 restated the unconstitutional scheme subjecting revenue bills to a two-thirds vote of the Washington State Legislature, in violation of Article II, Section 22 of the Washington State Constitution. I-1185 and its predecessors were subsequently invalidated in League of Education Voters v. State, a landmark Supreme Court decision handed down in 2013. Eyman knew that many business groups liked the idea of empowering legislative Republicans to effectively have an unconstitutional veto over any bill that would increase state revenue, and he went to them asking for funds to get I-1185 on the ballot. He got what he needed, and then some. Several business groups liked the idea of I-1185 and wanted to financially support it, but didn’t fully trust Eyman, so they set up their own PAC to funnel money directly to signature gathering company Citizen Solutions. What they did not appreciate was that Citizen Solutions and Eyman were joined at the hip, and that some of their money was going to end up in Eyman’s pockets anyway.

Q: How did Eyman’s opposition realize he was diverting money from one campaign to another?

A: By talking to people and doing some simple arithmetic. We have long tracked the goings-on in the mostly unregulated signature gathering industry, and we noticed there was a paid drive taking place for I-517, but did not find corresponding paperwork for I-517 filed with the Public Disclosure Commission like it should have been. Paid signature gatherers expect to be paid for their labor… they don’t work for free, so someone was paying them to gather signatures for I-517. Tim Eyman has a history of diverting funds raised for one thing for another — in the early 2000s, he helped himself to campaign donations and then lied about that — and we concluded that was likely happening again. Since petitioners are paid by the signature in Washington State, we were able to calculate approximately what the I-1185 signature drive cost. From talking to some of the petitioners, we learned what the going rate was for an I-1185 signature, and from talking to the Secretary of State, we knew how many signatures had actually been turned in by Eyman and his sidekicks. The total amount of money raised for I-1185 in the spring of 2012 far exceeded what we calculated the actual cost of the signature drive was, resulting in a sizable profit for Eyman and his buddies at Citizen Solutions, Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm. Evidence uncovered during the investigations shows that Eyman and Agazarm were the scheming minds behind I-517. They chose to funnel a big portion of their windfall into a project that I-1185 funders were not consulted about, and had no knowledge of.

Q: How did I-1185’s funders feel about I-517?

A: Many felt betrayed. Eyman took money explicitly given for one initiative and then used it for another. Several business leaders are on record as saying they would not have given money to either Eyman or Citizen Solutions if they had known it would be used for I-517 instead of I-1185. Organizations like the Washington Food Industry Association (which represents family owned grocers and independent chains like PCC Community Markets) suffered the injustice of having their own money spent against them to qualify an initiative that they opposed, which they viewed as infringing on the private property rights of their members. After I-517 qualified, WFIA and the Northwest Progressive Institute (formerly on the opposite sides of I-1185) joined forces with the Northwest Grocery Association, Kroger, Walmart, the Washington Retail Association and others to build a strong opposition campaign to I-517, which, as mentioned, was a spectacular success.

Q: Okay, so the events that prompted this case happened in 2012 and 2013… why has it dragged on for so long?

A: Principally because Eyman wanted it to. It is quite evident that he doesn’t want to be held accountable for his wrongdoing. We have dubbed his legal defense strategy stonewalling in the extreme. At every turn, Eyman and his cohorts have been uncooperative, and have tried to obstruct investigators, first from the PDC and then from Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office. There are lots of ways to waste time and and drag out an investigation, and Eyman and his lawyers have used pretty much every tactic that we know of to run out the clock. The litany of excuses they’ve offered for noncompliance with subpoenas could fill a book. For much of the last few years, Eyman has been in contempt of court, racking up fines because he would not timely comply with discovery orders. This case could have been decided long ago if Eyman hadn’t stonewalled. The predicament he is in is of his own making.

Q: Tim Eyman says this case is an effort to persecute him and institute a lifetime ban on future political activity… what’s the real story?

A: To Tim Eyman, accountability feels like persecution, because Tim is used to operating above the law and getting away with it. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is asking Judge James Dixon to impose a large fine on Eyman and require that he be subjected to oversight/supervision in the future when directing and controlling money for a political committee. In other words, Eyman wouldn’t be able to continue to fly solo as he has for most of his political career, willfully disregarding our public disclosure laws. While Eyman tries to make it sound in his email missives like lots of other people are involved in his initiative factory, the reality is that he occupies every single key role. Eyman is the CEO, the President, the Chairman, the CMO, the COO, the CFO, and so on. He is the one and only decisionmaker. Everyone else is a subordinate, including his treasurers, who serve in a ministerial capacity (per an agreement reached with the state years ago, Eyman cannot serve as a campaign treasurer.) Attorney General Bob Ferguson wants that status quo to end, and for Eyman to have to get somebody else’s signoff before spending money on electioneering.

Q: Have there been other State of Washington v. Tim Eyman cases?

A: Yes, several… and they ended in default after Eyman didn’t bother to mount a defense.

NPI hails Supreme Court ruling striking down Eyman’s I-976

In the Courts

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 as unconstitutional, holding:

“I-976 violates article II, section 19 because it contains multiple subjects and an inaccurate ballot title.  Accordingly, we reverse in part and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

Following the release of the opinion, Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve made the following statement.

“We took a long road to get here, but our multiyear effort to defeat Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive Initiative 976 has succeeded at last. Our team is thrilled. It’s truly a wonderful feeling to have prevailed.”

“Everyone in Washington State deserves freedom of mobility. The decision by the Washington State Supreme Court in Garfield County v. State both correctly upholds our Constitution and ensures that decades of bipartisan, voter-approved work will not be undone by a dishonestly worded, mean spirited ballot measure.”

“Vehicle fees are a key way in which we pool our resources to get things done, whether that’s providing intercity rail service with Amtrak Cascades, adding new ferries to our fleet, providing critical bus and paratransit service, or improving local streets and sidewalks so that people can safely get around their neighborhoods.”

“We’ve consistently said that the deceptive I-976 ballot title is a ‘blazing dumpster fire’, an analysis that was even cited during the oral argument back in June. Today, the Supreme Court agreed with us that the I-976 ballot title is inaccurate. Voters were not told the truth about what I-976 would do when asked to decide its fate. That’s unacceptable. While today’s decision rights that particular wrong, this is a recurring problem.”

“We sorely need a better process for developing ballot titles in our state. In 2021, the Northwest Progressive Institute will be asking our state legislators to revamp how titles are written, both to end the practice of ‘ballot title shopping’ and to ensure that measure titles use plainer language and do not deceive or mislead, not even unintentionally. We believe there ought to be many more sets of eyes on ballot titles than there are today during the drafting phase.”

“NPI thanks the City of Seattle, King County, and all of the plaintiffs represented by our friends at Pacifica Law Group for their fine work successfully challenging I-976. These are bad times, to be sure, but this is a great day for Washington State. Everyone wins from this decision, even people who voted for I-976.”

Tomorrow: State Supreme Court expected to rule on Tim Eyman’s I-976

In the Courts

Tomorrow, the Washington State Supreme Court is expected to release its decision in Garfield County Transportation Authority, et al. v. State of WA, et al., the legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976.

I-976, which appeared on the statewide ballot one year ago, is a measure sponsored by failed gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman that sought to inflict catastrophic damage on multimodal transportation investments in Washington by wiping out their funding.

Most Washingtonians did not return a ballot in the 2019 general election and thus never weighed in on I-976, but the measure passed anyway due to receiving more yes votes than no votes. However, it did not go into effect due to being promptly challenged in court.

Courts at both the trial and appellate level agreed to put I-976 on ice at the request of the plaintiffs contending that the measure is unconstitutional. Tomorrow’s decision will bring I-976 out of limbo one way or another: either the measure will be struck down, meaning it won’t ever be enforced, or it will go into effect and immediately cause catastrophic harm to Washington State’s communities at a time when underfunded essential public services are already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

If you plan to cover the ruling and its aftermath, please do right by your audience and discuss the ramifications from a community standpoint, not just an individual taxpayer’s standpoint. As a state, we rise and fall together; we pool our resources to get things done. No individual taxpayer, with the possible exception of the ultrawealthy like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, possesses the resources needed to undertake a project like rebuilding the West Seattle Bridge. But together, a project like that is something we can achieve.

Vehicle fees (car tabs) are one of the core ways we pay for roads, bridges, ferries, mass transit services like buses, trains, and paratransit, sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic safety, and law enforcement.

If vehicle fees in Washington end up getting gutted by I-976, as Tim Eyman intended, the consequences will be dire and far reaching. We will all lose if that scenario comes to pass…. even Washingtonians who voted for I-976 and feel vehicle fees are currently too onerous.

On the other hand, if I-976 is struck down, an important revenue source that is not as volatile as the sales tax will remain in place at a crucial time, keeping funding flowing to services like the Washington State Patrol, Washington State Ferries, Amtrak Cascades, and city road repair funds. This would be a just and fair outcome, particularly since voters were lied to by I-976 sponsor Tim Eyman and the I-976 ballot title (the language that appeared on the ballot as a representation of the measure) with respect to what the measure would do.

Below is a primer on the case.

The initiative

Initiative 976 was on the ballot in November of 2019.

It received 1,055,749 yes votes (23.44% of 4,503,871 registered voters at the time the election was certified) and 936,751 no votes (20.80% of 4,503,871 registered voters at the time the election was certified).

Information about the measure’s qualification to the ballot, the arguments for and against, and fiscal impact statement are available from our I-976 overview page. The measure’s text, in PDF, is also linked from that page.

The ballot title (what voters saw on their ballots) was as follows:

Initiative Measure No. 976 concerns motor vehicle taxes and fees.

This measure would repeal, reduce, or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees; limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges; and base vehicle taxes on Kelley Blue Book value.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

A substantive discussion of the defects in the ballot title is available from NPI’s Cascadia Advocate.

This discussion, which memorably referred to the I-976 ballot title as a “blazing dumpster fire” was cited by King County’s David Hackett, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, during oral argument before the Supreme Court.

The content of an initiative’s ballot title is very important. Because it is the only representation of an initiative that voters see on their ballots, it needs to be concise and truthful. The Constitution (Article II, Section 19) requires that bill and ballot titles expressly refer to their subjects. The same provision of the Constitution also limits bills and initiatives to a single subject to prohibit the practice of logrolling, which has a long history of use in the United States, and is legal at the federal level.

The lawsuit

The parties in the case (Garfield County Transportation Authority, et al. v. State of WA, et al.) are as follows:

GARFIELD COUNTY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY; KING COUNTY; CITY OF SEATTLE; WASHINGTON STATE TRANSIT ASSOCIATION; ASSOCIATION  OF WASHINGTON CITIES; PORT OF SEATTLE; INTERCITY TRANSIT; AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL OF WASHINGTON; and MICHAEL ROGERS,

Plaintiffs,

and

WASHINGTON ADAPT,

Intervenor-Plaintiff,

v.

STATE OF WASHINGTON,

Defendant,

and

CLINT DIDIER; PERMANENT OFFENSE, TIMOTHY D. EYMAN, MICHAEL FAGAN; JACK FAGAN; and PIERCE COUNTY,

Intervenor-Defendants.

The original complaint filed by the plaintiffs is available from NPI’s Cascadia Advocate.

The briefs submitted to the Supreme Court may be downloaded from courts.wa.gov:

The oral argument can be watched on TVW. It was conducted remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The alleged constitutional defects

The plaintiffs in Garfield County have alleged that I-976 violates the Constitution in nearly a dozen different ways.

Here are the alleged defects, as identified by the plaintiffs:

  1. Does I-976 violate article II, section 19 single subject requirements because it combines multiple subjects that are not germane to each other?
  2.  Does I-976 violate article II, section 19 subject in title requirements because its ballot title affirmatively misrepresents what the measure “would do” and does not include necessary subjects?
  3. Does I-976 violate article II, section 37 by amending existing statutes without setting the amendments forth in full, thereby resulting in confusion as to the effect of the new law?
  4. May unconstitutional provisions of an initiative be severed from the measure when they were included in the ballot title?
  5. Does I-976 violate article XI, section 12 by depriving municipal governments of vested local taxing authority for local purposes prior to expiration of the local tax?
  6. Does I-976 violate Washington’s separation of powers doctrine through legislative intrusion on the executive function of administering bond repayment?
  7. Does I-976 violate article VII, section 5 by diverting tax dollars from the purposes approved by local voters?

The plaintiffs must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I-976 contains one or more constitutional defects to prevail in their case.

King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson was persuaded that some provisions of I-976 (but not all) were unconstitutional; accordingly, he severed and struck down some of I-976’s clauses.

However, because his ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, and because the injunction he had previously issued keeping I-976 frozen was kept in place, his ruling did not change anything.

The Supreme Court will have the final word on I-976’s constitutionality, or lack thereof. Judge Ferguson’s prior ruling on I-976 is not binding on the Supreme Court. As we have seen, the Court has no qualms about overturning decisions reached by the state’s trial court judges, especially when it comes to the use of the instruments of direct democracy (the initiative, referendum, and recall).

For example, just this week, the Court nixed a recall against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Two years ago, the Court voided a ruling keeping the Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s I-1639 off the ballot.

And a few years before that, the Court said that I-1240 (charter schools) was unconstitutional after a trial court had left it largely intact.

The ramifications

If I-976 is implemented, decades of bipartisan and often voter approved work to improve Washington State’s transportation system will be undone, and many essential public services will be gutted, unless replacement funding can be obtained.

You can use our NO on I-976 Impact Map (PDF) to visualize how the state could be negatively affected by a ruling implementing I-976.

The NO on I-976 website, built and hosted by NPI, remains available as well.

There, you can find fact sheets as well as a list of cities that use vehicle fees to fund local road maintenance and street improvements.

Research suggests voters are strongly opposed to cuts to transportation investments. An Elway poll from early 2020 found a robust majority in support of finding replacement funding to avert cuts due to implementation of I-976.

January 2020 Crosscut/Elway Poll

405 registered voters; margin of error +/-5% at the 95 confidence level; survey conducted December 26th-29th, 2019, with 29% of voters in King County, 50% elsewhere in Western Washington, 20% in Eastern Washington

QUESTION #9: As you probably know, voters recently approved Initiative 976 to cut car-tab fees, effectively reducing revenue for transportation and transit projects. In your opinion, should the Legislature now delay and cut projects to make up the lost revenue, or try to find a new way of raising money for transportation?

  • DELAY & CUT: 26%
  • FIND NEW REVENUE: 58%
  • NO OPINION: 16%

That’s more than a two-to-one margin in favor of new revenue.

Note that te I-976 ballot title said absolutely nothing about any cuts to projects. It only asked about cheap car tabs, and it made it sound like there would be no negative consequences to making car tabs cheap. Elway’s polling reinforces that people were not voting for cuts.

What about Sound Transit and the ST3 projects?

Sound Transit has said it believes that it will not be impacted by I-976 regardless of whether the Supreme Court finds I-976 constitutional or not. The agency is thus not a party in the legal challenge against I-976.

If Sound Transit is correct, tomorrow’s ruling won’t sabotage the work of expanding Link, Sounder, ST Express, and creating Stride bus rapid transit, even though other projects and services would suffer devastating financial losses.

Tim Eyman naturally disputes the agency’s interpretation of his initiative. However, Tim is not a lawyer, and it is well established that he does not understand the basics of drafting laws that can withstand legal and constitutional scrutiny.

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