A reminder that Tim Eyman’s problems are self-inflicted

In the CourtsStatements & Advisories

This morning, Tim Eyman announced in an email to his followers that his marriage is ending and he intends to file for bankruptcy. The disgraced initiative promoter blamed Attorney General Bob Ferguson for his personal problems, characterizing the state’s attempt to hold him accountable for his lawbreaking as “the most intense, soul-crushing government litigation against a private individual in state history.”

Northwest Progressive Institute Founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve — who has almost seventeen years of experience organizing opposition to Eyman’s initiatives — noted that Eyman’s problems are all self-inflicted.

“Tim Eyman has been in politics long enough to understand our system of public disclosure, which was created when the people of Washington approved Initiative 276 back in the 1970s,” said Villeneuve.

“Even after getting into trouble early on in his career as a purveyor of destructive initiatives, he has continued to willfully and repeatedly violate our public disclosure laws… including in 2012, when he used money donated for one initiative to qualify another without asking his donors’ permission or even telling them what he was doing.”

“And he doesn’t appear to feel any remorse over this. He’s only sorry that he got caught.”

“It’s bizarre that Eyman is complaining about this case taking so long, because his opposition is equally frustrated that we haven’t gotten to the trial yet. What he is not telling his followers or the press is that his actions are the reason for the long timeframe. It was his choice to make stonewalling in the extreme his legal defense strategy.”

“Read the many briefs filed by the state’s attorneys over the past few years, which describe in excruciating detail their repeated and patient efforts to obtain documents from Eyman. Getting Eyman to turn over any records at all has been extremely difficult, both before and since the lawsuit was filed. To compel Eyman’s cooperation, the courts have held him in contempt, but even that hasn’t prompted Eyman and his co-defendants to produce records in a timely fashion.”

“Eyman has chosen to resist accountability at all costs. Today, it’s apparent those costs are very high and very painful indeed. Eyman would like us all to feel sorry for him, but he still won’t accept responsibility for his own behavior.”

“Thankfully, Attorney General Ferguson is committed to seeing this case through despite Eyman’s stonewalling, and we appreciated that. Justice needs to be served.”

Oh, the hypocrisy: Well paid politician Tim Eyman doesn’t want our elected representatives to get pay raises

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & AdvisoriesThreat Analysis

It’s hard to think of a politician who more powerfully epitomizes the word shameless than Tim Eyman, especially when it comes to matters of dollars and cents.

The fifty-two year old has been a full time politician for almost twenty years and is so obsessed with profiting from politics that he has orchestrated illegal schemes to steer more of his donors’ money into his own pockets without their knowledge.

But while Eyman loves helping himself to his donors’ money, he doesn’t think our elected representatives’ pay should be increased, declaring this week that he wants to subject the salary increases proposed by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials to a statewide referendum and overturned.

Eyman’s mantra is “Give Them Nothing”, which implies our elected representatives shouldn’t be paid anything at all, let alone the increases the Commission has proposed.

“At NPI, we’ve lost track of how many times we’ve heard Republican candidates and right wingers like Eyman insist that government should be run like a business,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who has been organizing opposition to destructive Eyman schemes for nearly seventeen years.

“It sure is a frequent refrain in their discourse. In the private sector, though, compensation is considered very important to the recruitment and retention of high caliber candidates for executive positions. If right wing Republicans like Eyman really want government run like a business, shouldn’t they be willing to pay top dollar to attract the very best people to serve in our Legislature, judiciary, and executive department? How do you get competent government if your mantra is ‘Give Them Nothing’?”

Eyman has some nerve railing against pay increases for politicians considering his own long-running obsession with profiting from politics.

Seventeen years ago, Eyman famously professed to be working on initiative campaigns for free, when he was in reality transferring large sums of money out of his campaign committees to pay himself, and then lying about it.

Northwest Passage Consulting principal Christian Sinderman and others suspected what Eyman was up to, and in early 2002, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an investigate report about Eyman’s suspicious money transfers. Eyman continued to deny what he’d done until his guilty conscience caught up with him. He called up The Associated Press’ David Ammons and confessed, saying “it was the biggest lie of my life”.

“The fact is, it is true that I made money in past campaigns and planned to make money on future campaigns,” Eyman told Ammons in a rambling confession. “This entire charade was set up so I could maintain a moral superiority over our opposition, so I could say our opponents make money from politics and I don’t.”

“I want to continue to advocate issues and I want to make a lot of money doing it,” Eyman added. Seventeen years later, it’s quite apparent that this particular statement is one of the few Eyman has made that can be called entirely truthful.

After he was caught lying in 2002, Eyman began openly paying himself a salary out of campaign funds and also raising money for what he called his “compensation fund”.

But that was not enough.

The ever-greedy Eyman concocted a scheme with one of his vendors to receive kickbacks from them that were not reported to the Public Disclosure Commission. Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office is trying to get to the bottom of this concealment scheme, but has been stymied by Eyman’s refusal to cooperate. Eyman remains in contempt of court and on the hook for $500 daily fines for refusing to turn over records in the case.

The Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials has a constitutional obligation to examine the salaries of our elected officials and propose adjustments to those salaries. Created by a vote of the people in 1986, it is one of the few commissions of its kind. Its salary changes can be overturned by referendum as provided for in Article XXVIII of the Washington State Constitution, but the pay increases the Commission has proposed for 2019-2020 are entirely reasonable.

“I have yet to hear Cougar alum Tim Eyman complain about how much Washington State University is paying Mike Leach to coach their football team,” said Villeneuve, who noted that Leach and UW head football coach Chris Petersen make far more than anyone serving the people of Washington in the statehouse.

Leach is set to make $3.5 million alone this season… more than the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Commissioner of Public Lands, Insurance Commissioner, and Superintendent of Public Instruction combined. Petersen is making even more than Leach; he took home $4.125 million last season. The Huskies and Cougars each have many additional coaches who make more than what anyone serving in the statehouse makes.

Villeneuve noted that while statewide elected officials’ pay is enough to support a family on, Washington’s legislators are not well compensated for the jobs that they do.

“Most of our lawmakers currently receive a salary of $48,731,” Villeneuve pointed out. (Certain lawmakers receive higher salaries due to holding leadership positions.) This is below the 2014 median income of a Washington State household, which is $61,366.

“We, the people of Washington, are paying our lawmakers a part time salary while expecting them to do full-time work,” Villeneuve said.

“The Legislature may not be in session year-round, but being a well-informed lawmaker is nevertheless a full-time job. There is no ‘off season’ for lawmakers. When one session ends, the preparation for the next session begins. Lawmakers meet with constituents, conduct research, attend committee days, participate in work sessions, and go on fact finding trips during the months they aren’t in session.”

“These salary increases are overdue and entirely justified,” said Villeneuve. “For 2019, the Commission is proposing a base increase in legislator pay to $53,024, to be followed by another increase in 2020 to $57,425. These are good first steps, but we should be increasing legislator pay to an even greater extent to encourage more Washingtonians to consider running for office. Right now, legislative service simply isn’t a realistic option for many people because it doesn’t pay enough to raise a family on.”

“I believe we would get a Legislature that looks more like our diverse state if we provided a more appropriate level of compensation for our legislators. If red state Alaska can afford to pay their legislators a higher salary — and they do — then we certainly can, too.”

In the event Eyman or anyone else is serious about mounting a referendum campaign to overturn the Commission’s salary adjustments, which are entirely reasonable, NPI will work with other organizations to develop a campaign to educate the public about the need for appropriately-compensated elected officials.

FURTHER READING: How Much Should State Legislators Get Paid? by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux for FiveThirtyEight

Must-read editorial: “Tim Eyman is in a heap of big trouble”

In the CourtsStatements & Advisories

This morning, The Olympian published an outstanding editorial condemning Tim Eyman’s continued attempts to escape responsibility for his lawbreaking, and warning Washingtonians against contributing to his legal defense fund, which Eyman has been using to pay tens of thousands of dollars in recently accrued contempt penalties, attorney’s fees, and court costs.

Eyman was held in contempt of court over seven months ago for failing to turn over records sought by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office in the main State of Washington v. Eyman case. A total of four campaign finance enforcement cases were filed by Ferguson’s office in 2016 and 2017 against Eyman and his associates. Three were filed two years ago in September of 2016; a fourth was filed in March of 2017.

The main State of Washington v. Eyman case concerns the initiative promoter’s illegal acts in support of his “initiative on initiative” (I-517) which voters overwhelmingly rejected five years ago. Eyman qualified I-517 in 2012 through a stealth signature drive with money he transferred from one of his other campaign committees through an out of state entity back to himself and his associates.

Donors to that other campaign did not know that Eyman was using their money to qualify an entirely different initiative.

“State law keeps tightening like a vice on Washington’s most prolific initiative promoter, Tim Eyman,” The Olympian noted. “This vice should tighten. Another quarter-turn or more is needed to force out the truth.”

The editorial goes on to point out that there’s little difference between giving money to one of Eyman’s political committees and giving money to his legal defense fund.

“In Eyman’s solicitations, he’s arguing that his future as an anti-tax initiative promoter is at stake. Which sounds a lot like a campaign solicitation,” the editorial board noted. “Indeed, Eyman has bills to pay. One one hand, he is pushing initiatives. But he could face fines of more than $2 million if AG [Attorney General Bob] Ferguson is successful with his lawsuit alleging wrongdoing.”

“It’s hard to believe that anyone who donates to Eyman’s Go Fund Me account for legal costs are different from those who donate to his political efforts,” the board added. “Absent court orders for Eyman to publicly release the identity of his defense-fund donors, we’ll never know which special-interest carve-outs or protections in future Eyman initiatives are not pay backs for the help they give in 2018 or 2019 to keep Eyman solvent and in the initiative business.”

While state law requires that the identities of donors to campaigns be disclosed, Eyman is assuring prospective donors to his legal defense fund that they will remain anonymous.

“I’m asking everyone to match or exceed the amount you’ve given in past years (it’ll be anonymous and unreported since it’s going towards my legal bills),” Eyman says at the end of one of his fundraising letters.

“We wholeheartedly agree with The Olympian that state law should be changed to regulate legal defense funds established by individuals or entities facing allegations that they violated our campaign finance laws,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who has been organizing opposition to Eyman’s initiative factory for over sixteen years.

“The status quo is untenable. Perhaps our state needs an independent inspector general with the authority to examine bank statements and other records to ensure that funds raised for legal defense are actually being spent on legal defense.”

Eyman is currently fundraising both for his legal defense fund and for his next con, Initiative 976. On one website, he asks his followers to give to the former; on another website, he asks his followers to give to the latter. And he’s using his mailing list to pitch each. It matters not that the money is ostensibly for different purposes and being raised through separate funnels, for ultimately it ends up in a bank account that Eyman controls.

Because Eyman pays himself out of his campaign coffers (and even gets kickbacks from his main vendor, Citizen Solutions), he’s always fundraising for himself, no matter what entity he’s asking people to make a check out to.

This isn’t the first time Eyman has fundraised in tandem like this.

Fifteen years ago, Eyman solicited donations for a legal defense fund at at the same time he was raising money for an initiative, I-807. Then, as now, Eyman was in heaps of trouble for violating our campaign finance laws.

After Eyman’s solicitations became public knowledge, founding NPI boardmember Steve Zemke, who remains involved today with NPI as a senior advisor, called on the Public Disclosure Commission to investigate Eyman’s personal fundraising.

“This seems to be a pretty transparent effort to allow campaign funds to be sent directly to him without being disclosed to the public,” Zemke wrote in a complaint filed with the Public Disclosure Commission.

“Because they wouldn’t be reported, the public would not know how much or who gave money to support Tim Eyman to allow him to donate his services to campaigns. Are there secret big donors supporting his campaigns like I-807 who do not want the public to know who they are or how much they are willing to give to allow Eyman to do ‘free’ consulting?”

The PDC ultimately declined to take action and dismissed Zemke’s complaint.

State lawmakers need to address this loophole in our public disclosure law when they return in January. As The Olympian said: “Let’s not look away and pretend there isn’t a behind-the-scenes maneuver under way here. Let’s hold political actors including lobbying interests and others accountable for the money they spend in politics. That includes politics-related legal skirmishes that could shield actual campaign contributions.”

Washington State Democratic Party takes position opposing Eyman’s I-976

EndorsementsFrom the Campaign TrailThreat Analysis

Good news: The Washington State Democratic Party has formally declared its opposition to Tim Eyman’s latest attempt to wipe out transit funding at the state, regional, and local level. The party yesterday went on record against I-976 at its autumn meeting in Spokane.

The motion unanimously adopted by the party’s governing central committee — which consists principally of two individuals from each county and two individuals from each legislative district in the state — reads as follows:

RESOLVED: That the Washington State Democratic Party take a position opposing Tim Eyman’s I-976, an initiative to the Legislature for 2019, which seeks to wipe out funding for Amtrak Cascades and Sound Transit 3 plus transit service and multimodal projects at the city level, and urges all Washingtonians to decline to sign if approached by a petitioner.

I-976 is Eyman’s fourth attempt in three years to gut voter-approved transit projects he’s obsessed with destroying, chiefly Sound Transit’s Link light rail expansion. However, Eyman’s I-976 wouldn’t just hurt Sound Transit. It would also rip away funding for sidewalks, road improvements, and bus service at the city level. The state’s largest cities (Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma) all utilize vehicle fees for transportation improvements within their boundaries, and so do small cities like East Wenatchee and Clarkston.

Eyman has until January 4th, 2019 to collect and turn in signatures for the measure. NPI expects it to qualify and is working to ensure that it goes down to defeat should it appear before voters in October/November of 2019.

Let the people vote? Nope! Tim Eyman calls for I-1639 to be blocked from ballot

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

This afternoon, in an email sent out to his followers and the press, Tim Eyman did something we haven’t seen him do before… something which makes it laughably, ridiculously clear that Eyman’s longtime rallying cry of Let the people vote is a total and utter crock. He publicly called on Washington’s judiciary to issue an injunction blocking an initiative that he opposes (I-1639) from appearing on the statewide ballot.

The measure in question, sponsored by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, would raise the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic firearms, impose new safe storage requirements, and set up an enhanced background check system. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and Alan Gottlieb have separately filed suit to block it from the ballot on procedural grounds.

“Tomorrow this judge should boot the billionaires’ anti-gun-rights initiative off the ballot,” Eyman wrote. “It’ll send a message that even billionaires have to follow the law. And besides, because they have unlimited resources, they can sponsor it again next year (and next time they’re likely to follow the law). So voters won’t be ‘robbed’ of their right to vote on this initiative, their vote will just be delayed.”

Three years ago, when a coalition of progressive organizations sued to block Eyman’s billionaire-funded I-1366 from the ballot on scope grounds in Huff v. Wyman, Eyman’s response was to scream Let the people vote incessantly, to accuse his opposition of having a total lack of trust in the voters, and to assert that the people’s First Amendment rights would be violated if the courts ruled against him.

Here’s a few snippets of what Eyman said then:

If you can’t win a vote, you try to cancel it or block it.”

— Tim Eyman, July 31st, 2015

“We are very confident the voters will get to vote on I-1366. Why? Because in our state’s 100 year history, the courts have never — not once — prevented the people from voting on a statewide initiative that turned in the required signatures and was certified for the vote by the Secretary of State. And there have been 2 unanimous state supreme court rulings — in 2005 and 2007 — that rejected lawsuits just like this one, making clear that the voters’ First Amendment right to vote on qualified initiatives would not be violated.”

— Tim Eyman, August 14th, 2015

“Because opponents of I-1366 can’t win the vote, they’re desperate to stop the vote. The voters will be completely disenfranchised and their First Amendment rights negated if opponents succeed at blocking the vote on I-1366.”

— Tim Eyman, August 14th, 2015

“Opponents of I-1366 clearly don’t trust the voters and believe the people aren’t smart enough to understand our measure. We do. We trust the citizens to make this decision and we’re confident the people ‘get’ why I-1366 is necessary.”

— Tim Eyman, September 4th, 2015

All emphasis in boldface is ours. While Huff v. Wyman was before the courts, Eyman also repeatedly circulated this statement from his pal State Senator Pam Roach:

No one is harmed by a public vote on an initiative. It is the voters who will be irreparably harmed if Initiative 1366 is removed from the ballot and blocked from a vote because it will prevent the voters from expressing their views on the measure. It is the 339,236 voters who signed petitions who will be irreparably harmed if Initiative 1366 is blocked because they signed those petitions to ensure a vote. … I urge that the court not take the unprecedented and undemocratic step of preventing the people from voting on a qualified statewide initiative.”

— Former State Senator Pam Roach, now a Pierce County Councilmember (amicus brief submitted during the Huff v. Wyman case, 2015)

Again, emphasis is ours.

Whatever happened to “Let the people vote!”? Whatever happened to trusting the voters, who are smart enough to understand a measure like I-1639? Whatever happened to “no one is harmed by a public vote on an initiative”?

And what about the First Amendment rights of the hundreds of thousands of voters who signed I-1639, which according to 2015 Tim Eyman’s logic, would be violated if I-1639 were to be blocked from the ballot?

As we can see, none of that matters… not to 2018 Tim Eyman, anyway… because I-1639 is not a right wing initiative. I-1639 is a progressive initiative that Eyman opposes.

Is it any surprise that Tim Eyman’s loyalty is to his friends who are suing to keep I-1639 off the ballot, not to the initiative process that he claims to love so much? Not to us. We’ve always believed that for Eyman, initiatives are a means to an end, which is getting rich while wrecking our government so it can’t work the way our Founders intended it to.

Eyman’s argument that the voters won’t be harmed if I-1639 gets blocked from the ballot because I-1639 has proponents who are rich enough to fund another signature drive next year is deeply illuminating.

The same could have been said about his I-1366 three years ago: billionaire hedge fund manager Kenneth Fisher is one of the richest men on Earth, and real estate developer Clyde Holland is quite wealthy too.

Both of them could have easily afforded to bankroll another Eyman initiative that was not outside of the scope of the initiative power, and in fact, Eyman was counting on them funding a follow-up to I-1366 no matter what the courts decided.

But they chose not to, and consequently, Eyman was not able to qualify anything to the ballot in 2016… or 2017… or this year.

As Eyman emphasized three years ago, Washington’s courts have long been reluctant to block a statewide initiative from the ballot. The only statewide initiative to have ever been invalidated by the Washington State Supreme Court was a measure that impermissibly sought to amend the United States Constitution. In Philadelphia v. Gregoire, the Court ruled that measure could not move forward (it had not received a ballot title).

If I-1639 deserves to be blocked from the ballot on procedural grounds, then past Tim Eyman initiatives also should have been blocked on scope and procedural grounds. However, Washington’s courts have repeatedly chosen not to void measures like Eyman’s with a sufficient number of valid signatures from appearing on the ballot, no matter how serious their defects were.

2018 Tim Eyman nevertheless wants the judiciary to take the “unprecedented and undemocratic step” of preventing I-1639 from heading to the ballot for voters to consider.

Let the people vote? That’s so 2015!

NPI congratulates Sound Transit on East Link tunnel breakthrough in downtown Bellevue

AnnouncementsStatements & Advisories

Construction on Sound Transit’s vitally important East Link light rail extension reached an important milestone this week when contractors digging a tunnel under downtown Bellevue broke through to daylight at the future site of the station that will serve the city’s central core. The hole-through was expected to take place at the end of 2018, but construction has gone so well that it happened five months ahead of schedule.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve congratulated Sound Transit on the breakthrough, noting that expansion of the region’s light rail spine is crucial to the realization of a future that will enable Puget Sound residents to enjoy greater freedom of mobility.

“As a future East Link rider, I’m thrilled to see the progress that Sound Transit and its contracting teams have made on this vitally important project,” Villeneuve said.

“Light rail will revolutionize not only cross-lake travel between Seattle and the Eastside, but also commutes and trips between Eastside neighborhoods. It’s truly reassuring to see girders and columns rising up along each part of the alignment, from Judkins Park to Mercer Island to Bellevue to Redmond, NPI’s hometown.”

East Link (which was approved in 2008 as part of Sound Transit 2) may be on track and headed for completion, but other communities are at risk of losing the voter-approved Link expansion they voted for, Villeneuve warned.

“Two years ago, our region decided to invest in transit options that we know will give people an alternative to sitting in traffic. We voted to expand light rail in four directions as well as add more express bus, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit service,” Villeneuve said. “Sadly, Tim Eyman and other Sound Transit 3 opponents do not respect the will of the voters and are seeking not only to sabotage Sound Transit 3, but to wipe out funding for Amtrak Cascades plus local roads, sidewalks, and bus service with Initiative 976.”

“At NPI, we are mobilizing to fight this threat to our transit investments. Implementation of I-976 would cause catastrophic damage to every part of Washington State — from Spokane to Kelso and Anacortes to Clarkston,” Villeneuve said.

“Every Washingtonian would lose under this initiative, whether they live in a rural community, a suburban neighborhood, or the big city. That’s why the team at the Northwest Progressive Institute is accelerating our work to unite Washingtonians in support of Amtrak Cascades, Sound Transit 3, and essential local projects, so that we get the transportation improvements that we sorely need.”

In the past, initiatives similar to I-976 have benefited from a lack of vigorous, year-round opposition. But those days ended with the establishment of Permanent Defense.

“An inclusive economy requires an inclusive, multimodal transportation system that gives people choices. Thanks to great work by our elected representatives and sound decisions we’ve made at the ballot as a people, we are moving away from an auto-centric transportation system and towards a human-centric one,” Villeneuve said.

“But communities that are anxiously awaiting vital transit and road improvements are at risk of not getting them if we don’t neutralize threats like I-976. So while we are thrilled to celebrate today’s big East Link breakthrough, we are mindful of the need to protect all the projects that are still on the drawing board or undergoing final design.”

On Monday, July 23rd, NPI will unveil a new NO on I-976 website meant to help voters understand the threat that this destructive initiative represents, and enable concerned citizens and organizations to join the coalition opposed to the measure. The site’s availability will be announced through NPI’s publications as well as via news release.

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