This morning, the staff of the Public Disclosure Commission released the results of the agency’s long-running investigation into Tim Eyman’s I-517, the initiative on initiatives Eyman qualified in 2012, which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in November of 2013. PDC staff found Eyman and his initiative factory repeatedly violated RCW 42.17A by concealing the source of the I-517 campaign’s funding, and are recommending that the Commission refer the case to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for prosecution.
The investigation, initiated by a complaint filed three years ago by activist Sherry Bockwinkel of Tacoma, stretched on for two and a half years, and was slowed by Tim Eyman’s refusal to fully cooperate and turn over records sought by PDC staff in a timely fashion. State attorneys were ultimately called upon to assist the PDC in enforcing its subpoena power, and last week, Eyman turned over a number of records to the state, resulting in the postponement of the hearings that had been scheduled on the matter in Thurston and Snohomish County Superior Courts.
“We’re very pleased that the PDC has finally finished its investigation into Tim Eyman’s I-517 and has concluded that Tim Eyman must be held accountable for concealing campaign money,” said NPI founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve, who has been organizing opposition to Eyman initiatives for thirteen and a half years. NPI has been in regular contact with PDC staff about the investigation; in May of 2014, Villeneuve traveled down to Olympia and testified alongside several representatives of Washington’s business community, expressing concern that the investigation was still unresolved.
“The documentation collected by the PDC and published as exhibits to its findings confirms what we have long known to be true: Tim Eyman used contributions made in support of the campaign for his last I-601 clone, I-1185, to qualify I-517, a self-serving initiative intended to make it easier and cheaper for him to qualify future initiatives to the ballot in Washington State,” said Villeneuve. “Tim Eyman deliberately chose to run a stealth campaign in violation of our state’s public disclosure law, deceiving his own donors and withholding information about his activities from the public.”
“At long last, Tim Eman’s misdeeds are catching up to him,” Villeneuve added. “The day of reckoning has come. We emphatically urge the Public Disclosure Commission to adopt the staff’s recommendation that this case be referred to the Attorney General for prosecution. The wrongdoing detailed in these findings is part of a pattern of behavior that stretches back to nearly the beginning of Eyman’s career.”
In February of 2002, Eyman admitted having taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from campaign funds for his own personal use while at the same time lying to the press, the public, and his own followers in claiming that he was working as a volunteer.
“It was the biggest lie of my life” that no donations had made their way into his personal bank account, Eyman told The Associated Press’ Dave Ammons, admitting, “The fact is, it is true that I made money in past campaigns and planned to make money on future campaigns.” Ammons also memorably reported that Eyman told him: “I want to continue to advocate issues and I want to make a lot of money doing it.”
Eyman has certainly profited handsomely from his initiative factory over the years. As PDC staff note in their findings, it appears Eyman has been double-dipping for a long time. He pays himself a salary out of campaign funds (which is disclosed in PDC reports), but then he also gets kickbacks from his buddies Eddie Agazarm and Roy Ruffino, who control the shady signature gathering firm Citizen Solutions.
NPI, along with Civic Ventures’ David Goldstein, has long suspected that Eyman gets a cut of the money that is expensed to pay for his signature drives.
Now we know it’s true.
It’s quite the racket: Eyman raises money from wealthy benefactors on a near-annual basis to fund a signature drive for an ill-conceived scheme to wreck government, telling them he needs over a million dollars to qualify for the ballot, when in reality, he needs less. This ensures that when the drive is completed, there is plenty of money left over for Eyman’s associates to pocket as profit, and to send back to Eyman for his personal use… or, in the case of the I-1185 campaign, to qualify a second initiative (I-517) with a stealth signature drive.
Eyman profits whether his initiatives win or lose (and nearly all of them have either been rejected by voters, failed to qualify, or been struck down by the courts).
The case numbers in this matter are 13-027 and 15-078. The Public Disclosure Commission will take up both at its meeting this Thursday, September 24th, at 9:30 AM in 711 Capital Way, Room 206 in Olympia. NPI will be there and is happy to make representatives from its staff, board, and advisory council available to the press to take questions and comment about the cases.