Category Archives: In the Courts

NPI thanks Supreme Court for sustaining I-976 injunction

Election PostmortemIn the Courts

This afternoon, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson’s ruling that Tim Eyman’s I-976 shall be barred from being implemented until its constitutionality (or lack thereof) can be determined.

I-976 is Eyman’s most recent measure, which seeks to wipe out billions of dollars in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office had filed an emergency appeal seeking to have the injunction overturned. The Supreme Court has denied that motion.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve thanked the Supreme Court for sustaining the injunction.

“Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision today, Tim Eyman’s scheme to destroy multimodal transportation infrastructure in the State of Washington will not go into effect on December 5th,” said Villeneuve.

“Instead, we Washingtonians will continue to pool our resources to ensure that we can build and maintain the roads, railways, bus routes, sidewalks, and bike paths that our communities need. Revenue from vehicle fees Eyman wants to repeal will either be held in escrow pending the Supreme Court’s final verdict on I-976, or provided to local governments like the City of Seattle and King County, which are plaintiffs in this case.”

In recent days, Tim Eyman has repeatedly issued exhortations calling upon Washingtonians to join him in breaking the law and not paying their vehicle fees.

These exhortations are irresponsible and do not deserve to be given airtime, ink, or pixels.

“As citizens, we have a mutual responsibility to each other to pay our dues to our state and country,” said Villeneuve. “It is patriotic to be a taxpayer and pay one’s dues.”

“If there were no taxes, there would be no public services, and if there were no public services, there would be no Washington State and no United States of America. It is what we do together as a people for each other that makes us strong. None of us can afford to repair a bridge or run a bus route with a vehicle fee refund. But together, we can empower our neighbors like Michael Rogers, a plaintiff in the I-976 case, to get where they want to go, even if they cannot drive or do not wish to drive.”

“Tim Eyman has framed I-976 as being about car tabs, but in reality, I-976 is an assault on freedom of mobility, and should be characterized as such in stories about the measure. As Eyman has admitted when speaking to friendly audiences, his objective with I-976 is to wipe out funding for transportation modes other than auto travel, because he doesn’t believe in them. Gas taxes have also been increased in recent years, but Eyman didn’t target those with I-976, because gas tax revenues are required by the Constitution to be used for highway purposes… the one transportation mode that Eyman supports.”

“‘Thirty dollar tabs’ is a marketing slogan… a dishonest slogan. As Eyman has admitted, even if I-976 goes into effect, no one in Washington will pay thirty dollars to renew their vehicle’s registration, because the initiative doesn’t actually cap fees at thirty dollars. That’s not a problem for Eyman, because the truth is irrelevant to him. As long as multimodal transportation infrastructure gets defunded, Eyman will have achieved his aim.”

“Right now, that’s not happening due to the injunction against I-976. Today’s decision may be bad news for Eyman, but it’s good news for Washington communities.”


NPI hails preliminary injunction against Tim Eyman’s I-976

Election PostmortemIn the Courts

This morning, King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson ruled that Tim Eyman’s I-976 shall be barred from being implemented until its constitutionality (or lack thereof) can be determined.

I-976 is Eyman’s most recent measure, which seeks to wipe out billions of dollars in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments.

“Plaintiffs have a well-grounded fear of immediate invasion of the rights afforded by the Washington Constitution due to implementation of I-976. Implementation on December 5, 2019 of an unconstitutionally misleading statewide initiative, even if approved by a majority of voters, would be an invasion per se of Plaintiffs’ rights under the Washington Constitution,” Judge Ferguson wrote in his decision.

“Put simply, enforcement of what is likely an unconstitutional law would invade Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who helped organize the campaign against I-976, praised the decision.

“Judge Marshall Ferguson’s order staying Tim Eyman’s I-976 is great news for Washington State,” said Villeneuve. “While this will not be the final word from our courts on I-976, it is encouraging that Judge Ferguson found that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their arguments against I-976.”

“I-976 is riddled with constitutional defects and was presented to voters for their consideration with a dishonest ballot title, which is unacceptable.

“No law, whether originating in the Legislature as a bill or originating from the people as an initiative, may violate our plan of government.”

“This is a bedrock principle of our democracy. After twenty years of sponsoring initiatives, you might think Tim Eyman would have learned by now how to write a constitutional initiative, but the truth is that he doesn’t seem to care whether his measures withstand constitutional scrutiny or not.”

“He certainly pretends to care, and he expresses anger when his initiatives are challenged. But someone who really did care wouldn’t throw money at an initiative until they were sure that they had dotted all of their i’s and crossed all of their t’s. Tim Eyman didn’t. Instead, he overreached, like has has so many times in the past.”

“Judge Ferguson has a duty and an obligation to defend the Constitution of Washington State and today he honored that obligation by staying I-976. As a result, our communities will not begin to suffer the grave harms of I-976’s implementation next week.”

“Our team at NPI is incredibly grateful to Judge Ferguson for acting swiftly and thoughtfully to protect our Constitution and our commonwealth from the threat of I-976. We will certainly be giving thanks today and tomorrow for the good sense, judgment, and wisdom that he has shown in reaching this decision.”

I-776 and I-976 are very different, contrary to what Tim Eyman claims

In the Courts

Tim Eyman’s Election Night euphoria has predictably dissolved into whining and complaining over the reality that local governments aren’t going to allow his incredibly destructive I-976 to take effect next month without a constitutional challenge. With the court case now underway, Eyman is anxiously trying to spin I-976 as constitutional.

Eyman argues that since I-776 was partially upheld by the Supreme Court in Pierce County v. State in 2003, I-976 must be constitutional, too.

(I-776 was Eyman’s 2002 initiative that was aimed at slashing vehicle fees. It narrowly passed.)

But this is yet another bogus Eyman argument. It comes from someone with a long track record of losing in the courts.

Every Tim Eyman initiative since 1999 that has gotten past the voters has been challenged successfully on constitutional grounds except for I-900 (2005).

The list of challenged Eyman initiatives is as follows:

If you compare I-776 to I-976, you can see they are very different. I-976 targets fees that didn’t even exist around the turn of the century.

A total of seventeen years elapsed between voters’ consideration of I-776 and I-976.

In that time, the Legislature modified a significant number of RCWs pertaining to transportation funding.

For example, working together with three different governors, the Legislature passed:

  • the nickel transportation package (in 2003);
  • the 2005 Transportation package (in 2005);
  • legislation giving local governments more revenue authority for transportation (in 2020);
  • the Connecting Washington transportation package (in 2015).

The 2005 package authorized vehicle weight fees as a funding source for multimodal transportation projects at the state level, while the 2015 package gave Sound Transit the authority to seek voter approval for a higher motor vehicle excise tax and empowered transportation benefit districts to raise more money from vehicle fees.

In 2015, the Legislature also authorized counties and cities to assume transportation benefit districts; see Chapter 36.74 RCW.

We have created an online comparison between I-776 and I-976 using the original text of each measure as provided by the Secretary of State’s website.

Take a look and examine the source texts.

The plaintiffs in Garfield County et al v. State allege that I-976 has constitutional defects. We agree. Tim Eyman can claim we’re wrong till he’s red in the face, but history is not on his side. The courts will decide who’s right, not Eyman or his new attorney Richard Sanders, who voters decided to remove from the Supreme Court several years ago.

It is essential to remember that the schemes that Eyman has come up with have consistently been found to be unconstitutional.

If Eyman were interested in writing measures that did not have constitutional defects, he would take much greater care when drafting measures like I-976. But he doesn’t.

And others active in right wing politics in Washington State have noticed.

“We feel that we need to have a product that has the best chance of surviving the inevitable court challenge that will follow,” said “Liberty State” organizers Mike McKee and Cary Condotta in a July 2019 message to their fans explaining why their group was choosing not to continue working with Tim Eyman. (For background, see this post.)

For Eyman, there is a big upside to seeing one of his measures get struck down in court: he can go back to his followers and argue that he needs more money for another initiative that does the same thing, or a similar thing. Eyman profits regardless of whether his measures are successful. He knows how to run a good scam.

But Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office is working tirelessly to hold him accountable for violating our public disclosure laws. That could ruin Eyman’s future plans to continue launching attacks on Washington’s communities. Is it any wonder, then, that Eyman furiously denounces the Attorney General as “Fascist Fergie”?

NPI applauds legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s I-976

In the Courts

Today, a coalition of local governments plus the Amalgamated Transit Union and a resident of Thurston County jointly filed suit in King County Superior Court alleging that Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 is unconstitutional on multiple grounds. The plaintiffs seek an injunction barring I-976 from being implemented following the certification of the November 2019 general election and an order declaring I-976 unconstitutional.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve welcomed the filing of the legal challenge and wished the plaintiffs well.

“The fight against I-976 continues in a different arena with the filing of this necessary, timely legal challenge,” said Villeneuve.

“Tim Eyman intended for Initiative 976 to be a wrecking ball aimed at our multimodal transportation investments, which he ideologically opposes. If I-976 is ever implemented, that is certainly what it would be. But there’s a good chance it will never go into effect, because the measure itself is a blazing dumpster fire.”

“Like previous Eyman initiatives, I-976 is loaded with constitutional defects. For instance, it violates the single subject rule as well as the subject in title rule. The NPI team agrees with the plaintiffs that I-976 simply cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny. The courts should protect our plan of government and toss I-976 in the scrap heap of Washington State electoral history where it belongs. Then, our Legislature should promptly act to address the concerns that many Washingtonians have about our reliance on a needlessly complicated, multi-layered system of vehicle fees to fund the essential transportation improvements our communities need.”

“The Legislature must also make an initiative reform a top priority. Ridiculous abuses that open the door to deception, like ballot title shopping, need to be ended. A more robust process adopted for developing ballot titles that seeks and utilizes community input must be instituted as well. The title is the only language voters see on their ballots, so its content is of vital importance.”

“It’s irresponsible and immoral to ask voters to decide the fate of a proposed law using dishonest, poorly phrased, one-sided language. If voters are to pass an informed judgment on an initiative, the question they are asked must accurately represent what is being proposed and summarize the potential impacts. That was not the case with I-976. Loaded questions will always yield loaded answers.”

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.”

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.”

Daily Herald of Everett, AP join Seattle P-I in covering the news that Tim Eyman was held in contempt of court

In the Courts

Last Friday, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon found Tim Eyman in contempt of court in the main State of Washington v. Tim Eyman campaign finance enforcement case. It was a pretty significant development in the lawsuit, which was filed almost a year ago, but it only got covered by one major media outlet that day: the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which ran a thorough story by columnist and reporter Joel Connelly.

Now, thankfully, The Herald of Everett has joined the party, with a lengthy article by columnist and reporter Jerry Cornfield that is also being carried in other publications like The Seattle Times and U.S. News & World Report via the Associated Press.

Cornfield opted to cover both the contempt finding and Eyman’s recently-announced suit seeking to block the Legislature’s I-940 compromise in the same piece; but the version distributed by the Associated Press omits the passages about Eyman’s lawsuit and only presents the news about Eyman being held in contempt.

That’s sure to irritate Eyman, who undoubtedly hoped that the filing of the lawsuit would bury the news of the contempt finding and get him ink, airtime, and pixels on his terms.

Although Attorney General Bob Ferguson did not issue a news release following Friday’s decision by Judge Dixon, he did comment on the record for Connelly and Cornfield.

Here are his comments on the contempt finding:

The court today found Tim Eyman and his co-defendants are in contempt because of their failure to fully comply with our discovery requests. Mr. Eyman has resisted our efforts to shine a light on his activities every step of the way. Hopefully, the contempt sanctions will finally motivate Mr. Eyman and his associates to comply with the court’s order to produce the requested documents, including relevant financial information.

Dixon’s written order has not yet been released, but when it is, we will publish a link to it.

Tim Eyman’s stonewalling finally lands him in contempt of court

In the Courts

Today, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon held Tim Eyman in contempt of court for failing to turn over records needed to move forward in the State of Washington’s principal case against Eyman for serious violations of our public disclosure laws. Eyman and his co-defendants have each been ordered to pay $250 per day in penalties, dating back to February 16th, 2018, until their contempt is purged.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who has been organizing opposition to Eyman’s initiative factory for over sixteen years, suggested tougher penalties may be needed to put an end to Eyman’s stonewalling.

“The team at NPI thanks Judge Dixon for holding Tim Eyman in contempt of court for his endless stonewalling, but we think a fine of $2,000 per day, as proposed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, would have been more appropriate,” said Villeneuve.

“From the beginning, Eyman has done everything possible to impede and obstruct this investigation while disingenuously claiming to be cooperative. The timeline bears this out. Five years have now passed since the Public Disclosure Commission began investigating this matter, while two and a half years have passed since that investigation was handed off to Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office. Here we are in March of 2018, with nearly a year having been passed since the State filed an action in Superior Court, and Eyman is still withholding records needed to proceed with the case. That’s unacceptable.”

The case number is 17-2-01546-34.

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View our I-976 Impact Map

Permanent Defense has created a tool for visualizing projects and services that could be lost if Tim Eyman’s I-976  is implemented. Take a look:

NO on I-976 Impact Map

We’ve also published a guide to the map which you can read here.

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