Category Archives: In the Courts

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.

Right wing blocked once again from hijacking the local initiative power to attack immigrants

In the CourtsStatements & AdvisoriesThreat Analysis

Today, King County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Berns issued a preliminary injunction blocking a malicious right wing initiative from the November 2017 ballot in Burien which sought to overturn a city ordinance that prohibits police and city employees from asking about a person’s immigration status or religious affiliation.

The initiative, spearheaded by a right wing group calling itself “Respect Washington”, which gathered enough signatures to force its repeal scheme before the city council of Burien. Given the choice of approving the initiative or sending it to voters, the council opted to refer it to the ballot. But now the mean-spirited measure has been stopped in its tracks thanks to a timely ruling from Judge Berns. King County Elections is now in the process of preparing new ballots for Burien voters that do not include the initiative.

“Respect Washington” had tried to get a similar measure on the ballot in Spokane, only to be thwarted last month. The group’s loss in court today is its second such defeat.

Prior to targeting local jurisdictions like Spokane and Burien, “Respect Washington” had attempted for several years in a row to qualify an anti-immigrant scheme to the statewide ballot, but each effort by the group to mount a statewide signature drive ended in failure.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve praised Berns’ decision, noting that “Respect Washington” ironically failed to respect the limits of the local initiative power, which are spelled out in state law.

“For years, Washington’s right wing has repeatedly sought to undermine the representative government our founders gave us by hijacking the initiative process to force public votes on schemes intended to defund our public services and destroy protections for working families, the LGBTQ+ community, and immigrants,” said Villeneuve. “But progressives have been fighting back at both the state and local level to uphold Washington values, our Constitution, and our laws. And we’re winning.”

“For the second year in a row, there are no right wing measures on our statewide ballot, and efforts to attack immigrants have been blocked in Spokane as well as Burien.”

“The team at NPI extends our most profound thanks to Burien Communities for Inclusion and their attorneys at Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt LLP for successfully challenging this mean-spirited measure. While their lawsuit isn’t over, it’s good to know that this initiative will not be appearing on the ballot in Burien this November.”

Tim Eyman’s associates ordered to pay $10,000+ in court costs and attorneys fees

In the Courts

Tim Eyman’s associates Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm, who Eyman depends on to run his signature drives, have been ordered to pay over $10,000 in court costs and attorneys’ fees to the State of Washington by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson for failing to cooperate with Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s investigation into Eyman’s serious violations of Washington’s public disclosure law.

The order reads:

THIS MATTER came before the Court on the State’s Motion to Set Attorneys’ Fees and Costs; the parties appeared through counsel. The Court considered the records and files in this matter as well as the arguments of the parties. Respondents failed to file a response.

Having previously ordered that the State was entitled to payment of attorneys’ fees and costs associated with initiating this case, and having determined that the State’s request for fees and costs through the time of filing of this motion is reasonable, the Court hereby ORDERS as follows:

  1. The State’s Motion to Set Attorneys’ Fees and Costs is granted.
  2. For work completed through the date of the filing of this motion, Respondents shall pay Petitioner, State of Washington, the amount of $9,975.00 as reasonable attorneys fees and the amount of $494.50 as costs pursuant to RCW 42.17A.765(5).
  3. The Court reserves the right to order payment of additional attorneys’ fees and costs for any further proceedings brought by the State for Respondents’ failure to comply with the Court’s Order dated July 1, 2016, including but not limited to attorneys’ fees and costs related to the State’s pending Motion for Contempt of Court.

DONE IN OPEN COURT this 5th day of August, 2016.

While Wilson granted the state’s motion to set attorneys fees, she decided not to consider a motion to hold Ruffno and Agazarm in contempt of court for the time being, instead directing the parties to work together to reschedule a hearing on that motion for later this month. A Snohomish County Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments concerning a related motion to hold Eyman himself in contempt of court next Friday.

The team at NPI is pleased that Eyman and his associates are finally paying a price for their stonewalling, which has prevented the people of Washington from knowing what really happened. We agree with the Attorney General’s office that it is evident Eyman has no desire to cooperate with this investigation. To the extent he has turned over records sought, it is merely so he can feign compliance with lawfully-issued civil orders seeking documents that would bring the truth to light. And that’s not good enough. We support the state’s motions asking that Eyman and company be held in contempt of court.

NPI thanks AG Bob Ferguson for asking courts to hold Tim Eyman in contempt

In the Courts

Today, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office announced it has filed motions in Snohomish and Thurston County Superior Court asking that Tim Eyman and his associates be found in contempt for failing to fully cooperate with its investigation into Eyman’s serious alleged violations of Washington’s public disclosure laws.

In an attempt to put an end to Eyman’s stonewalling, Ferguson is seeking fines of $2,000 a day and authorization to obtain documents directly from the federal government and the banks Eyman does business with.

“We applaud Attorney General Ferguson for going back to court to hold Tim Eyman accountable for his refusal to produce the records crucial to the completion of this important investigation,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who has been organizing opposition to Eyman’s initiatives for over fourteen years.

“Many years ago, the people of Washington created the Public Disclosure Commission and our campaign finance reporting system in order to shine a light on money in politics. Sadly, Tim Eyman has been operating for years as though that law doesn’t apply to him.”

“Attorney General Ferguson and our state attorneys have been patiently waiting for Tim Eyman to turn over the documents they need to uncover the truth for months, but they have been waiting in vain. It has become abundantly clear that Eyman has no intention of cooperating — presumably because he’s afraid of what the evidence will show once it has been produced. As our Attorney General has said, that’s simply unacceptable.”

“We believe the relief being sought in this contempt motion is proper and appropriate, and we hope it is swiftly granted, so that justice can be served, and the essential facts needed to resolve this case brought to light.”

NPI welcomes Judge Ellen Fair’s order requiring Tim Eyman’s cooperation with AG Ferguson’s investigation

In the Courts

Notoriously dishonest initiative promoter Tim Eyman must turn over tax returns, bank statements, and other records requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office within the next two weeks, Snohomish County Court Judge Ellen Fair decided today, ordering that Eyman comply with Ferguson’s lawfully issued subpoenas.

Ferguson’s office has been seeking the records for months so it can investigate serious violations of Washington’s public disclosure laws uncovered during a multiyear Public Disclosure Commission investigation of Eyman’s finances, which was referred to Ferguson’s office last autumn.

Ferguson’s probe has been stalled due to a lack of cooperation by Eyman and his associates, which prompted the filing of petitions in Snohomish and Thurston Superior Courts. At the time those petitions were filed, NPI called on Eyman to stop stonewalling and comply with the Attorney General’s subpoenas.

That has still not happened (Eyman’s attorney Mark Lamb’s response to the petitions was to declare that he was “happy to litigate” the issue), but hopefully it will very soon now that Judge Fair has issued her order.

“We welcome this important development and thank Attorney General Ferguson for going to court to hold Tim Eyman accountable and get this investigation moving,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who has been organizing opposition to Eyman initiatives for more than fourteen years.

“Tim Eyman has operated for years as though the law simply doesn’t apply to him. He has pretended to be interested in cooperating with this investigation while stalling, obfuscating, and delaying at every turn. Enough! It’s time for the stonewalling to end. We hope that Judge Fair got Eyman’s attention today when she ordered him to pay the State of Washington for the costs of bringing this action. It’s about time Tim Eyman started paying a price for repeatedly wasting the people’s time and money.”

NPI applauds Attorney General Bob Ferguson for going to court to put an end to Tim Eyman’s stonewalling

In the Courts

Following Attorney General Bob Ferguon’s announcement today that his office has filed motions in Snohomish and Thurston Superior Court to enforce subpoenas issued as part of the state’s investigation into Tim Eyman’s egregious violations of Washiington’s public disclosure laws, the Northwest Progressive Institute called on Eyman and his associates to stop stonewalling and cooperate fully with investigators.

“We commend Attorney General Ferguson for going to court to compel Tim Eyman to turn over the records needed to investigate the illegal concealment uncovered by the Public Disclosure Commission during its investigation into the 2012 I-517 and I-1185 campaigns,” said NPI founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve.

“Today’s court filings make it plainly clear that Tim Eyman has been incredibly uncooperative with the Attorney General’s investigation since it began last autumn. He has refused to turn over documentation that would reveal what really happened. What little he has produced has been heavily redacted, suggesting he and is attorney are trying to drag this out as long as possible, and increase the cost of the investigation to taxpayers.”

“This stonewalling is completely unacceptable, and it needs to end immediately.”

“If Eyman expects to be exonerated, as his attorney Mark Lamb has previously said, then why is he refusing to cooperate with the state’s investigation? We can only conclude that it is because the evidence will show that Eyman is guilty of the charges against him, and Eyman wants to put off his day of reckoning for as long as possible. But that day is coming, and Eyman can’t stop it.”

Earlier today, in a related development, the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) notified Washingtonians For Ethical Government (WFEG) that it has opened an investigation into its allegations that Tim Eyman again broke the law by failing to report the launch of an April 2016 independent expenditure against several dozen Democratic state legislators, and for failing to include required disclosures in the ads produced as part of the expenditure.

WFEG notified Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg on May 25th in a forty-five day notice letter that it would bring a citizens’ action against Eyman in Superior Court if the state did not take action against Eyman. On June 7th, 2016, the Attorney General referred the matter to the PDC for review. The PDC has now opened an investigation into the allegations and assigned a case number — 5729.

“We are pleased to hear that the PDC is investigating Eyman’s most recent public disclosure law violations,” said Villeneuve, who serves as a boardmember of Washingtonians For Ethical Government. “Tim Eyman is a serial offender who needs to be held accountable. He has been given plenty of opportunities to clean up his act, and he has failed to do so. He should be penalized to the maximum extent the law allows for these violations, as well as his previous violations.”

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