PDC complaint alleges conspiracy to defraud contributors, demands audit
A formal complaint filed today with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) alleges that during the final weeks of its failed signature drive, Tim Eyman fraudulently spent over $26,000 of I-864 campaign funds on a fundraising letter for his personal compensation PAC, “Help Us Help Taxpayers” .
The complaint — filed jointly by TaxSanity.org, Taxpayers for Washington’s Future (TWF), and Permanent Defense — accuses Tim Eyman, his associates, and his three PACs of a broad array of campaign finance and public disclosure violations, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. The 16 page complaint includes supporting documentation.
“Once again, Tim Eyman has been caught lying to contributors,” said David Goldstein of TaxSanity.org. “He promised to keep campaign contributions separate from his compensation fund… a promise he never intended to keep.” The complaint suggests that since its inception in June of 2003, Help Us Help Taxpayers’ operations have been entirely subsidized by “Voters Want More Choices” (VWMC), including over $10,000 of reported in-kind contributions.
Steve Zemke of TWF called the misreported June 2004 expenditure “doubly deceptive” because it occurred at a time Mr. Eyman was aggressively soliciting funds for what he claimed to be a close I-864 signature drive. Mr. Zemke, a veteran of many successful initiative campaigns, said Mr. Eyman deliberately misled contributors about where their money was going: “I-864 was dead in the water, and Tim knew it. Yet he continued to solicit contributions, while diverting money to his compensation fund.”
Andrew Villeneuve of Permanent Defense emphasized that the complaint includes a number of charges that together establish a pattern of abuse and deception. “These violations aren’t just isolated incidents. They’re part of a long-running history of infractions. The PDC should demand full compliance with the law and take immediate action to ensure that Eyman is following the rules like everyone else.”
Text of the complaint
August 26, 2004
Ms. Vickie Rippie
Public Disclosure Commission
711 Capitol Way No 206
Olympia, WA 98504
Dear Ms. Rippie,
The complainants named below hereby give notice of a formal complaint against Voters Want More Choices (VWMC), Just Treat Us The Same (JTUTS), Help Us Help Taxpayers (HUHT), and their officers, including Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan and Mike Fagan. The complainants request a full investigation of the allegations within, and expect enforcement actions commensurate with Mr. Eyman’s documented history of public disclosure violations and the Public Disclosure Commission’s (PDC) prior warnings that subsequent violations would not be tolerated.
The complainants also request that Mr. Goldstein’s email dated 8/11/04 be considered the initiation of this formal complaint, and that this email be considered an amendment to it.
This complaint includes five main charges: 1) failure to report VWMC expenditures on behalf of HUHT, 2) fraudulently soliciting contributions to I-864, 3) improper reporting of donations to HUHT, 4) failure to report expenditures on behalf of VWMC, and 5) failure of JTUTS to meet reporting deadlines.
1) Failure to report VWMC expenditures on behalf of HUHT
The complainants contend that VWMC made substantial expenditures in June of 2004 on behalf of HUHT, without proper reporting by either committee. VWMC’s Schedule A filed 7/12/04 reports two expenditures dated 6/18/04, to Data Resources, Inc., totaling $26,305.72 for postage and printing for I-864. It is the complainants’ contention that there was no such mailing on behalf of I-864.
The complainants, through their independent watch-dogging activities, had received all three previous bulk mailings from VWMC in 2004, within one to three weeks following the reported expenditure date. No such mailing was received following the 6/18/04 Data Resources, Inc. expenditure. However in early July, each of the complainants received a fundraising letter from HUHT — in the form and fashion of previous VWMC mailings — apparently sent to VWMC’s bulk mailing list. HUHT however, reported no corresponding expenditure or in-kind contribution; indeed, with cash reserves of only $11,522.34, HUHT clearly did not have the financial resources to fund such a large mailing during the time period in question.
It is the complainants’ contention that the July HUHT mailing was funded by the 6/18/04 VWMC expenditures, and that both of Mr. Eyman’s committees conspired to misreport the transactions, thus hiding a transfer of funds from VWMC to HUHT. Both committees are equally culpable in violating the public disclosure laws, and both committees should be subject to potential penalties. Furthermore, the HUHT mailing was in violation of statute by failing to include notice that it was paid for by VWMC.
The complainants also strongly suspect that a similar incident occurred in 2003, when VWMC reported printing and mailing expenditures for I-807 totaling $14,904.45 on 6/12/03 and 6/20/03 at a time when signature gathering efforts for the initiative had clearly ceased, but HUHT was just being started.
These efforts to conceal VWMC expenditures on behalf of HUHT would be consistent with the committees’ 2003 activities, during which VWMC misreported postage and mailing expenses in July, August, September and October, only to restate them as in-kind donations to HUHT in amended returns filed in December. HUHT has in fact, never reported fundraising expenditures – indeed, apart from disbursements to its officers, the committee reported less than $50 in expenditures its entire first year of existence, yet raised over $160,000 in contributions… an unbelievable return on investment.
Mr. Eyman and his associates have clearly made a concerted effort to hide the fact that most, if not all, of HUHT’s activities and operations are paid for with funds purportedly raised to support VWMC’s initiative campaigns. The full extent to which VWMC monies have been diverted to HUHT can only be determined after a thorough investigation of VWMC, HUHT and Data Resources, Inc.
2) Fraudulently soliciting contributions to initiative campaign I-864
Through June of 2004, Mr. Eyman repeatedly emailed supporters, soliciting contributions to the I-864 signature drive. As late as 6/25/04, Mr. Eyman cajoled supporters to “hit ‘reply’ to this email and pledge generously to this critical effort”. Indeed, his final fundraising email, sent one day before the 7/2/04 signature deadline included a payment form with the following standard disclaimer:
Voluntary donations to the 25% Property Tax Initiative will be used to qualify this important tax reduction initiative for the ballot. A different political action committee, ‘Help Us Help Taxpayers’, raises money for a compensation fund for Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, & Mike Fagan for their effective political work on behalf of taxpayers. These two campaign committees are kept separate and donations and expenditures for each fund are publicly reported every month.
The complainants contend that VWMC ceased its paid signature gathering efforts on 6/2/04, the day Citizens Solutions withdrew the petitions from its subcontractors. Apart from overhead, the only June expenditure related to signature gathering was a 6/14/04 final payment of $10,574.40 to Citizen Solutions for signatures previously collected. As stated above, the complainants contend that the actual purpose of the 6/18/04 expenditures to Data Resources Inc. totaling $26,305.72 was printing and mailing the HUHT fundraising letter sent in early July.
Whatever the actual date that Mr. Eyman abandoned the I-864 signature drive, it is clear that by the latter half of June he was fraudulently soliciting contributions for an initiative campaign that was no longer active. Furthermore, his solicitations throughout 2004 included a promise that all contributions would “be used to qualify this important tax reduction initiative for the ballot”, when in fact the month’s largest expenditure by far was a $26,305.72 unreported in-kind donation to HUHT.
Indeed, VWMC has already reported over $10,000 of in-kind contributions to HUHT, effectively compensating Mr. Eyman and his associates with contributions raised to support initiatives.
HUHT is a personal compensation fund, and any expense on its behalf by VWMC constitutes personal compensation from I-864 campaign contributions. By hiding the true purpose of this expense, and continuing to solicit contributions under false pretenses, VWMC, HUHT and its officers conspired to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. The complainants thus urge the Commissioners to refer this serious legal breach to the appropriate prosecutorial authority.
3) Improper reporting of donations to HUHT
The complainants contend that HUHT improperly reported a $20,000 donation. On 7/23/04, in an email to over 3600 supporters, Mr. Eyman claimed that “Yesterday, one of our supporters donated $20,000 to our compensation fund Help Us Help Taxpayers.” However, on HUHT’s 8/10/04 disclosure filing, there was no mention of a $20,000 donation.
On 8/11/04, the complainants issued a press release with the allegation that Mr. Eyman had failed to report a corresponding donation, and forwarded a copy to the PDC suggesting further investigation. In response to PDC inquiries, HUHT filed an amended return on 8/12/04, reporting a $20,000 “pledge” on the date of 7/31/04.
The complainants contend that Mr. Eyman filed an amended return only in response to inquiries from the PDC, and that the reported date of the donation — now called a “pledge” — does not match the timeline of events. According to Mr. Eyman’s public statement, the pledge could not have been received later than 7/22/04, and yet the 8/12/04 amended Schedule B reports a pledge date of 7/31/04. There is also a discrepancy in that Mr. Eyman originally claimed this to be a “donation.”
It is not clear that Mr. Eyman’s 7/22/04 “donation” and 7/31/04 “pledge” are one and the same. Was there really a $20,000 “donation/pledge” on 7/22/04 as Mr. Eyman claimed in his email, or was the 7/31/04 “pledge” merely reported to cover up a false claim? Does the donor really intend to contribute the full amount, and on what date was it really pledged?
Failure to promptly report a $20,000 donation is not a trivial matter. Given Mr. Eyman’s history of false and misleading disclosure reports and unreported pledges – including the 12/2003 “gift” from the jail guard’s union (Case #04-438) – his amended 8/12/04 return should not receive any more credence from the PDC than his 7/23/04 email. The complainants urge the Commissioners to investigate this incident fully, and to levy penalties within the context of Mr. Eyman’s record of noncompliance.
4) Failure to report expenditures on behalf of VWMC
In emails, press releases, and fundraising letters, Mr. Eyman has repeatedly referenced an opinion survey conducted on 10/09/03 by Rasmussen Reports LLC. The survey was clearly commissioned on behalf of the 25% property tax cut initiative that later became I-864, and should have been reported as either a campaign expenditure or an in-kind contribution.
The complainants can find no VWMC expenditure to Rasmussen Reports LLC, or any other firm, for an opinion survey during the fall of 2003. If the survey was paid for by a third party, or performed at no charge by Rasmussen Reports LLC, then it should have been reported as an in-kind contribution, with the contributor clearly identified.
While I-864 had not yet been filed at the time of the survey, a nearly identical initiative to the legislature, I-309, was filed by Mr. Eyman on 9/8/03, and any expenditures on its behalf would have required full disclosure, presumably by VWMC. It should be noted that throughout the summer and fall of 2003 VWMC made numerous other expenditures on behalf of a “property tax cut initiative”, and this was clearly the primary focus of the committee since the initiative was first announced on 6/8/03.
5) Repeated failure to meet PDC reporting deadlines
The complainants contend that Mr. Eyman’s JTUTS PAC filed monthly C4, Schedule A, Schedule B and Schedule L forms on 8/24/04, thirteen days past the 8/11/04 deadline for ballot committees. This failure to meet reporting deadlines is part of a flagrant pattern of violating PDC requirements — as acknowledged by the PDC in response to our previous complaint dated March 17 (Case #04-443 and #04-444) – and which has continued to this date.
In dismissing the previous complaint the Commission cautioned Mr. Eyman that further late reporting “will not be tolerated, and may result in enforcement action.” As independent watchdogs, the complainants rely on full and prompt public disclosure to help safeguard the integrity of our electoral system; while Mr. Eyman may consider his delays and obfuscations trivial, they interfere with the public’s right to know, as demanded by voters in overwhelmingly passing the Public Disclosure Act. The complainants therefore urge the Commission to back up its previous warning with action.
In summary, the complainants contend that Mr. Eyman fraudulently used VWMC campaign funds to pay for printing and mailing on behalf of HUHT, that both committees and their officers conspired to hide the transaction, and that HUHT failed to included proper notice on fundraising materials that said materials were paid for by VWMC. The complainants further contend that Mr. Eyman fraudulently solicited funds for VWMC, that HUHT failed to timely and properly report a $20,000 donation, that VWMC failed to report a campaign expenditure for an opinion survey, and that JTUTS has continued Mr. Eyman’s pattern of flagrantly ignoring filing deadlines.
In light of the seriousness of these allegations, the weight of Mr. Eyman’s history of public disclosure violations, and the potential for charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, the complainants request a full investigation of all these matters, and any others that might turn up in the course of further investigation. Mr. Eyman’s persistent efforts to obscure the source of contributions and the true nature of expenditures renders the public disclosure process useless, and thus warrants a thorough audit of VWMC, HUHT, JTUTS, their officers’ personal financial records, and the records of major vendors, including Data Resources, Inc., Citizen Solutions, and Hawthorne & Co., for the years 2003 and 2004.
The complainants look forward to cooperating with the Commission, and will provide supporting documentation upon request. The complainants further request that they be kept informed of the progress of the investigation, and be given the opportunity to comment on or refute any supposedly exculpatory evidence provided by Mr. Eyman and his associates.
A copy of this formal complaint has been forwarded to the complainants’ attorneys, the Attorney General, and to the media.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
David Goldstein, TaxSanity.org
Steve Zemke, Taxpayers for Washington’s Future
Andrew Villeneuve, Permanent Defense
CC: Rodney L. Brown, Jr. (Brown Reavis & Mann PLC)
CC: Attorney General Christine Gregoire
CC: the media