This morning, at a press conference at his offices in downtown Seattle, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the filing of a sweeping new enforcement lawsuit against Tim Eyman, his associate William Agazarm, and the for-profit signature gathering company “Citizen Solutions” in Thurston County Superior Court.
The lawsuit alleges that Eyman repeatedly violated the state’s public disclosure laws by shifting money from one initiative campaign to another and concealing kickbacks he received from his buddies at Citizen Solutions. Ferguson is asking for $2.1 million in penalties and injunctive relief barring Eyman from “participating in or directing financial transactions for any political committees going forward”.
“We thank Attorney General Ferguson for bringing this much-needed enforcement action,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who has been organizing opposition to Eyman initiatives for over fifteen years through NPI’s Permanent Defense project. “This has been a long time coming”.
Villeneuve also serves as President of Washingtonians For Ethical Government (WFEG), which formed last year as a people’s campaign finance watchdog for the Evergreen State.
“Tim Eyman is a serial public disclosure law offender. Even after the Public Disclosure Commission announced the findings that led to this lawsuit back in September 2015, Eyman continued to violate our laws with impunity throughout 2016. He launched an illegal independent expenditure against several dozen Democratic lawmakers, failed to report that he transferred a large sum of money between two of his committees, and blatantly disregarded a number of key reporting rules.”
Seeking to hold Eyman accountable for these further violations, NPI partnered with WFEG, which filed multiple citizen’s action notices against Eyman.
NPI’s friends at Keep Washington Rolling filed an additional set of citizen’s action notices. These notices collectively resulted in three related lawsuits against Eyman and his committees by the state back in September.
Additional charges were added in late November.
“Today’s lawsuit is actually the fourth that Bob Ferguson has filed against Eyman for public disclosure law violations, not the first,” Villeneuve noted. “But it is the most significant, because in this lawsuit, Ferguson is asking for substantial penalties and an order from the court that would bar him from continuing to operate his initiative factory. The relief Ferguson is seeking here is entirely appropriate, for Eyman has been warned many times to clean up his act, and he has deliberately failed to do so.”
The investigation that led to today’s lawsuit had its origins in Eyman’s decision in 2012 to use money he raised to qualify one initiative (I-1185) for an entirely separate initiative (I-517) that he didn’t tell his donors from the business community about. In addition to using I-1185 money to qualify I-517, Eyman also pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own personal use without reporting it. The money Eyman pocketed was in addition to the salary that he was collecting out of his committee funds.
NPI member Sherry Bockwinkel, who has been of vital assistance in helping unravel Eyman’s dark money web, filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission in August of 2015 alleging that Eyman had violated numerous provisions of Chapter 42.17A RCW in the course of attempting to qualify I-517. The PDC opened an investigation after I-517 qualified for the ballot, which was not completed for another two and a half years.
In September of 2015, the PDC handed the case off to the Attorney General for further investigation. State attorneys were hampered in their efforts to discover the truth by Eyman’s repeated stonewalling. The state went to court to get its civil orders enforced, and finally got Eyman to turn over key documents that it was seeking last summer.
“Since 2002, NPI’s Permanent Defense has been working tirelessly to expose Tim Eyman’s lies and continued lawbreaking,” said Northwest Progressive Institute President Rick Hegdahl, a Navy veteran. “Fifteen years of work has led up to this action today by the State of Washington. On behalf of NPI’s board, I want to thank our hardworking staff for all they’ve done to fight Eyman’s awful schemes and expose his shameful lawbreaking.”
“This truly is a watershed moment in the history of our Permanent Defense project,” agreed Villeneuve. “We have been calling for Tim Eyman to be held accountable for his wrongdoing for a very, very long time. We are very glad that our Attorney General is seeking an appropriate punishment for Eyman’s many and egregious civil violations.”
“Eyman’s initiative factory was already idle; we hope this litigation results in its permanent dissolution,” Villeneuve added. “For too long, Tim Eyman has menaced our communities with destructive, unconstitutional initiatives deliberately concocted to sabotage our plan of government and destroy our public services.”
“It is time for the Eyman error to be over. Our great state should be a model for progressive governance for the rest of the country. We cannot meet our paramount duty to amply provide all children with an education without implementing progressive tax reform, and we cannot reform our tax code if it continues to be undermined by Tim Eyman initiatives.”