Tag Archives: State of Washington v. Tim Eyman

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.

NPI, WFEG welcome Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s sweeping new lawsuit against Tim Eyman

Statements & Advisories

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.”

WFEG, NPI thank Attorney General Ferguson for filing new charges against Tim Eyman

Statements & Advisories

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman is facing new charges that he failed to follow Washington’s public disclosure laws when he set up his latest ballot measure committee (“We Love Our Cars”) after attorneys for the State of Washington filed an amended campaign finance complaint against him and his co-defendants in Thurston County Superior Court.

The amended complaint was prompted by a citizen’s action notice filed on September 16th by Washingtonians For Ethical Government (WFEG), a nonprofit founded to serve as a people’s campaign finance watchdog for the Evergreen State.

WFEG previously sent a citizen’s action notice in the spring that alleged another one of Eyman’s committees had failed to properly report an independent expenditure. PDC staff found merit to the allegations and they were incorporated into one of three complaints filed by Ferguson’s office in Thurston County Superior Court back in September.

WFEG boardmember and Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve thanked Attorney General Ferguson’s office for reviewing the allegations and determining there was sufficient evidence to file new charges.

“Tim Eyman is a serial violator of our state’s public disclosure laws,” said Villeneuve. “Even while under investigation for concealment by Attorney General Ferguson’s office, Eyman and his associates have continued to brazenly flout RCW Chapter 42.17A. When they set up their newest committee, ‘We Love Our Cars’, they failed to account for where the committee’s startup money, totaling $143,947.61, came from. The law explicitly requires that they report the source of their contributions. They didn’t do that when they set up this committee, and incredibly, they still haven’t.”

“We Love Our Cars” was formed to promote I-869, an initiative to the Legislature intended to wipe out funding for Sound Transit, Amtrak Cascades, and WSDOT’s freight mobility programs. In emails to his followers, Eyman is still regularly pitching the initiative and asking for money to qualify it, but NPI has found no evidence of a signature drive and the committee’s only reported expenditures in months have been to reimburse Eyman for travel expenses and computer and telephone expenses.

The deadline to submit signatures for initiatives to the 2017 Legislature is at the end of this month, so Eyman only has a few more weeks to pretend that I-869 is an active effort.

Eyman and his associates are already in trouble for a number of previous violations of RCW Chapter 42.17A, including violations uncovered by the Northwest Progressive Institute and Washingtonians For Ethical Government earlier this year.

As mentioned, the discovery of these violations led to the filing of three lawsuits in September by Ferguson’s office, one of which has now been amended to incorporate the new charges.

“Tim Eyman and his associates have been in politics for a long time and must be held accountable for their continued lawbreaking,” said Villeneuve. “They have been given many, many chances to voluntarily comply with the reporting requirements of RCW Chapter 42.17A and clean up their act. They have neglected to do so. Significant penalties should be imposed by the courts against them as a consequence.”

Washingtonians For Ethical Government is represented by Knoll Lowney of Smith & Lowney, PLLC. Knoll Lowney’s past 45-day notice letters have resulted in significant penalties and litigation. His 45-day notice letter against the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) resulted in the imposition of a $584,000 penalty against the BIAW’s for-profit affiliate. More recently, his 45-day notice letter against the Grocery Manufacturers Association led to Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office litigating what it calls “the largest political funding concealment case in state history.”

NPI thanks Attorney General Bob Ferguson for filing three new campaign finance complaints against Tim Eyman

Statements & Advisories

Today, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office announced that the State of Washington has filed three new campaign finance complaints against initiative promoter Tim Eyman and his associates in Thurston County Superior Court. The complaints concern violations of RCW Chapter 42.17A uncovered by NPI’s Permanent Defense, Washingtonians For Ethical Government (WFEG), and Keep Washington Rolling (KWR), which were the subject of a set of citizen action notices sent by WFEG and KWR in May and June.

RCW 42.17A.765 (4) allows a person or organization who believes Washington’s public disclosure laws to have been violated to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the state to enforce the law, but only if the Attorney General and the Prosecuting Attorney of the county in which the violation occurred are given an opportunity to sue first and choose not to do so.

The citizen’s action is a crucially important enforcement tool, because the Public Disclosure Commission can take a long time to process traditional complaints due to being underfunded and understaffed. For example, more than three years transpired before Sherry Bockwinkel’s 2012 complaint against Tim Eyman and his campaign committees was fully investigated by PDC staff and acted on by the Commission.

One year ago, in September of 2015, the PDC unanimously voted to refer that case to Ferguson’s office for further action. Ferguon’s investigators have spent months trying to acquire the evidence they need to complete their investigation, but they’ve been hindered by Eyman and his associates’ repeated refusal to cooperate. Over the summer, attorneys representing the people of Washington went to court to compel Eyman’s cooperation.

In the meantime, Eyman has continued to brazenly flout RCW Chapter 42.17A. NPI believes aggressive and timely enforcement is needed to prevent Eyman from making a mockery of Washington’s public disclosure laws, and is committed to doing its part to uncover future potential violations and laying the groundwork for speedy prosecution of those violations.

Working with Washingtonians For Ethical Government, NPI recently discovered that Eyman had once again broken the law by concealing the source of most of the funds raised by his newest political committee, We Love Our Cars, which was formed in June. This month, WFEG notified Attorney General Ferguson and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg it plans to file suit against Eyman over this concealment through another citizen’s action.

“Tim Eyman is a serial offender who continues to violate our public disclosure laws with impunity,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who also serves as a boardmember of Washingtonians For Ethical Government. “Justice is not served when it takes years for prolific violators like Eyman to be held accountable for flouting the basic reporting rules established by the people and the people’s legislators to shine a light on money in politics in Washington.”

“Fortunately, the law provides a useful tool for expediting enforcement: the citizen’s action. These complaints all appropriately began with the sending of citizen’s action notices. We thank Attorney General Ferguson for stepping up to take on these cases. We will be following future developments with great interest.”

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.”

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