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Tim Eyman hid $766,000 in contributions, didn’t file reports, judge rules

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 21, 2020

OLYMPIA – Initiative promoter Tim Eyman tries to interrupt a question-and-answer session between Gov. Jay Inslee and reporters at the Associated Press legislative preview last January. He was trying to ask Inslee a question about Initiative 976 but was eventually escorted out of the room. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
OLYMPIA – Initiative promoter Tim Eyman tries to interrupt a question-and-answer session between Gov. Jay Inslee and reporters at the Associated Press legislative preview last January. He was trying to ask Inslee a question about Initiative 976 but was eventually escorted out of the room. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Tim Eyman – a perennial initiative sponsor and 2020 Republican candidate for governor – concealed more than three-quarter of a million dollars in contributions to previous initiative campaigns, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled Friday. He’s facing significant penalties.

Eyman “solicits contributions to pay himself for promoting anti-tax ballot propositions,” Judge James Dixon said in granting a partial summary judgment to a lawsuit brought by the state Attorney General’s office.

That “undisputed fact” means Eyman expects to receive money for electoral goals, and that requires him to file reports under the state’s campaign laws, Dixon said. He is a “continuing political committee” who was required to file scheduled campaign reports between 2012 and 2018, but didn’t.

When all the reports Eyman failed to file are added up, they were a combined 173,862 days (more than 476 years) late, as of Friday, Dixon said. Eyman concealed $766,447 in contributions to support the ballot measures he was promoting.

Dixon did not assess a penalty yet for Eyman’s actions, but the totals could run into the millions.

Washington law allows penalties of up to $10 per day that each report is late, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a news release. It also allows for a penalty equal to the amount concealed, and that penalty could be trebled if Dixon rules that they were intentionally concealed.

Ferguson’s office contends the violations were intentional and is seeking triple damages, the news release said.

“Eyman is being held in contempt of court, and today’s ruling reveals his contempt for our campaign laws,” Ferguson said.

Eyman’s attorney, former state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, disagreed with Dixon’s decision, calling it “bizarre and unprecedented” and said it may be appealed.

In a prepared statement, Sanders said Eyman is politically outspoken and advocating for issues under his First Amendment rights. He received contributions from people “to survive the (attorney general’s) litigation” that wasn’t solicited or used to support a campaign. The law requires contributions and expenditures be reported for candidates or ballot measures.

“It is an effort to ruin Mr. Eyman’s reputation and keep him from speaking out,” Sanders said of the lawsuit.

Penalties will be decided after a trial on some outstanding issues of the lawsuit – including a claim that Eyman concealed a kickback from a company hired to collect signatures with paid gatherers – set to begin July 13.

Eyman has sponsored a series of initiatives, including 2019’s I-976 which called for the reduction of fees and taxes for car tabs. It passed, although like several other Eyman initiatives, it was challenged in court. Those fees and taxes still are being collected while a lawsuit works its way up to the state Supreme Court.

Last year Eyman announced he was running for governor as an independent, but recently announced he would run as a Republican. He’s one of six candidates listing themselves as Republican who have entered the race, although formal petitions of candidacy won’t be filed until May.

Based on his latest PDC reports, he has raised nearly $58,000 in contributions and spent about $20,000 on the campaign.

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