The state Public Disclosure Commission wants the Attorney General’s Office to investigate initiative guru Tim Eyman’s business dealings.
OLYMPIA — The state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) voted unanimously to refer its investigation into initiative guru Tim Eyman’s business dealings to the state Attorney General’s Office.
The decision Thursday was made based on a recommendation by PDC staff that the commission’s potential penalties are too small for the allegations made in the investigation. It allows the Attorney General’s Office to pursue larger civil penalties and possibly explore criminal charges.
A 224-page investigative report released Monday by PDC staff alleges that Eyman violated several campaign laws by concealing money shuffled between two initiative campaigns in 2012. The investigation included testimony by Eyman and others given under oath, as well as records obtained by subpoena.
The complaint alleges that in 2012, Eyman improperly used money raised for one initiative, Initiative 1185, for another one he was working on, Initiative 517. The PDC report accuses Eyman of inaccurate campaign-finance reports that concealed the true sources of initiative donation, and that he illegally kept some campaign money.
Anne Levinson, the commissioner who made the motion to refer the case to the Attorney General’s Office, described the commission as “extremely troubled” by the investigation’s findings.
In her motion, Levinson said “that it appears that Mr. Eyman intended to hide from the public the sources of funds and the actual purposes for which expenditures were made and to further conceal that funds were used by Mr. Eyman solely for his personal use.”
In a statement, Mark Lamb, the Bothell attorney representing Eyman, pointed out that the vote merely followed the staff recommendation and wasn’t determining whether the allegations were true, but “what is the appropriate forum for that ultimate decision.”
“The reality is my client has not had an opportunity to present his side of the story,” Lamb said in prepared remarks.
In 2012, Eyman’s political committee, Voters Want More Choices, paid a signature-gathering firm, Citizen Solutions, more than $623,000 to qualify I-1185 for the ballot.
Then, according to the report, Eyman sought and received $308,000 back from Citizen Solutions. Eyman loaned about $200,000 to a Virginia organization pushing the I-517 campaign and kept the rest, as well as some of the money later paid back to him.
Ultimately, Eyman used about $170,000 in 2012 campaign money to support his family, according to the report.
In an interview under oath with PDC staff, Eyman said that he didn’t inform his partners in Voters Want More Choices — Mike Fagan, Jack Fagan or Stan Long — that he’d sought that money, according to the report.
Jack Fagan couldn’t be reached for comment; Mike Fagan, a Spokane city councilman, didn’t return calls or emails this week.
The author of the 2012 complaint, Sherry Bockwinkel, spoke at the PDC meeting and said that Eyman’s operations have made it difficult for citizens to understand and investigate his operation.
“This is a labyrinth,” Bockwinkel said.
Business groups involved in the 2012 initiative campaigns this week also spoke up.
The Association of Washington Business (AWB), which donated to I-1185 in 2012, is monitoring the investigation, according to Kris Johnson, president. If it were determined that I-1185 money was used on the I-517 campaign, it would be disappointing, he said.
“If true, it’s obviously disappointing,” Johnson said earlier this week. “It’s obviously not where we intended the resources to go to.”
“If [Eyman is] going to be doing that kind of work, he’s got to be accountable and legal,” Jan Teague, president of the Washington Retail Association, said earlier this week. Teague added that the association is “real happy that the issue is finally being taken up.”
In 2002, the PDC investigated whether Eyman violated the law by covering up a salary he had taken from campaign donations, and as a result, he had to pay fines and legal fees of about $55,000 and was barred from again serving as a campaign’s treasurer, according to PDC records.
The revelations have not slowed Eyman, who succeeded this summer in getting an anti-tax initiative, Initiative 1366, on the election ballot for November. Eyman continued this week to send out fundraising emails and submitted another initiative to the state Secretary of State’s Office.