Tim Eyman received secret payments from a signature-gathering firm and illegally used campaign donations for personal expenses, according to an investigation by the state Public Disclosure Commission.
With voters set to pass judgment on his latest anti-tax initiative, Tim Eyman is facing new charges he received secret payments from a paid-signature-gathering firm and illegally used campaign money for personal expenses.
A 224-page investigative report issued Monday by staff of the state Public Disclosure Commission accuses Eyman of violating multiple campaign laws through a complex scheme to conceal money shuffled between two initiative campaigns in 2012.
“Given the seriousness of the apparent violations,” the PDC staff said its potential penalties are too small and recommended referral of the case to Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office for possible legal action.
Eyman did not respond to requests for comment Monday. His attorney, Mark Lamb, said in an email the PDC report “omits and mischaracterizes evidence” and that Eyman had reported all information required by law.
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The PDC’s report comes as his latest measure, I-1366, is set for a public vote on Nov. 3. That proposal would cut the state sales tax unless lawmakers send a constitutional amendment to the 2016 ballot imposing a two-thirds supermajority requirement for legislative tax votes.
Lamb questioned the PDC’s timing, saying “my client believes it is not a coincidence” the report was released shortly after a state Supreme Court ruling cleared I-1366 to appear on the ballot.
But PDC investigators said Eyman and some associates stymied their probe by delaying or not complying with a dozen subpoenas issued by the agency. The Attorney General’s Office went to court this month to force Eyman to turn over bank records in the case.
The investigation was spurred by a 2012 PDC complaint, filed by a former Eyman ally, accusing him of siphoning donor money from a business-backed anti-tax measure, Initiative 1185, to secretly finance a separate measure.
The other measure, Initiative 517, was opposed by many businesses as it sought to give petition gatherers broader leeway to operate at malls, storefronts and even inside sports stadiums.
The PDC report went beyond the allegations of mingling money between the two campaigns, detailing a profitable business relationship between Eyman and Citizen Solutions, a paid-signature-gathering firm he’s used to qualify measures for the ballot.
The report found evidence Eyman has long been receiving secret payments from Citizen Solutions, in addition to the publicly reported salary and expense reimbursements.
In 2012, after Eyman’s political committee, Voters Want More Choices, paid Citizen Solutions more than $623,000 to qualify I-1185 for the ballot, he received a wire transfer of $308,000 back from the firm, the PDC report found. He then loaned about $200,000 to a Virginia organization pushing the I-517 campaign.
The 2012 payment to Eyman “may have been one in a series of such payments,” the PDC report said. Agency investigators interviewed Edward Agazarm, a former principal of Citizen Solutions, who said the firm paid Eyman “on multiple occasions” between 2004 and 2011.
The company received more than $3 million in those years to qualify Eyman initiatives for the ballot.
Eyman “sought and received” payments of between $5,000 and $100,000 per campaign, the PDC report said. Agazarm told PDC investigators Eyman was paid as a consultant for services including bringing work to the firm.
While such payments might not be illegal by themselves, the PDC report accuses Eyman of inaccurate campaign-finance reports that concealed the true sources of initiative donations and spending. He’s also accused of illegally using about $170,000 in 2012 campaign money for living expenses to support his family.
The PDC’s five-member commission is expected to take up the staff report at a meeting Thursday and decide whether to refer the case to Ferguson’s office.
The payments Eyman got from Citizen Solutions were in addition to more than $1 million he has publicly reported receiving as a salary by donors since 2003 for running initiative campaigns.
Eyman critics — and some former business backers — called the PDC staff findings troubling.
Sherry Bockwinkel, the initiative consultant and former Eyman ally who filed the complaint, said the report shows Eyman as “a snake oil salesman” who runs initiatives for profit.
“Anybody who would give him money after this would have to have his head examined,” she said.
Jan Gee, president of the Washington Food Industry Association, said she was pleased the PDC was requesting the involvement of Attorney General’s Office.
In 2012, the group, which represents grocery stores, donated money to a campaign to get I-1185 on the ballot. But the association didn’t support I-517, which it feared could lead to harassment of grocery-store shoppers. The measure was rejected by voters.
The details that have surfaced in the PDC complaint against Eyman hurt his reputation among business groups, Gee said. “He isn’t an honest operator and we didn’t want our money attached to that,” she said.
Eyman told PDC investigators the 2012 payment from Citizen Solutions was in exchange for helping to drum up business for the company.
But he said there was no written agreement with the firm, and that he did not inform the officers of Voters Want More Choices of the payment.
The latest allegations aren’t the first time Eyman has been in hot water over profiting from his political work.
In 2002, Eyman apologized after it was revealed he’d lied about paying himself from initiative donor funds. He was forced to pay $55,000 in fines and banned from serving as treasurer of a political committee.
Following that scandal, Eyman pledged to be up front about being paid. “I want to continue to advocate issues, and I want to make a lot of money doing it,” he told The Associated Press at the time.