Initiative-filer and anti-tax activist Tim Eyman has been found in contempt of court for the second time, for refusing to disclose information in the long-running campaign finance lawsuit against him, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office announced Friday.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon, speaking from the bench, found Eyman in contempt for not supplying the information, which was originally due in January 2019, Ferguson’s office said.
Eyman has made a career out of filing dozens of initiatives, mostly efforts to lower or limit taxes, some of which have played a profound role in shaping Washington’s political landscape.
But Ferguson’s lawsuit, first filed in 2017 and based off a 2015 investigation by the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, accuses Eyman of years of malfeasance and seeks to bar him from “managing, controlling, negotiating or directing financial transactions of any kind for any political committee in the future.”
The lawsuit accuses Eyman of laundering political donations through out-of-state charities, pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, refusing to comply with campaign finance laws and lying about it to his donors and the public. It paints a picture of a complex web of political committees, businesses, donations and kickbacks that Eyman allegedly used to flout campaign finance laws and enrich himself.
Eyman, who has been acting as his own lawyer in court, sought earlier this year to have the potential lifetime ban on directing the finances of political committees thrown out as a possible punishment, arguing that it would be an unconstitutional infringement on his First Amendment right to speech.
But, in a court hearing that Eyman had compared to the Super Bowl, he lost. The lawsuit, including the potential ban, continues. Eyman, who has another initiative on the ballot this November, has long accused Ferguson of trying to run him out of political activism.
“Because I don’t have an attorney representing me in this matter and it is active litigation, I do not feel comfortable responding to the Attorney General’s latest press release,” Eyman said in an emailed statement on Friday.
Eyman was first found in contempt in the lawsuit, for failing to comply with discovery rules, in February 2018 and either he personally, his company Watchdog for Taxpayers, or both have been in contempt ever since.
The newest contempt finding is separate from and in addition to his prior contempt finding, Ferguson’s office said.
Eyman and his company are currently being fined $500 a day while they remain in contempt, and they have racked up more than $210,000 in sanctions since they were first held in contempt, according to Ferguson’s office.
“Our campaign finance laws demand transparency,” Ferguson said in a prepared statement. “Ignoring multiple court orders and refusing to turn over documents in order to avoid accountability is unacceptable.”
Eyman filed for bankruptcy last year, blaming fees associated with the lawsuit. Earlier this week he settled an unrelated case in which he was accused of stealing a rolling chair from an Office Depot.