Two Superior courts have directed anti-tax activist Tim Eyman and others to explain why they haven’t handed over business and financial records for an investigation into alleged campaign-disclosure violations.
OLYMPIA — Two superior courts Thursday directed Tim Eyman and others to explain why they haven’t handed over business and financial records to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
The orders came hours after State Attorney General Bob Ferguson accused the anti-tax activist of withholding documents subject to subpoena as part of an investigation into alleged campaign-disclosure violations.
The Attorney General’s Office filed petitions Thursday in Snohomish and Thurston counties’ superior courts asking that the subpoenas be enforced after Eyman, his attorney and others have refused to turn over some records.
Eyman has been ordered to appear June 21 before a Snohomish County Superior Court judge. Two officers of the signature-gathering company, Citizen Solutions, have been ordered to appear June 17 before a Thurston County Superior Court judge.
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“Tim Eyman and Citizen Solutions refuse to cooperate with my investigation,” Ferguson said in a statement. “I will not accept that.”
Eyman attorney Mark Lamb said Thursday that the Attorney General’s Office had, among other things, asked for Eyman’s tax returns.
Lamb said he offered to allow the office to inspect the returns, or to file them under seal to make sure they stayed private. But Lamb said he doesn’t want to hand over the returns to the state where they could become public record — and possible ammunition for Eyman’s opponents.
Since the Attorney General’s Office declined his offers, “I told them to pound sand,” said Lamb, adding later: “I’m happy to litigate that issue.”
In its statement, the Attorney General’s Office said it had agreed to potential hearings on keeping the returns private, but the “respondents never filed requests for protective orders with the courts.”
Last fall, a Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) investigation alleged Eyman in 2012 improperly used money raised for one measure, Initiative 1185, for another one he was working on, Initiative 517.
I-1185 symbolized one of Eyman’s signature causes. It intended to reimpose a law requiring a two-thirds vote by the Legislature to raise taxes. It passed in the November election that year, but the state Supreme Court later struck it down.
Initiative 517, an initiative to the Legislature that was unsuccessful, was designed to strengthen the power of initiative groups. Among other things, it would have given initiative sponsors an additional six months to collect signatures and made it unlawful for anyone to have “an intimidating presence” within 25 feet of a signature gatherer.
After releasing its investigative report in September, the PDC voted unanimously to refer the investigation to the Attorney General’s Office. That decision came after PDC staff said the commission’s potential penalties were too small for the allegations.
Voters Want More Choices, Eyman’s political committee, paid more than $623,000 to Citizen Solutions to qualify I-1185 for the ballot, according to the PDC report.
Eyman then sought and received $308,000 back from Citizen Solutions, according to the report, and loaned about $200,000 to a Virginia organization pushing the I-517 campaign.
Eyman kept the remainder of the funds, as well as some of the money later paid back to him. He ultimately used about $170,000 in 2012 campaign money to support his family, according to the report.
Eyman’s tax returns aren’t the only records Ferguson wants. Bank statements dating to 2009 have been subpoenaed, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
In response, according to a statement from the office, “Citizen Solutions produced just one, heavily redacted, monthly bank statement, and Voters Want More Choices produced only a few bank statements.”
The agency also “ordered the respondents to turn over years’ worth of communications between the parties, but respondents refused,” according to the statement.
The developments are the latest in a long-running struggle by the state to get financial information on Eyman and his operations.
As part of its investigation, the PDC in 2013 issued a subpoena to Eyman seeking financial records.
A court filing from 2015 stated “the commission staff’s investigation has been significantly hindered and delayed by respondent’s refusal to provide the subpoenaed records.”
Lamb has previously described that particular subpoena as “overbroad.”
In 2002, the PDC investigated whether Eyman violated state law by covering up salary he had taken from campaign donations. As a result, he had to pay legal fees and fines of about $55,000 and was banned from being a campaign’s treasurer, PDC records show.