Judge sides with state in Eyman ban case
Last updated 4/10/2019 at Noon
“No more scrimmages; this one's the Super Bowl.”
That’s how Tim Eyman, the longtime conservative initiative promoter known for his anti-tax measures, described his Friday, April 6, court hearing.
Unfortunately for Eyman, the state was the Patriots, and he was the Rams.
As The Beacon has reported, the state Attorney General’s Office is suing Eyman, who lived in Mukilteo for many years until late last year, when he moved to Bellevue after he and his wife filed for divorce. The AG’s office filed a $2.1 million lawsuit against Eyman in 2017, and is also looking to prevent him from managing, controlling, negotiating, or directing financial transactions of any kind for any political committee in the future.
Eyman has said this would effectively be a “lifetime ban” on his political future in Washington.
The 2017 lawsuit stems from an alleged improper use of over $300,000 in contributions made to political committees, concealment of contributions totaling nearly $500,000, and misleading reporting. The lawsuit also accuses Citizen Solutions, a for-profit signature-gathering firm that Eyman has used, of participating in a scheme to conceal money it funneled to Eyman.
In 2012, a Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) complaint was filed, alleging Eyman didn’t report that he shifted money that was donated to I-1185, an initiative regarding tax and fee increases imposed by state government, into I-517’s campaign. I-517 sought to reform Washington’s initiative and referendum process.
Money can move between one committee to another under Washington state law, but it must be disclosed in PDC reports. State Attorney General Ferguson claims Eyman concealed that information.
Additionally, in the early 2000s, Eyman was accused of paying himself from campaign donations, something he denied doing, but later admitted to. In 2002, a court agreement permanently prevented Eyman from serving as treasurer for political committees as a result.
Eyman’s hearing last Friday, in Thurston County Superior Court, was regarding the “lifetime ban.”
Eyman had asked for that punishment to be thrown out of the suit, saying it would infringe upon his First Amendment rights and prohibit him from continuing his line of work.
“The state’s proposed penalty doesn’t just punish me for alleged past wrongs, it punishes me in the future by altogether prohibiting political speech I haven’t even contemplated yet,” Eyman said in his closing argument March 29.
“I am 53 years old. I have been organizing and promoting initiatives for 22 years, and I fully intend to continue doing so for another 20 to 30 years. There are a lot of voters who support the ideas I promote. But even if no one did, I should still have the right to express those ideas in the political arena, via citizen initiatives, without being muzzled.”
To make matters even more difficult for Eyman, he was representing himself. Eyman filed for bankruptcy late last year, and has said he has had trouble obtaining legal representation in his case against Ferguson because the attorney has to be approved by a judge in bankruptcy court, and his requests have been repeatedly declined.
At Friday’s hearing, the Attorney General’s Office’s counsel, Eric Newman, said that due to Eyman profiting from campaign donations in the past, there was a precedent in the case. Additionally, Newman said Eyman was incorrect in his statements that the “lifetime ban” would prevent him from participating in Political Action Committees (PACs), from raising money, spending his own money, and collecting on loans he’s made.
“It would not limit those activities,” Newman said.
Newman also said Eyman has acted as a “shadow treasurer” for PACs, directing the money but putting someone else’s name as treasurer.
“That’s what we’re trying to stop.”
Ultimately, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon sided with the Attorney General’s Office, keeping it a possibility Eyman could be punished with the ban on managing and/or directing political committee finances.
Shortly after Dixon’s decision, Eyman posted a video on Facebook describing the situation from his perspective as “weird, weird, weird.”
“I am blown away that the state is able to ask for a lifetime ban on my future political activity, and the judge would not say that that was violative of the Constitution, of the statutes,” he said, “I don’t know what to tell you; it’s going to be nuts. This thing’s going to hang over my head for the foreseeable future. We’re talking years, and he’s basically saying it’s possible that there will be a lifetime ban on future political activity.”
In a newsletter to his supporters, Eyman said he was “flabbergasted” by Dixon’s decision.
“It is truly insane. Nowhere in state law, the state Constitution, or the U.S. Constitution is the government allowed to restrict the free speech rights of a citizen like what the AG is proposing for me.”
The trial for the lawsuit was originally set for last November, but it got pushed back to next January. Eyman said he got word the trial was delayed again.
“This week, I got notified it got delayed again (so it may be 2021 or 2022 nine or 10 years after original complaint).”
In a second newsletter, Eyman said he thinks Ferguson’s case against him is “an elaborate hoax.”
Dixon’s decision adds to a rocky start to 2019 for Eyman.
He was seen on video taking an office chair from a Lacey Office Depot in February, before returning into the store to purchase printers and paper. Eyman said he forgot to pay for the chair because he received a phone call while making the transaction.
Eyman has denied any wrongdoing, and tried returning the chair a few days later, but was told he couldn’t do so because the city of Lacey had pressed charges. He gave the chair to the Lacey Police Department for evidence purposes.