Washington sues Tim Eyman for ‘elaborate scheme’

Mar 31, 2017, 11:57 AM | Updated: 1:29 pm

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Friday that the state is suing Tim Eyman for a campaign “scheme” that he alleges “duped” campaign contributors into financially supporting the man personally, and efforts unrelated to their contributions.

Related: AG asks that Tim Eyman be held in contempt over financial records

“Today we are announcing a significant campaign financing lawsuit against Tim Eyman, against a for-profit signature gathering firm known as Citizen Solutions, and also one of the principals of that firm William Agazarm,” Ferguson said.

“Our lawsuit alleges an elaborate web of unlawful financial transactions,” he said. “The result, Tim Eyman personally profited from these transactions and caused inaccurate and misleading reporting. These defendants demonstrate contempt for our campaign finance laws and they will be held accountable.”

Eyman’s attorney, Mark Lamb, responded to the lawsuit:

For all of the heated rhetoric earlier today, this dispute is simple: whether two transactions needed to be included on campaign reports. The Attorney General believes they should, we do not. From the beginning, Mr. Eyman has made clear he did nothing wrong and the money he received was lawfully earned for the services he provided. The Attorney General has filed a suit against my clients today because (with the statute of limitations looming) these claims would have otherwise been time-barred. Many plaintiffs overreach and file a kitchen sink of claims when they are faced with a statute of limitations deadline.

Just last year the Attorney General attempted several politically motivated campaign finance prosecutions that have been dismissed on summary judgment. Just this week, the Supreme Court denied the Attorney General’s request for direct review in one of these failed prosecutions. The more I have examined the State’s claims in this matter the less impressed I am. Mr. Eyman has the same First Amendment rights as the Attorney General himself. It is chilling that the stated purpose of this action is to permanently bar him from participating in the political process in this State.

Cases are litigated in court, not press conferences. Indeed, in Washington state the special responsibilities of a prosecutor include the obligation to, “refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused”. I will leave it to others to decide if this morning’s press conference meets that standard.

Eyman has become an initiative celebrity around Washington, spearheading multiple campaigns that generally target government functions and taxing authority. He is known for large-scale signature gathering. But Ferguson accuses Eyman of using that platform to direct funds for his personal use and misleading his contributors as to where their money was going.

“In addition to enriching himself, Tim Eyman effectively duped his own contributors who thought they were supporting one initiative – Initiative 1185 – but ended up supporting a different initiative – I-517 – and Tim Eyman personally,” Ferguson said.

Washington vs. Tim Eyman

Eyman and Citizen Solutions could face at least $1.8 million in penalties, according to Ferguson. The state will request the court order Eyman to reimburse $308,000 it alleges went to Eyman’s personal use. Citizen Solutions and Agazarm could face up to $924,000 in penalties.

The case also seeks for the court to order that Eyman is forbidden from participating or directing financial transactions for any political committee ever again.

The “elaborate web” that Ferguson described was displayed on two infographics next to the attorney general as he spoke at the press conference, showing amounts of money and arrows for where the money was handed off between campaigns and Eyman. Ultimately, Ferguson accuses Eyman of “taking kickbacks from contractors, using campaign funds for personal expenses, redirecting donations made for one initiative to a different initiative.”

The attorney general also noted that it is not the first time Eyman has faced a court over finances related to his political activities. A 2002 court judgment barred Eyman from acting as treasurer for his political committees.

“That obviously did not prevent him from engineering this elaborate scheme,” Ferguson said. “Tim Eyman still managed to weave an elaborate web of financial transactions to hide campaign funds,  and enrich himself while keeping his contributors and the public in the dark.

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Washington sues Tim Eyman for ‘elaborate scheme’