PDC asks attorney general to pursue possible violations against Eyman

OLYMPIA — The state Public Disclosure Commission on Thursday asked the attorney general to act against initiative salesman Tim Eyman for secretly moving hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations among two ballot measures in 2012 and keeping some money for himself in violation of state campaign laws.

Commissioners voted unanimously to request Attorney General Bob Ferguson pursue the possible civil and criminal violations. Investigators contend Eyman deliberately concealed the purpose of transactions involving himself, his political committees and the signature-gathering firm involved in both initiatives.

And, they want Ferguson to investigate whether the alleged web of deceit commission investigators documented in 2012 might have begun years earlier and might still be going on.

“The record before us is clear,” Commissioner Anne Levinson said as she made the motion to refer the matters.

Neither Eyman nor his attorney, Mark Lamb, attended Thursday’s meeting.

“The meeting this morning was not a decision on whether the allegations in the report are true but rather what is the appropriate forum for that ultimate decision,” Lamb wrote in an email. “We believe that following a full hearing on the merits my client will prevail.”

Ferguson will be receiving an exhaustive investigative report that relied on emails, bank records and interviews to diagram how Eyman allegedly concealed the use of donations gathered in support of Initiative 1185 to support another measure, Initiative 517.

Commission staff traced a series of payments Eyman engineered through his political committee Voters Want More Choices to the firm that gathered signatures for both initiatives, Citizen Solutions.

The firm earned nearly $1.2 million for its work on Initiative 1185. Of that sum, Voters Want More Choices paid $623,325 with the rest coming from the Association of Washington Business and Association of Beer and Wine Wholesalers.

On July 11, 2012, a few days after Eyman turned in I-1185 petitions, Citizen Solutions wired $308,000 to Eyman through his company, Watchdog for Taxpayers.

Eyman kept a little over $100,000 for personal living expenses. He loaned $190,000 to a Virginia organization which in turn sent $182,000 to another Eyman committee, Protect Your Right to Vote on Initiatives, which was pushing I-517. Citizen Solutions got paid to gather signatures for that measure.

Neither the firm’s payment to Eyman nor his loan to Citizens in Charge in Virginia was reported to the Public Disclosure Commission. Investigators allege both should have been as Eyman knew the money was to be used for campaign-related expenditures.

In the course of the probe, investigators found Citizen Solutions had been paying Eyman during nearly every initiative campaign in the past decade.

“This is a labyrinth,” said Sherry Bockwinkel of Tacoma, whose complaint against Eyman in early 2012 triggered a three-year investigation.

She lauded the commission for asking the attorney general to look beyond the 2012 cycle.

“I’ve always said the kind of things he does is criminal,” she said. “I’m glad it came from someone else’s mouth. The funny thing is, if he just had disclosed it all, he wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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