Political gadfly Eyman turns pro

By WARREN CORNWALL

Herald Writer

Tim Eyman, the prolific initiative booster and political gadfly, has gone pro.

After running three initiative campaigns from his Mukilteo house and supporter’s homes, Eyman says he is about to look for office space and paid workers for future efforts. All under the umbrella of a for-profit company called Permanent Offense Inc.

But Eyman’s political organization, spearheaded by a for-profit business he owns, is raising questions among some.

Would Eyman use money donated to support initiatives to enrich himself?

Eyman says no, but Mike Powell, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union’s Legislative Council, questioned what would happen to initiative campaign contributions when the money is paid to an Eyman-owned for-profit business free of public oversight.

The bus drivers’ union fought Eyman’s Initiative 745, which voters rejected earlier this month.

"With it being a for-profit company, then the records are private. That’s convenient," Powell said.

Eyman, however, said the for-profit company was designed to ensure the campaigns remained aboveboard, and to continue pursuing his political goals beyond the life of any single initiative.

"We’re going to be criticized no matter what we do, and we have no problem with the operation we’ve set up. And I know for certain that doing it this way is going to enable us to do these initiatives on an ongoing basis," he said.

Eyman’s political organization has evolved from a single political action committee in 1999 to a network including three different parts this year.

Two PACs collected contributions and financed the campaigns for two Eyman initiatives on the November ballot — I-745 and Initiative 722.

Permanent Offense Inc. took it’s name from the PAC that promoted Initiative 722. The company in turn billed the two PAC’s for consulting work, accounting and database management, according to state campaign finance records. Those billings totaled roughly $60,000, according to reports filed so far.

Eyman said he created the company to handle administrative work like filing reports with the state and to "squirrel away enough money" so the office was no longer a voice mailbox.

He said any profits have been put back into the business, and none have gone directly to him. Eyman said he continues to make a living with a mail-order business that sells watches to fraternities.

"I get my expenses reimbursed. But I don’t need any (profits)," he said.

Eyman said he chose to make Permanent Offense a for-profit business because non-profits are subject to legal restrictions on their political activities. Rather than create a non-profit company and then seek loopholes in campaign laws like some other organizations do, Eyman said he preferred a for-profit business that could campaign unfettered.

The arrangement doesn’t appear to violate state campaign laws, said Shawn Newman, an Olympia attorney with the government watchdog group Citizens for Leaders With Ethics and Accountability Now. He compared it to industry associations or unions that spin off PACs to work on a particular campaign,

That would change, Newman said, if the for-profit Permanent Offense campaigned for a specific initiative instead of providing the infrastructure for Eyman’s agenda.

"If he has a for-profit entity that is there to cultivate potential ballot measures which have not been filed, then you can probably do it. The trigger is, are you supporting or opposing a ballot measure?" he said.

If that changed, Newman said, then Eyman would have to register the company as a political action committee with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

The arrangement, however, worried Chuck Sauvage, executive director of Common Cause of Washington State, an organization promoting campaign finance reform. The organization arrangement could amount to a "shell game" that permits campaign money to be siphoned into a business shielded from public scrutiny and that could be put to personal use, he said.

"Money can just go from the PACs to Permanent Offense," he said.

The state Public Disclosure Commission hasn’t received any complaints about the arrangement, said spokesman Doug Ellis. The company may not have to register and file financial reports with the state, he said.

"If they (the PACS) are raising the funds and then hiring this consulting firm to do the work and reporting it, then that’s OK. If this for-profit company puts out solicitations, generates money to support or oppose candidates or ballot measures, then they have to register," he said.

Eyman at times compared his company to other political consulting firms. But at other moments his description skirted close to the kind of operations monitored by the state commission.

"The sole purpose of Permanent Offense is to promote the initiatives, the initiative ideas that we have," he said.

The for-profit company hasn’t raised any money from donations, Eyman said. Its earnings have come from work for his campaigns, he said. So far it hasn’t hired anyone, depending instead on volunteer efforts guided by Everett resident Suzanne Karr, he said.

But that, he said, will change soon with a move to an office staffed with hired help.

"The evolution of Permanent Offense is trying to make it where it’s going professional," he said.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Oso man gets 1 year of probation for killing abusive father

Prosecutors and defense agreed on zero days in jail, citing documented abuse Garner Melum suffered at his father’s hands.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin steps back and takes in a standing ovation after delivering the State of the City Address on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Everett Mall in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
In meeting, Everett mayor confirms Topgolf, Chicken N Pickle rumors

This month, the mayor confirmed she was hopeful Topgolf “would be a fantastic new entertainment partner located right next to the cinemas.”

Alan Edward Dean, convicted of the 1993 murder of Melissa Lee, professes his innocence in the courtroom during his sentencing Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Bothell man gets 26 years in cold case murder of Melissa Lee, 15

“I’m innocent, not guilty. … They planted that DNA. I’ve been framed,” said Alan Edward Dean, as he was sentenced for the 1993 murder.

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing’s $3.9B cash burn adds urgency to revival plan

Boeing’s first three months of the year have been overshadowed by the fallout from a near-catastrophic incident in January.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Bail set at $2M in wrong-way crash that killed Lynnwood woman, 83

The Kenmore man, 37, fled police, crashed into a GMC Yukon and killed Trudy Slanger on Highway 525, according to court papers.

A voter turns in a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
On fourth try, Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly pass fire levy

Meanwhile, in another ballot that gave North County voters deja vu, Lakewood voters appeared to pass two levies for school funding.

Judge Whitney Rivera, who begins her appointment to Snohomish County Superior Court in May, stands in the Edmonds Municipal Court on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge thought her clerk ‘needed more challenge’; now, she’s her successor

Whitney Rivera will be the first judge of Pacific Islander descent to serve on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench.

In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.