By Gene Johnson / Associated Press
SEATTLE — A judge ruled Friday that initiative promoter Tim Eyman illegally failed to report more than $766,000 in campaign contributions over a six-year period — a finding that could subject him to millions of dollars in penalties.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon issued his order in a 2017 lawsuit brought by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The judge found that Eyman failed to register as a political committee, even though he clearly acted as one, and that he failed to file 110 campaign finance reports with the Public Disclosure Commission.
“Mr. Eyman solicits contributions to compensate himself for promoting anti-tax ballot propositions,” the judge wrote. “The Court finds this undisputed fact establishes that Defendant Eyman has an expectation of receiving funds toward electoral goals, which requires reporting under the Fair Campaign Practices Act.”
The ruling is the latest blow for Eyman in the case. He and his company, Watchdog for Taxpayers, have been in contempt of court for more than two years for failing to turn over documents, and they have accrued $317,250 in sanctions, Ferguson said.
The judge previously ordered that associates of Eyman connected to Citizen Solutions, a for-profit signature-gathering firm, pay more than $1 million for secretly funneling contributions to him.
The attorney general accused Eyman of being a serial violator of Washington state campaign-finance law who has spent years laundering political donations, accepting kickbacks and taking campaign donations for personal use.
Eyman’s attorney, former Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, called the case “bizarre and unprecedented” in a statement Friday. He argued that for an activist to raise money to support his living expenses is not reportable as a campaign contribution.
“The crux of the state’s claim against Mr. Eyman is that when he asked his friends and supporters to voluntarily help him and his family survive the AG’s litigation that meant he is a ‘political committee’ which must report all income and expenditures to the government, even though none of this money was solicited or used to support any election campaign,” Sanders wrote.
Eyman has a long history of promoting anti-tax initiatives, including I-976, which voters passed last November to severely limit car-tab fees. That measure is on hold pending a legal challenge.
Eyman, who filed for bankruptcy protection in 2018 because of the financial threat from the attorney general’s lawsuit, has announced that he plans to run for governor as a Republican.
Dixon found that the reports Eyman failed to file are a combined 173,862 days late. Under state law, penalties can amount to a maximum of $10 per day that each report is late, and can be tripled for intentional violations. According to Ferguson, Eyman can also face an additional penalty of $766,447.
The amount of the sanctions will be determined following a July trial on the remaining issue in the case, whether Eyman sought, concealed and laundered a $308,000 kickback from Citizen Solutions.
Ferguson is also seeking to have Eyman barred for life from managing or directing the finances of any political committee.