Investigation: Eyman personally benefited from initiative funds

Tim Eyman
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SEATTLE - A three-year investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission reveals anti-tax activist Tim Eyman profited from his signature-gathering activities and used some of the money for his personal use,

according to a 224-page report.

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The initial complaint filed in 2012 alleged Eyman's committee "Protect Your Right to Vote on Initiatives" failed to disclose contributions and expenditures stemming from its signature gathering efforts related to I-1185 and I-517.

"This is the way Tim Eyman does business; this is a pattern and practice of Tim Eyman's," said Sherry Bockwinkel who filed the initial complaint in 2012.

Bockwinkel, who used to own the signature gathering firm "Washington Initiatives Now," says she cut business ties with Eyman when she realized his math didn't add up.

"I quit working for him years ago because he had a way of wanting to do business that was like a kickback, and I refused to do that, and ironically that's what we see in these papers today," Bockwinkel told KING 5.

According to the PDC investigation released Monday, PDC staff say Eyman funneled the money through multiple entities "in order to conceal the source of the funds."

Staff found evidence that Mr. Eyman made personal use of approximately $170,000 of those funds, using them for personal living expenses to support his family," reads the report.

"You can't just take money out of a corporate account and spend it on personal living expenses," said Bockwinkel who believes the IRS should investigate, in addition to the Attorney General's Office.

The PDC investigation also alleges the price of signatures may have been inflated for personal gain.

"The initial April 2, 2012 agreement Tim Eyman signed with Citizen Solutions on behalf of Voters Want More Choices included a cost of $3.50 per signature for I-185 and a total cost of $1,050,000. Records reviewed by PDC staff show that Citizen Solutions paid petition coordinators between $1.00 and $1.40 per I-1185 signature, indicating that the firm made at least $2.10 per signature turned into Mr. Eyman's committee, a 60% gross margin," according to the report.

PDC staff will present their findings to the commission on Thursday and recommend the state Attorney General bring a civil suit against Eyman for various violations of public disclosure laws. The AG could then pursue additional investigation and decide whether or not there may be a criminal case.

"He's been fooling a lot of the people too long now," said Bockwinkel.

Eyman's attorney, Mark Lamb, released this statement Monday:

After a three year investigation, PDC staff has concluded there was insufficient evidence to support the initial allegations made by a disgruntled former vendor against my client.

As to the new allegations, the report omits and mischaracterizes evidence.

There are multiple documents, including exhibits in the report itself, that support my client's testimony and which clearly contradict allegations made in the report. To this day, my client believes all required information was reported.

My client firmly believes it is not a coincidence that an investigation which lay dormant for so long suddenly sprang to life shortly after opponents failed to block a vote on the latest tax initiative. Regardless, because of the recommendation that this matter proceed to litigation, we will not have additional comment at this time.

Eyman followed that up with this email Tuesday:

By working hard and working together, we qualified and voters passed 2/3 initiatives in 2007, 2010, and 2012 -- each win bigger than the last.  The results were clear:  there were no tax increases in the legislative sessions following each ballot box victory (and the overwhelming vote in 2012 also spurred a few Democrat senators to join the Republicans to form the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus that has protected us from much of Inslee's insanity for the past 3 years -- that wouldn't have happened if not for the voters' approval of Initiative 1185).

 Those victories and those results have driven our opponents crazy. 

No matter how much they spent, no matter how much they demonized us, the voters consistently supported our initiatives making it tougher to raise taxes.

Then in 2013, the state supreme court said we had to pursue a constitutional amendment. 

Opponents thought the fight was over -- that there was no way we could do it.  But they were wrong.  And that drove them even crazier.

Last year, we tried really hard to qualify our 2/3-for-taxes constitutional amendment initiative for the ballot.  We didn't make it. 

Opponents thought the fight was over -- but they were wrong.  And that made 'em even crazier.

When I took out a 2nd mortgage on my home and loaned $250,000 to kick-start the signature drive for I-1366, opponents thought that was a sign of weakness.  They were wrong -- and that drove them even crazier. 

When hundreds of supporters donated and supported getting I-1366 on ballot, opponents went even crazier.  When we got on the ballot for $400,000 less than the other initiative spent (Paul Allen's Initiative 1401), opponents went even crazier.

Knowing that they were gonna lose again in November, opponents filed a lawsuit asking the courts to prevent the vote on I-1366.  But a King County judge and a unanimous supreme court refused to block the vote.  That made 'em even crazier. 

Why are opponents going crazy?

Because we keep trying, our supporters keep helping, and our efforts continue to score victories for the taxpayers.  Our initiatives have directly saved taxpayers over $32 billion so far.  Our 2/3 initiatives have saved taxpayers untold billions more by blocking scores of tax hike proposals. 

Our persistence and our laser beam focus on the task of protecting taxpayers has officially driven our opponents crazy.   

It is your support that makes that possible. 

I-1185 required a two-thirds majority in the state Legislature, or a public vote, to raise taxes. It was approved in November 2012 but overturned three months later by the state Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

I-517 sought to create penalties for anyone who tried to interfere or retaliate against petition drive efforts. It was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in November 2013.

Eyman admitted back in 2002 that he lied about taking $45,000 in campaign contributions as salary.

KING 5's Travis Pittman contributed to this report.