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Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Friday that his office will file a $2 million dollar civil campaign finance enforcement lawsuit against longtime anti-tax activist Tim Eyman.
"Our lawsuit alleges an elaborate web of unlawful financial transactions," said Ferguson. "Tim Eyman personally profited from these transactions and caused inaccurate and misleading reporting."
Related: State lawsuit against Eyman
The lawsuit also names signature-gathering firm Citizen Solutions and one of that company's principles, William Agazarm, as defendants.
The suit stems from an investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission released in September of 2015, that alleged Eyman violated several campaign disclosure laws and profited from signature gathering activities, using some of the money for personal use, according to the PDC investigation.
"His supporters should know that there were donors to Tim Eyman who thought they were donating to one initiative, and that money went to his personal living expenses and to an entirely different initiative," Ferguson said. "To say it's deceptive is an understatement."
In the 224 page report, PDC staff allege Eyman funneled money through multiple entities in order to conceal the funds and say they found evidence that he used around $170,000 of the funds for personal living expenses.
Upon further investigation and a subpoena of additional records, including bank records, the Attorney General's Office alleges he improperly used more than $300,000 in contributions and concealed contributions totaling more than $490,000.
AG Ferguson says, during the PDC investigation, Eyman admitted to using some of the money for personal living expenses, but it's unknown exactly how the money was used.
"If you look at these charts, you will see the intricate web that Mr. Eyman wove," said retired Judge Anne Levinson, who also serves as chair of the PDC.
"This was by no means a mistake; this was not accidental; this was not one time," Levinson continued. "This was intentional; this was a pattern, and it was done in a way that really did a great disservice to the public."
The PDC turned the case over to the Attorney General in 2015, recommending that the AG bring a civil suit against Eyman and related entities.
The Attorney General's Office is seeking nearly $2 million in penalties, as well as $308,000 in reimbursement. In addition, Ferguson is asking the court to bar Eyman from participating in or directing financial transactions for any political committees going forward.
"He’s talking to the wrong guy if he thinks I’m going to settle this case," Ferguson told KING 5. "What he did was intentional; it was elaborate; it was deceptive, and he personally profited from it. You can’t do it. I intend to take this case all the way to court."
Eyman declined to comment on Friday. However, his attorney, Mark Lamb released the following statement in response to the suit:
"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 long been involved in Washington politics as a staunch anti-tax activist, proposing numerous initiatives over the years to limit tax increases.
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