A Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled that anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman could face a lifetime ban from ever having a hand in the financial transactions for any political campaign.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit alleging that Eyman has "spent decades lying to campaign donors and the public about his misuse of campaign funds," the Seattle Times reports.
According to Ferguson, Eyman has hid financial transactions from his partners and the public, laundered donations through charities, directed contributions intended for one ballot measure committee to another, and pocketed, "at a minimum," hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations.
Eyman argued the court cannot prevent him from controlling financial transactions of a political campaign, saying such a ruling would violate his First Amendment rights.
"The State's threatened injunction is incredibly broad and hopelessly vague – it would be impossible to comply with while exercising my First Amendment rights," Eyman wrote ahead of Friday's court appearance.
Antitrust litigator Eric Newman argued that the potential lifetime ban doesn't infringe on Eyman's speech. Newman noted that Eyman agreed to a similar injunction in 2002, when he agreed to a settlement that barred him from ever again acting as treasurer for a political committee.
In his decision, Judge James Dixon denied Eyman's request, saying he wouldn't decide on any punishment until the facts of the case were settled.
Eyman called the ruling a "gut punch" and "absolutely nuts."
In an email to supporters, Eyman continued saying, "I am completely flabbergasted at the result of today's hearing. It is truly insane."
In 2017, Ferguson's office announced a $2 million civil lawsuit against Eyman.
"Our lawsuit alleges an elaborate web of unlawful financial transactions," Ferguson said at the time. "Tim Eyman personally profited from these transactions and caused inaccurate and misleading reporting."
The suit stems from an investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission released in September of 2015, that said Eyman violated several campaign disclosure laws and profited from signature gathering activities, using some of the money for personal use.
"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."
Eyman also faces a separate charge of misdemeanor theft after he was seen on a surveillance camera wheeling a $70 officer chair out of a Lacey Office Depot. He has pleaded not guilty in the case and said he intended to pay for the chair but was distracted.