February 10, 2021

A long-running case initiated by a Public Disclosure Commission investigation led to a court ruling Wednesday that initiative campaigner Tim Eyman intentionally violated state campaign finance laws. 

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James J. Dixon found that Eyman misappropriated campaign donations for his personal use and neglected to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. 

Dixon fined Eyman more than $2.6 million and also enjoined Eyman from managing, controlling or directing the finances of any political committees in the future – an action sought by the state. 

The court found that Eyman operated as a continuing political committee and, as such, failed for years to report financial details to the PDC. 

Wednesday’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2017 by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, following the PDC’s investigation. 

“Our investigators worked diligently to untangle the interlocking committees and organizations Tim Eyman employed to conceal his improper use of campaign funds, including for personal expenses,” PDC Chair Fred Jarrett said. “The PDC thanks the Attorney General’s Office for partnering with us to hold accountable those who would violate our state’s campaign finance laws.” 

During the course of the PDC investigation, Eyman initially refused to answer questions and produce records subpoenaed by the agency. 

In 2015 the PDC referred the case to the Attorney General’s office, citing  intentional disregard for the law. In June 2016, a judge ordered Eyman to comply with subpoenas seeking information as part of the Attorney General’s investigation.  

PDC Executive Director Peter Frey Lavallee said that “the public has a right to know about the source of political donations. And they have a right to know that the money is being spent lawfully for its intended purpose – not to line the pockets of someone heading a campaign.” 

Eyman spent more than two years in contempt of court for obstructing the state’s investigation, and was fined more than $300,000 as a result. 

The trial involved in Wednesday’s ruling opened in November 2020. The state accused Eyman of taking kickbacks from signature-gathering firm Citizen Solutions and illegally using more than $1 million in donations from campaign coffers for personal expenses. 

Dixon said his ruling does not prevent Eyman from engaging in political activity, provided he doesn’t control the finances of a political committee. 

“He can continue to be involved in the political process in a manner authorized by law,” Dixon said. “He just has to comply with the law and with the provisions of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. And he hasn’t.”