Presto Change-o!

Is One Tim Eyman Campaign Secretly Funding Another?

State law is clear: If you use money from one initiative campaign to fund another initiative campaign, you have to report it to the state. Thems the rules. But it appears that the campaigns for Tim Eyman's two statewide initiatives this year may have flouted those rules, in what could turn out to be one of the most egregious campaign-disclosure violations since voters approved the Public Disclosure Act in 1972.

Documents, interviews, and affidavits shared with The Stranger are beginning to bring to light what appears to have been a secret, unreported effort to pay for signatures on Initiative 517 (Eyman's under-the-radar pet project to make initiatives easier to run) using money from the campaign for Initiative 1185 (Eyman's effort to continue restricting the legislature's ability to raise taxes).

Both initiatives are part of Eyman's long-running, right-wing-backed effort to lure voters with appealing ideas that, in the long haul, have crippled the state's budget, decimated social services, and cut off health care services for the poor. And both petition drives were contracted through Citizen Solutions, LLC, the firm Eyman hires to collect signatures for all of his initiatives.

But one of the measures, I-1185, had $1.3 million of corporate money behind it while the other, I-517, had zilch. That suggests a possible motive for the apparent diversion of funds: the need to pay for Eyman's pet initiative somehow. But if that's what transpired—if money intended for I-1185 was used to fund I-517—then Eyman could be facing something even worse than a fine from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). He could be facing the loss of the wealthy backers who have been financing his initiatives since grassroots contributors abandoned him a decade ago.

Eyman has been in trouble with the PDC before. He paid a $50,000 fine in 2002 to settle charges that he diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign donations for personal use, and he was banned from ever controlling another campaign financial account. Now the PDC is investigating a complaint filed August 20 by Sherry Bockwinkel (an Eyman nemesis and an early pioneer of Washington's paid-signature-gathering industry) that alleges the I-517 campaign has failed to file accurate PDC reports. But the initial complaint and supporting documents only hint at the larger potential allegation: an apparent scheme to use the substantial assets of the I-1185 campaign to covertly pay for signatures on I-517, a campaign that has yet to report a single dime of cash contributions.

Eyman wouldn't comment for this story, but if the allegations laid out in a recent PDC complaint prove true, he could wind up in an untenable spot, with pissed-off big-money backers, no grassroots supports, no credibility, no one left to finance his initiatives, and—as a result—no more Tim Eyman.

A Condition of Employment

While Citizen Solutions was always careful to describe the I-517 petition drive as a "volunteer" effort, e-mails and other communications from the firm repeatedly made clear to I-1185 circulators that bringing in equal numbers of both petitions was a condition of employment. "If you don't bring in equal numbers you are fired... watch me," Citizen Solutions co-owner Eddie "Spaghetti" Agazarm threatened I-1185 signature gatherer Steve Burdick in an April 9, 2012, e-mail.

Burdick says Agazarm also told him he would be "blackballed" if he didn't collect I-517 signatures, an account corroborated by subcontractor Rick Walther of Petition Management Services in a separate complaint e-mailed August 21 to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. "If your circulators don't get equal numbers on I-517 and I-1185, you fire their fucking asses," Walther claims that Agazarm instructed him.

If circulators were paid to collect signatures for I-1185, but were required to bring in equal numbers of I-517 as part of their job, then it seems they were de facto paid to collect signatures for I-517.

According to Burdick, Walther and other subcontractors were in fact fired after I-1185 circulators rebelled against demands to collect I-517 signatures for "free," but that didn't stop them from doing work on petition drives.

I-1185 Funds Apparently Paid for I-517 Signatures

Both Walther and Burdick say they were eventually paid for I-517 signatures collected from April through June, and they have produced invoices and cashed checks to back up their claims. Neither, though, was paid directly by Citizen Solutions, which no longer employs signature collectors.

Instead, Citizen Solutions works through multiple levels of subcontractors. For example, Burdick claims he was paid 75 cents per I-517 signature by Rob Harwig of Peoples Petition, LLC, a firm contracting directly with Citizen Solutions, and registered at the same Spokane address. A cashed check is dated May 19. According to invoices, Walther's firm, Petition Management Services, was ultimately paid 50 cents per I-517 signature through Evergreen Petition Management. Evergreen, Burdick says, subcontracted through Harwig's Peoples Petition.

That's five degrees of separation between Eyman and the circulators who worked for Walther, a convoluted path of nested business relationships that could confound PDC investigators' efforts to trace culpability back to the top.

But according to Walther, Agazarm knew what was going on. "I received a call from [Agazarm]," Walther wrote in his e-mail to L&I, "stating that some of the other managers had agreed to pay less per signature on I-1185 so that they could pay something on I-517."

The I-1185 campaign paid Citizen Solutions. Citizen Solutions paid subcontractors. Subcontractors paid for I-517 signatures. It is reasonable to conclude that I-1185 campaign funds were used to pay for I-517 signatures.

The Law

Initiative campaign committees are permitted to make unlimited in-kind contributions to other initiative campaign committees, but neither committee has reported such contributions. Indeed, the only transaction reported by the I-517 campaign during this period was a $4,444.38 in-kind contribution from Agazarm for printing petitions, recorded June 29. I-517 petitions had been in the hands of paid signature collectors since mid-April.

The failure to disclosure may violate Washington's campaign finance laws.

"Gathering signatures to petition the legislature is actually grassroots lobbying," explains the PDC's Lori Anderson. Disclosure is triggered at $500 in expenditures a month, or $1,000 over three consecutive months, a threshold the I-517 campaign would have quickly surpassed on Walther's invoices alone. Anderson says that organizers are required to start reporting within 30 days of reaching that threshold, either through a grassroots lobbying report or through a campaign committee.

As of press time, I-517's backers have filed neither.

The Consequences

It's not just the PDC that Eyman and his cohorts need to be worried about. The Association of Washington Business (AWB) paid $450,000 directly to Citizen Solutions as an in-kind contribution to I-1185. "We were not aware that monies paid to Citizen Solutions might be used to gather signatures for I-517," says AWB's Jocelyn McCabe. Indeed, many of the corporations funding I-1185 may oppose I-517. If Eyman's backers become convinced that they were so shamelessly deceived, they may never trust him with their money again.

Neither Eyman nor Agazarm have responded to requests for comment, but it beggars the imagination to think that culpability doesn't rise all the way up to the top.

And if the PDC does its job, we'll soon find out. recommended


Comments (14) RSS

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Frank Blethen's vodka distiller 1
Wouldn't be the first time Timmeh was caught breaking the rules.
Posted by Frank Blethen's vodka distiller on August 29, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
Great piece Goldy!

How long do you think it will take for the Seattle Times to pick up this story? It's really amazing the stories you can break when you actually practice investigative journalism.
Posted by Justin on August 29, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this
3 can we FINALLY oust this pig?
Posted by auntie grizelda on August 29, 2012 at 1:10 PM · Report this
treefort 4
I'm not convinced it will change supporter opinions. I knew someone who donated to Eyman a bit before the using campaign funds for personal use scandal broke. I expected her to have had a change of heart about Eyman when I asked her about it, she told me she didn't mind at all because Eyman keeping his personal business going with the funds meant he would have more time and ability to make important initiatives. I imagine lots of supporters would say similar things since his pet project initiative would make it easier for him to run future campaigns. People can rationalize anything.
Posted by treefort on August 29, 2012 at 2:22 PM · Report this
The obvious line of defense is right in your article. Managers lower down in the nested businesses made the call to split the money they received to pay their gatherers something for the 517 signatures. Eyman will claim that he had nothing to do with that decision and insist that the PDC fine the principals of the company that made the decision.

At which point, the officers of that company will either take it for Eyman and go bankrupt (unless they've got deep pockets), or they will release whatever documentation they have to try to bring Eyman down with them.

It will be fun to watch.
Posted by Queerly Yours on August 29, 2012 at 2:30 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 6
"he could wind up in an untenable spot, with pissed-off big-money backers, no grassroots supports, no credibility, no one left to finance his initiatives, and—as a result—no more Tim Eyman."

And if wishes were horses, we'd all be fucking Kelly Madison every few hours.*

Your premise sounds like Phoebe-in-Wallingford-caliber tone-trolling. Some of Slimeman's donors may be miffed, but since he's using their money to make it easier to keep doing what they paid him to do, and the general political bent of all his actions is consistently right-wing, it's pretty hard to believe most of them will feel so betrayed that they'll never do business with him again, or that new contributors will never trust him to do their dirty work. IOW, get a quote from a butt-hurt donor to support this angle.

*Well, some of us, anyway.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on August 29, 2012 at 3:01 PM · Report this
Xavier Lopez Jr. 7
Can he be barred from creating initiatives because of this?
Posted by Xavier Lopez Jr. on August 29, 2012 at 5:25 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 8
I don't know who Kelly Madison is, but otherwise I agree with @6. The right wing won't care about splitting funds to support a second right-wing cause.
Posted by Free Lunch on August 29, 2012 at 6:49 PM · Report this
Keep up the good fight Tim! As you well know, the majority of taxpayers in this State appreciate all of the hard work and effort you have demonstrated on our behalf.
Posted by David in Shoreline on August 30, 2012 at 2:50 PM · Report this
Well all you critics can still pay $400-800 car
tabs...........Just what I thought a bunch of hypocrites. How's your democratic's leadership
insourcing jobs to
illegal immigrants helping US citizens and
veterans finding jobs ?????

Listen for the SILENCE
Posted by andrewbushisatwat on August 31, 2012 at 11:00 AM · Report this

If I owned a car that - if fairly valued, which was the biggest beef with the old tab taxes - was worth enough that tabs were $400-800 instead of the $100 or so I'm paying now, I'd actually be fine with that if it meant not seeing the cuts in bus and ferry service (among many other things) that were a direct result of Eyman's first initiative.

As to your illegal immigrant non-sequiter, I'll just let that bit of right-wing crazy speak for itself.

Posted by Mr. X on August 31, 2012 at 8:58 PM · Report this
Occupy Seattle 12
Unfreaking believable. This is what we get with Repuke-blican Secretary of State. It's like the fox guarding the hen house. I don't care if these right-wingers run their initiatives legitimately. Whatever. That's their right. But these law-breaking Koch Brother types and minions have been getting with this shit for way too long.
Posted by Occupy Seattle on September 3, 2012 at 1:44 AM · Report this
Eyman has long been one of the major driving forces behind ruining the initiative process, and in turn, one of the last bastions of true democratic power for the people, in Washington state. What a fucking asshole.
Posted by leviathan on September 4, 2012 at 12:22 PM · Report this
Citizens-initiated amendments to Washington's cuntsitution are illegal;Eymanazi should take his Feudalistic show to California,Oregon,or some other state that allows such things(or he should run for a state-wide office).Go to our state's ballotpedia page and NOTICE THE RED DOT;THAT'S what Eymanazi is attempting to circumvent as a non-member of the Whoregislature!!!
Posted by 5th Columnist on September 12, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this

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