PDC investigation into WFEG’s allegations against Tim Eyman finds “multiple apparent violations”

Lady justice with scales

Earlier this week, staff at the Public Disclosure Commission notified Washingtonians For Ethical Government that they have completed their investigation into our allegations that Tim Eyman broke the law when he launched an ad campaign excoriating Democratic lawmakers back in April. The PDC found “multiple apparent violations” of Chapter 42.17A, Washington State’s public disclosure law, and staff are recommending that the Commission refer the matter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for further action. The Commission will take up the matter at a special meeting tomorrow.

“We applaud PDC staff for swiftly investigating this matter and for recommending that the Commission vote to turn the case over to Attorney General Bob Ferguson,” said WFEG boardmember and spokesman Andrew Villeneuve, who has organized opposition against Tim Eyman’s initiatives for more than fourteen years and serves as the Executive Director of the Northwest Progressive Institute.

“Tim Eyman’s attorney has disingenuously tried to argue that ‘at no time was the public, the press, or legislators deprived of their right to know who was sponsoring and paying for these web videos’. But the fact is, Eyman broke the law when he improperly converted a committee set up to promote a ballot measure into a vehicle for launching independent expenditures against Democratic legislators. His treasurer Barbara Smith failed to report the ads financed by Eyman’s wealthy benefactors Clyde Holland and Kenneth Fisher as independent expenditures. Making matters worse, their ads did not include the ‘No candidate authorized this ad’ disclosures that the law requires.”

“The people of Washington created the Public Disclosure Commission decades ago through a citizen initiative to shine a light on money in politics,” Villeneuve noted. “Journalists, activists, and citizens rely on the PDC’s website to track contributions and expenditures, including independent expenditures. The PDC, in turn, relies on campaigns to voluntarily comply with the law in order to offer the public accurate and timely data. The system breaks down when bad actors like Tim Eyman withhold information. That’s why enforcement in this case is so important.”

To elaborate further: It should have been possible for the public to see, by looking at the PDC’s website, that Tim Eyman was running ads against candidates like Senator Mark Mullet, Representative Chris Kilduff, or Representative Roger Goodman. But because Eyman’s operation failed to follow the law, the PDC’s website lacked information about the ten ads that PDC staff have determined met the threshold for independent expenditures.

As it stands now, the ads are still not properly documented. Go to the PDC’s website, choose Browse, choose Independent Expenditures, select “Goodman, Roger,” then “2016”. Execute the search. As of July 7th, 2016, the result of the query is zero (no records to display). It’s not possible to know from searching the database or viewing reports that Tim Eyman spent more than $1,000 on an ad opposing Roger Goodman, because Tim Eyman’s treasurer didn’t report what Eyman did.

“As I said when we first notified the Attorney General of our intent to bring a citizen action against Eyman for these violations if they did not act first, Tim Eyman is a serial public disclosure law violator with a history of concealment, sloppy reporting, and delinquent filing,” Villeneuve added. “The PDC has been extremely patient and forgiving with Tim over the years, but instead of cleaning up his act, he has continued to violate the law with impunity. This is unacceptable. It’s time for Eyman to pay a steep price for his lawbreaking, and that’s why we’re so glad that PDC staff have recommended this case be handed over to Attorney General Ferguson to be prosecuted.”

Washingtonians For Ethical Government is represented by Knoll Lowney of Smith & Lowney, PLLC. Knoll Lowney’s past 45-day notice letters have resulted in significant penalties and litigation. His 45-day notice letter against the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) resulted in the imposition of a $584,000 penalty against the BIAW’s for-profit affiliate.  More recently, his 45-day notice letter against the Grocery Manufacturers Association led to Ferguson’s office litigating what it calls “the largest political funding concealment case in state history.”