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Ferguson: 'Shoddy' accounting, 'improper disclosure' by Eyman

Tue, Sep 27, 2016

Accusing the initiative promoter with "shoddy accounting practices" and "improper disclosure" of the source of his campaign minds, Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed three campaign finance complaints against Tim Eyman.

The complaints do not relate to a wider AG probe into allegations that Eyman used initiative donations on personal expenses.

The complaints were filed late Friday (but not disclosed until Monday) in Thurston County Superior Court against three of Eyman's political committees, their principals -- Eyman, Jack Fagan and Mike Fagan -- as well as their treasurer Barbara Smith.

The details:

  • The first complaint alleges the committee "Tougher to Raise Taxes" improperly repaid loans totaling more than $1 million that it received from Eyman and three individuals. The AG alleges that the committee lacked any kind of loan agreement and failed to report in-kind contributions it received from other committees in the form of interest payments.
  • The second complaint alleges that "Bring Back $30 Car Tabs, another Eyman front, violated state disclosure laws by failing to file an independent expenditure report disclosing its spending on campaign ads against members of the Legislature who opposed a separate Eyman-backed initiative. The complaint also alleges that the committee failed to accurately disclosure $3,297 in interest payments it made on a loan for "Tougher to Raise Taxes."
  • A third complaint alleges the "2/3rds-for-Taxes Constitutional Amendment" committee failed to accurately disclose a $599.66 interest payment it made on a loan for "Tougher to Raise Taxes."

Eyman responded with a statement saying: "This year, our committees reported all loans, web videos and other activities." Eyman said his front groups asked the state Public Disclosure Commission for "help and guidance" in obeying the law.

"We were told this morning that despite our best efforts to follow the help and guidance of the PDC, it is now alleged that the changes made to our amended reports were insufficient. In response, our committees will once again work toward amending our reports to address any new issues."

Money moves rapidly between Eyman committees, depending on what initiative he is promoting and what member(s) of the Legislature he is demonizing.

Ferguson is investigating a 76-page investigative report from the state Public Disclosure Commission that contains far more serious allegations.

The Attorney General takes seriously, and has doggedly set out to enforce, a precedent-setting public disclosure initiative put on the ballot and passed by Washington voters in 1972. (The signature gathering was done by citizen volunteers in a time before paid signature firms and mercenaries.)

The bipartisan law, enacted by initiative after the Legislature did not act -- a pattern for many good things that happen in Washington -- was designed to give footprints to campaign donations, whether or not voters take an interest in following them.

The AG's biggest case so far has been hauling a powerful Washington, D.C., lobby, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, into court for laundering millions of dollars spent in a 2013 ballot campaign to block labeling of genetically modified foods.

"Washington's campaign finance laws require, and Washingtonians deserve, fair, accurate and timely disclosure," Ferguson said in a statement.  "When political committees create confusion rather than transparency, I will hold them and the people in charge accountable."

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