Ferguson can go directly to feds, banks for withheld documents
OLYMPIA — Granting a request from Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Snohomish County Superior Court judge today ruled that Tim Eyman and his political committees violated her June 29 order by failing to meet the court-ordered deadline for disclosing documents in the Attorney General’s campaign finance probe.
The court also granted the Attorney General’s request to seek relevant documents directly from the federal government and Eyman’s and the committees’ banks. In her order, Judge Ellen J. Fair directed Eyman and the political committees to sign releases authorizing the Attorney General’s Office to do so.
Today’s order also reserves ruling on two issues: whether to hold Eyman and the political committees in contempt, and whether to grant the AGO’s motion for attorneys’ fees. A hearing on attorneys’ fees is set for Aug. 31.
“Tim Eyman and his committees continue to resist a lawful investigation every step of the way,” Ferguson said. “I won’t allow them to ignore subpoenas, and neither will our courts.”
A separate motion for contempt regarding for-profit signature gathering firm Citizen Solutions, also under investigation by the AGO related to its dealings with Eyman, will be argued in Thurston County Aug. 26. On Aug. 5, a Thurston County judge imposed more than $10,000 in costs and fees related to the state’s effort to enforce its subpoenas on Citizen Solutions.
The court previously ordered the respondents to submit a declaration or affidavit to the court attesting that they have submitted all responsive materials by July 13. Eyman filed a certification on Aug. 11, but the AGO’s review of documents provided indicates that it was inaccurate.
On Nov. 13, 2015, the Attorney General’s Office issued civil orders to Tim Eyman; his political committees, including Voters Want More Choices and Protect Your Right to Vote on Initiatives; his for-profit company, Tim Eyman Watchdog for Taxpayers; and Citizen Solutions and its principals.
In order to complete its investigation, the Attorney General’s Office sought business and financial information, including banking and tax records, regarding Eyman initiative campaigns in Washington. The respondents produced only a smattering of records — many of those heavily censored. The respondents also failed to pursue any court protection for information they believed to be privileged.
Because Eyman failed to produce the necessary records, the Attorney General asked the courts to order the respondents to comply.
On June 29, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair ordered Eyman and his committees to comply with Ferguson’s subpoena by July 13. On July 1, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson issued a similar order for Citizen Solutions and its principals, Roy Ruffino and William Agazarm. Both judges also ordered the respondents to pay the Attorney General’s Office costs and fees associated with enforcing the subpoenas.
Despite the courts’ orders, Eyman and his committees continued to impede the investigation. On July 13, they produced just 247 pages of records, a small fraction of what the court ordered.
Eyman only produced partial tax documents for himself and his business, Tim Eyman Watchdog for Citizens LLC, and no income tax records for any of the political committees.
No financial records for the political committees were produced at all, except 17 partial bank statements for Voters Want More Choices.
Since the AG filed his contempt motion, Eyman and the committees produced additional tax records and some banking records, but still failed to produce all the records as requested. There is evidence of other records, including other payments to Citizen Solutions, which have not been produced.
Background on Investigation
In April 2012, the state Public Disclosure Commission received a complaint about Eyman and two of his political committees, Voters Want More Choices and Protect Your Right to Vote on Initiatives. The complaint alleged failures to register as political committees, failure to file timely reports on expenditures and contributions, and the use of funds raised in support of one initiative for a different initiative.
In September 2015, PDC staff presented the results of their investigation to the Commission. The investigation, which addressed conduct from 2012, discovered evidence of multiple apparent violations of state law, including:
- $623,325 in payments by Voters Want More Choices to the signature gathering firm Citizen Solutions “incurred in a manner to effect concealment” because they were described in the committee’s reports as paying for signature gathering, when $308,185 was passed from Citizen Solutions to Eyman’s for-profit company, “Tim Eyman, Watchdog for Taxpayers” on July 11, 2012;
- Eyman’s use of approximately $170,000 in contributions from Voters Want More Choices for personal living expenses;
- The expenditure of about $200,000 contributed to support Initiative 1185 to fund signature gathering for a separate initiative, Initiative 517;
- Concealment of Eyman as the source of $182,000 of in-kind contributions attributed in reports to Citizens in Charge, a Virginia-based company; and
- Failure of Voters Want More Choices and Protect Your Right to Vote on Initiatives to file complete and accurate reports of contribution and expenditure activity.
More details on the investigation and the initial complaint are available in the PDC’s referral letter here.
The commission referred the results of its staff’s investigation to the Attorney General’s Office for appropriate legal action. The commission further noted that it “[was] extremely troubled that it appears that Mr. Eyman intended to hide from the public the sources of funds and the actual purposes for which expenditures were made, and to further conceal that funds were used by Mr. Eyman solely for his personal use.” The commission recommended that the Attorney General consider further investigation into this transaction practice for other years.
In November 2015, the Attorney General began an investigation into the allegations that Eyman, his political committees, his for-profit company and the signature gathering firm Citizen Solutions concealed other financial transactions for years beyond those covered by the PDC investigation, in violation of the state campaign finance disclosure laws. That investigation is ongoing.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov