Appeals court upholds most Eyman campaign finance violations

December 7, 2022 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — A Washington state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld most of the campaign finance violations that longtime anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman was found liable for last year.

The court kept in place the multimillion-dollar verdict against Eyman and the majority of the restrictions prohibiting Eyman from controlling the finances of political committees, The Seattle Times reported.

The Division II Court of Appeals largely found for Attorney General Bob Ferguson in his case against Eyman, but Eyman received a few limited victories. It tossed one of the violations against Eyman, a small portion of the restrictions imposed on him, and asked the trial judge to reconsider the size of the fine levied against him.

A Thurston County judge found in 2021 that Eyman committed “numerous and particularly egregious” violations of campaign finance law from 2012 to 2017 as he mixed money between political committees he controlled and his own checking account.

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“The court upheld the overwhelming majority of the trial court’s ruling, including affirming Eyman’s numerous egregious and intentional violations, and keeping in place key court orders to make it harder for Eyman to engage in future illegal conduct,” Ferguson said in a statement Tuesday.

Eyman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the newspaper.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling on four of the five campaign finance incidents in question, on issues involving hundreds of thousands of dollars of political donations, loans and payments.

The court on the fifth incident ruled that there was insufficient evidence that $103,000 from a political committee to Eyman violated state campaign finance law.

The trial court had also restricted Eyman’s ability to handle political money, citing a history of violations and misconduct.

Eyman can’t authorize spending for any political committee, have a bank account that holds political committee funds or accept a check for a political committee. He can have no financial decision-making authority for any political committee.

The appeals court tossed two restrictions. The trial court had barred Eyman from misleading potential donors about why they should donate or how donations should be spent. And it had prohibited him from getting payments from vendors who also serve political committees with which he is associated.

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Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA) does not allow those punishments, the appeals court ruled.

“Misleading potential donors obviously is improper and may be illegal,” Judge Bradley Maxa wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. “But the State does not point to any provision of the FCPA that prohibits a person from misleading potential donors.”

Eyman was fined more than $2.6 million for his campaign finance violations and ordered to pay attorneys’ fees to the state of over $2.9 million for the case.

Eyman has filed for bankruptcy and sold his house. He argued the amounts violated prohibitions on excessive fines in the federal and state constitutions.

The appeals court said it didn’t have enough information to evaluate the claim and asked the trial court to revisit it.