Eyman forced to sell house to pay campaign finance fines

SEATTLE (AP) — Watch salesman turned anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who was found liable last year for “numerous and particularly egregious” violations of campaign finance law, has been forced to sell his house to help pay millions of dollars of fines and debt.

A federal bankruptcy judge Thursday approved a resolution requiring Eyman to sell his portion of a Mukilteo house to his ex-wife, The Seattle Times reported.

The $900,000 in proceeds will go toward paying over $5.6 million in sanctions and legal fees he owes the state of Washington and other creditors.

Eyman was fined more than $2.6 million in February 2021 after a Thurston County judge found he had enriched himself by laundering political donations, had accepted kickbacks from a signature-gathering company, secretly shuttled money between initiative campaigns and concealed the source of other political contributions.

In the history of Washington state’s campaign finance law, “it would be difficult for the Court to conceive of a case with misconduct that is more egregious or more extensive,” Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon wrote.

Eyman was ordered to pay more than $2.9 million in legal fees to cover the cost of Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s yearslong investigation and prosecution.

Eyman described the penalties against him as “ridiculously unconstitutional and absurdly excessive” in an email to the newspaper.

Eyman has paid about $538,000 in fines and fees but still owes more than $5.6 million, including accrued interest, according to Ferguson’s office.

Eyman filed for bankruptcy just before his trial. A U.S. bankruptcy judge in December found Eyman in default and ordered his bankruptcy case shifted from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7. Chapter 7 means the court appoints a trustee responsible for selling Eyman’s assets and distributing the proceeds to his debtors.

Eyman was also prohibited from directing the finances of any kind of political committee. Eyman long argued such a sentence would be a death blow to his career as a political activist. But after the ruling, he backtracked, saying he would change paperwork on his political committee, but the “the rest will remain the same.”

Eyman has continued to draft and promote initiatives, but he cannot decide how political committees spend money, accept a check for a political committee, have a bank account with political committee funds or negotiate with vendors.

This case goes back to a 2012 probe by the state’s campaign-finance watchdog, the Public Disclosure Commission. It was referred to Ferguson in 2015, and he filed a lawsuit in 2017.

Eyman was held in contempt of court for two years for refusing to cooperate with the lawsuit, and he paid more than $300,000 in resulting fines.

Many of the claims in the lawsuit mirrored a similar case Eyman apologized for in 2002, after it was revealed he’d lied about paying himself from initiative donor funds. He paid $55,000 in fines and was banned from serving as treasurer of a political committee.

“I’ve said everything there is to say about Tim Eyman’s outrageous and illegal conduct,” Ferguson said in a written statement. “Eyman will never take accountability for his actions, because any acknowledgment of wrongdoing would undermine his attempts to pry additional dollars out of his supporters.”