Tim Eyman files for bankruptcy
Last updated 12/7/2018 at Noon
Mukilteo resident Tim Eyman, the well-known conservative political activist, has filed for bankruptcy, citing his lengthy, ongoing battle with State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Eyman is perhaps best known statewide for his repeated attempts at getting measures on the state ballot that would reduce car tab fees to $30.
Last year, Ferguson’s office filed a $2.1 million lawsuit against Eyman, alleging improper use of over $300,000 in contributions made to political committees, concealment of contributions totaling nearly $500,000, and misleading reporting. The lawsuit also accuses Citizen Solutions, a for-profit signature-gathering firm that Eyman has used, of participating in a scheme to conceal money it funneled to Eyman.
In 2012, a Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) complaint was filed, alleging Eyman didn’t report that he shifted money which had been donated to I-1185, an initiative that concerned tax and fee increases imposed by state government, into I-517’s campaign. I-517 sought to reform Washington’s initiative and referendum process.
Money can move between one committee to another under Washington state law, but it must be disclosed in PDC reports. Ferguson claims Eyman concealed this information.
In addition to the multimillion dollar fine, Ferguson is also seeking a lifetime ban for Eyman on participating in or directing financial transactions for any political committees going forward.
There have also been issues with Eyman turning over requested information and documents to Ferguson’s office. This prompted Eyman to be fined daily for being in contempt of court.
This isn’t the first major scandal Eyman has been a part of during his time as an initiative promoter.
In 2002, a court agreement permanently prevented Eyman from serving as treasurer for political committees after it was discovered he was illegally profiting from campaign funds.
On Thursday, Nov. 29, Eyman sent a newsletter to supporters telling them that he has filed for bankruptcy as well as divorce. In the newsletter, Eyman says his legal battle with Ferguson is the root cause of his bankruptcy. Eyman did not wish to comment further for this story, instead deferring to the Nov. 29 newsletter.
“For six long years, I’ve been slammed with the most intense, soul-crushing government litigation against a private individual in state history,” Eyman said. “While the AG has had unlimited resources to assign teams of taxpayer-financed lawyers to bury me and my attorneys in an endless maze of motions and procedures, my legal costs have had to be funded privately (from my family’s limited resources and from financial support from folks like you). I was doing the best I could to keep up.”
Eyman declaring bankruptcy has temporarily halted Ferguson’s legal pursuit.
Under federal law, when bankruptcy is filed, it essentially pauses any civil proceedings against the debtor, in this case Eyman.
Eyman said two things happened for him to finally reach his breaking point.
The first, he said, was when Ferguson’s office went after his wife, Karen, who he described as a “very private person with serious health challenges.”
The second was the delay of his trial date against Ferguson, which had been set for Nov. 26.
“The AG saw how costly the investigative phase was for me so they decided to pile on, asking the court for three additional months to investigate,” Eyman said. “My attorneys warned that meant losing the trial date. The judge nonetheless granted their extension, causing a massive delay. The trial was reset ... to Jan. 2020! Here’s why an extra 14 months was so devastating: last month’s legal bill from just one of my attorneys was $80,000!”
Eyman said bankruptcy was his only option, and that it’s going to be the most difficult financial challenge he’s ever faced.
“What’s bankruptcy going to cost me? The amount that the government, the lawyers, and others are going to take from me is the value of all my assets on the day I filed for bankruptcy,” he said. “That includes our home, cars, furniture, savings, etc. And it will be the bankruptcy judge, not the AG, who will decide how much I owe.”
According to multiple reports statewide, Eyman has just over $2 million in assets, while his liabilities are nearly $3.2 million.
In the same Nov. 29 newsletter, Eyman told his supporters he and his wife are getting divorced. They have been married since 1994, and have three adopted children.
“For many years, it was just the two of us living a normal, quiet life. That changed dramatically when political activism became the passion of my life,” he said. “As you can imagine, it’s far from normal and certainly not quiet. Even so, she’s always been completely supportive. But recently, the stress and strain and intense pressure from the escalating litigation became unbearable.”
Despite the rough week, Eyman said he is dedicated to his work, believing it’s his life’s mission to be a political activist.
“For 20 years, I’ve done the best I could, fighting for taxpayers and being the best husband and father I could,” he said. “Even though the path I’m following has resulted in significant sacrifices that I still have not fully absorbed, I’m going to keep at it because our work together is needed now more than ever.”
He also said he’s not “going to let the government get away with this. If they shut me down, who’s next?”
Earlier this year, Eyman announced he was again trying to get his $30 car tab fees on the ballot with I-976 after not receiving enough signatures last year to get on the ballot.
Eyman loaned his campaign $500,000 to help kick off his new campaign so he could hire paid petitioners to gather signatures. On Friday, Nov. 30, Eyman sent out another newsletter, saying the initiative needs roughly 20,000 more signatures by the end of the year to qualify for the November 2019 ballot.