Tim Eyman forced to sell house to pay campaign finance fines, debts

Tim Eyman, the longtime anti-tax advocate and serial initiative promoter 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 off 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 $900,000 in proceeds will go toward paying off the more than $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 subsequently 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 of the case.

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

“It is gross and unseemly for the AG to brag about taking my home and draining me of every dollar I’ve ever earned in my lifetime,” Eyman said.

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 began. His profligate spending while under bankruptcy became a point of contention, with Ferguson arguing he was “draining” his estate in advance of the coming sanctions. Eyman attempted to withdraw his bankruptcy petition but was denied.

As part of the ruling against him, Eyman was also barred from directing the finances of any kind of political committee. For years, Eyman argued such a sentence would be a death blow to his career as a political activist. But after the ruling was handed down, he backtracked, saying he would change some paperwork on his political committee, but the “the rest will remain the same.”

Eyman can, and 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 dates back to a 2012 investigation 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 suit 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 prepared 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. Consequently, he will continue to falsely portray himself as the victim while losing where it matters — in court.”