Initiative promoter Tim Eyman is facing perhaps the biggest cloud of his career with a looming attorney general’s office investigation into his alleged misuse of campaign funds.
But in his first media appearance since the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) asked the AG’s office to step in and examine possible civil and criminal charges, Eyman argued the controversy shouldn’t much matter to voters considering his latest anti-tax measure, Initiative 1366.
“I believe that this year is no different than any other, that the voters will make their decision based on the merits of the initiative ... and that it wouldn’t be any different than if it was sponsored by Mother Teresa,” Eyman said Tuesday during an I-1366 endorsement interview with The Seattle Times editorial board.
Eyman refused to answer questions on a 224-page PDC investigative report issued last week, which found evidence he’d taken secret payments from a signature-gathering firm and accused him of illegally shuffling donations between two separate 2012 initiatives and using campaign money for personal expenses.
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“I respect the fact that you have to ask the questions ... But any question you ask me about it, I’m simply going to talk more about 1366,” he said.
I-1366, which is on the Nov. 3 ballot, seeks to reinstate a two-thirds supermajority requirement for any tax increases passed by the Legislature, except those sent to the ballot for voter approval. Voters repeatedly have backed the supermajority requirement, but it was struck down by the state Supreme Court two years ago as unconstitutional.
If lawmakers refuse to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2016 ballot reinstating the two-thirds rule, I-1366 would cut the state’s 6.5-cent sales tax by a penny, reducing state revenues by $8 billion over the next six years.
Eyman said he’d only talk about the merits of that initiative in response to numerous questions from editorial- board members and a Seattle Times reporter about the PDC allegations, which are now under review by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office.
He would not say whether he was being paid this year by Citizen Solutions, the signature-gathering firm that received more than $1.2 million this year to qualify I-1366 for the November ballot. The PDC probe found evidence Eyman has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from the firm -- including a $300,000 wire transfer in 2012.
Eyman also refused to say whether he believes he should have been more transparent or whether any donors have told him they feel misled by his activities.
“I believe that I will be talking exclusively about Initiative 1366. You can ask me every question you want,” Eyman said.
Eyman said his critics are always trying to “change the subject” from the policy debate, and that supporters of I-1366 want him to stay focused on the ballot measure and nothing else.
State Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, who joined Eyman for the editorial-board interview, said he does worry the news about the PDC investigation will influence voters. “I am concerned about what the public perception will be,” Orcutt said.
But Orcutt said he hopes the media and public will separate arguments about I-1366 from Eyman’s reputation.
Since news of the PDC allegations broke last week, the normally publicity-hungry Eyman has dodged other public events, pulling out of a scheduled KING 5 debate with I-1366 opponents on Friday.
Aaron Ostrom, executive director of Fuse Washington, a liberal advocacy group, was supposed to square off with Eyman at the KING event. He said voters should weigh the latest accusations against Eyman when they consider I-1366 in November.
“It doesn’t make sense for anyone to vote for or support anything he does at this point. He’s being investigated for being a crook,” Ostrom said.