FILE — Tim Eyman hearing

In this February 4, 2020, file photo, initiative promoter Tim Eyman waits to speak during a hearing before the Washington State Senate Transportation Committee at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington. A judge has ruled that Eyman illegally failed to report more than $766,000 in campaign contributions over a six-year period. Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon issued his ruling Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, in a lawsuit brought against Eyman by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. 

(The Center Square) — Tax protester and former Washington gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman appeared in court on Monday to face allegations of failing to comply with state campaign finance laws.

Eyman, a controversial civic activist known for filing statewide initiatives on everything from affirmative action to taxes, stands accused by the Washington State public Disclosure Commission of failing to disclose as much as one million dollars from state campaign regulators.

The commission's lawsuit against Eyman stems from accusations made in 2015 which included claims that Eyman used campaign money to pay for personal expenses.

Eyman has since racked up more than $230,000 in sanctions after being held in contempt of court for two years for refusing to comply with the court.

It has taken Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson three years to bring the particular case to trial.

"Even after paying fines and having adverse judgments entered against him, he continues to flout the law and seek new ways to conceal donations and benefit from them personally," Ferguson wrote in a court brief. "He did so intentionally and willfully, even after both the Public Disclosure Commission [PDC] and his own accountant warned him that the law required otherwise.”

Eyman argues that the money he received from the campaigns in question was part of a consulting contract he and his Watchdog for Taxpayers were paid for.

Eyman's lawyer, former Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, wrote in a trial brief that his client has nothing to hide.

"If he had an independent duty to disclose something, he would have," Sanders wrote. "All of these transactions were legal, and all taxes were paid. And they would have shown that Mr. Eyman received compensation for his initiative work and that he supported the initiatives he sponsored which are things the public already knew.”

Sanders argued further that the state had no right to require Eyman to report on his "friends and supporters" which he said violated his client's First Amendment rights.

Eyman was convicted of another case of campaign finance fraud in 2012 costing him $55,000 in fines. The court's decision spurred Eyman to file for bankruptcy.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled in February that Eyman broke Washington campaign finance laws for at least the past seven years by concealing nearly $800,000 in political contributions.

Eyman, Dixon ruled, was about seven years tardy in registering a political committee and a combined 476 years tardy in filing 110 monthly campaign finance reports. 

Filing a late campaign finance report would cost Eyman $10 per day and up to $30 per day if Dixon found Eyman's conduct was deliberate.

Eyman announced last week that he is promoting two more ballot initiatives to ban the passage of any carbon taxes and state income taxes. 

Washingtonians have voted against a carbon tax twice in the past four years by overwhelming margins. An initiative in 2016 failed by a 19-point margin and another failed by a 12-point margin in 2018.

A state income tax has never been passed in the state since its founding and would require an amendment to the state constitution.

In October, a car tab initiative sponsored by Eyman, I-976, was unanimously struck down by the Supreme Court of Washington, overturning a cap on the state's vehicle registration fees.

Eyman has since filed a “Motion for Reconsideration” that awaits a judge's input.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.