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State accuses Tim Eyman of violating campaign laws, pocketing money from supporters

SEATTLE – Tim Eyman is facing more legal challenges.

This time state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Eyman violated campaign contribution laws and defrauded the same people he was trying to help.

The state filed a $2.1 million lawsuit Friday alleging Eyman illegally used donated money for his own expenses.

Eyman declined an on-camera interview requested by Q13 News but his attorney said Friday's filing boils down to whether a pair of transactions should have been included in official reports.

But Ferguson said that information is required and Eyman deliberately duped his supporters.

“This is an elaborate system of deception all to provide for the profit of Tim Eyman,” said Ferguson.

The investigation stems from 2012 and alleges Eyman, an advocate for smaller government and lower taxes, defrauded campaign contributors and lined his own pockets.

“What his conduct does is jeopardizes our political process,” said Ferguson. “Those voters did not know where campaign donations were flowing and they’re entitled to know that.”

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission said it found discrepancies in Eyman’s paperwork that didn’t account for more than $300,000 in campaign contributions – and allege nearly one-third of that went to pay for his own personal expenses.

The chairwoman of the PDC, Anne Levinson, called the case one of the most egregious she has ever seen.

“His explanation that he did not intend to hide the sources or uses of funds strained credibility,” she said.

The lawsuit also claims that some money Eyman helped raise for on initiative was funneled into the campaign of a completely different initiative.  All the while, Ferguson claims, supporters had no idea where their money was going.

“Every donation to me, every donation to political action committee, the public is entitled to know,” Ferguson said. “That’s our law and that’s the law he violated over and over again.”

Eyman’s attorney, Mark Lamb, sent Q13 News a written statement in response to the allegations:

"For all of the heated rhetoric earlier today, this dispute is simple: whether two transactions needed to be included on campaign reports. The Attorney General believes they should, we do not. From the beginning, Mr. Eyman has made clear he did nothing wrong and the money he received was lawfully earned for the services he provided. The Attorney General has filed a suit against my clients today because (with the statute of limitations looming) these claims would have otherwise been time-barred. Many plaintiffs overreach and file a kitchen sink of claims when they are faced with a statute of limitations deadline.

"Just last year the Attorney General attempted several politically motivated campaign finance prosecutions that have been dismissed on summary judgment. Just this week, the Supreme Court denied the Attorney General’s request for direct review in one of these failed prosecutions. The more I have examined the State’s claims in this matter the less impressed I am. Mr. Eyman has the same First Amendment rights as the Attorney General himself. It is chilling that the stated purpose of this action is to permanently bar him from participating in the political process in this State.

"Cases are litigated in court, not press conferences. Indeed, in Washington state the special responsibilities of a prosecutor include the obligation to, “refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused”. I will leave it to others to decide if this morning’s press conference meets that standard."

Eyman and his attorney have 20 days to respond to the state’s complaints in court.