June 17, 2024

Brad Marolf

Business & Finance Wonders

WA appeals court largely upholds Eyman campaign finance violations

A Washington state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the vast majority of campaign finance violations that longtime anti-tax activist Tim Eyman was found liable for last year, keeping in place the multimillion-dollar verdict against Eyman and most of the restrictions barring Eyman from controlling the finances of political committees.

While the Division II Court of Appeals largely found for Attorney General Bob Ferguson in his long-running case against Eyman, it did hand Eyman a few limited victories.

It threw out one of the violations against Eyman, a small portion of the restrictions imposed on him, and asked the trial judge to reconsider the size of the fine levied against him.

A Thurston County judge, in 2021, found Eyman committed “numerous and particularly egregious” violations of campaign finance law from 2012 to 2017 as he intermingled funds between political committees he controlled and his own checking account.

“The court upheld the overwhelming majority of the trial court’s ruling, including affirming Eyman’s numerous egregious and intentional violations, and keeping in place key court orders to make it harder for Eyman to engage in future illegal conduct,” Ferguson said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

Eyman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Court of Appeals, on Tuesday, upheld the trial court’s ruling on four of the five campaign finance incidents in question, on issues involving hundreds of thousands of dollars of political donations, loans and payments.

It ruled, however, that there was insufficient evidence that a $103,000 from a political committee to Eyman violated state campaign finance law.

The trial court ruled that Eyman himself is a political committee, under the definition in state law, and should have been filing monthly campaign finance reports for years. The appeals court upheld that ruling.

The trial court had also placed extensive restrictions on Eyman’s ability to handle political money, citing a long history of violations and misconduct.

Eyman can’t authorize spending for any political committee, have a bank account that holds any political committee funds or accept a check for a political committee. He can have no financial decision-making authority for any political committee.

The appeals court upheld the vast majority of those restrictions, but tossed two.

The trial court had forbidden Eyman from misleading potential donors about why they should donate or how donations should be spent. And it had prohibited him from getting payments from vendors who also serve political committees he’s associated with.

Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act does not allow those punishments, the appeals court ruled.

“Misleading potential donors obviously is improper and may be illegal,” Judge Bradley Maxa wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. “But the State does not point to any provision of the FCPA that prohibits a person from misleading potential donors.”

Eyman was fined more than $2.6 million for his campaign finance violations and ordered to pay attorneys’ fees to the state of more than $2.9 million for the case which has run for the better part of a decade.

Eyman has filed for bankruptcy and sold his house. He argued the amounts violated prohibitions on excessive fines in the federal and state constitutions.

The appeals court said it didn’t have enough information to evaluate the claim and asked the trial court to look at it again.

It also ruled that the attorney general had “predominantly prevailed” in the appeal and ordered Eyman to pay more attorneys’ fees to the state.