Resilient Eyman declares
independence, soon to turn pro
By DAVID AMMONS
The Associated Press
8/17/02 3:01 AM
OLYMPIA (AP) -- After an amazing six-month
ordeal of self-flagellation,
public criticism and legal hassles, Tim Eyman is
still standing. And
he's about to turn pro.
Like one of those clown toys that pop right back
up after you bash them
in the nose, the state's initiative impresario
has showed remarkable
resilience. Even a $50,000 fine, which
would stagger most grassroots
politicians, isn't putting Eyman out of
Indeed, he has three -- count 'em -- initiatives
in the works right now
and is hoping to influence the debate on a
fourth ballot measure, the $8
billion transportation referendum that's on the
Going away, he ain't.
Although his Boy Scout image has been tarnished,
he has emerged with the
lockstep support of the state's anti-tax rebels
and is on the cusp of
becoming the state's first professional, paid
"Despite my past mistakes and past
stupidness, does this light my fire,
fighting the good cause ... getting down into
the snake pit of
politics?" he says, confirming his desire
to turn pro next year. "The
answer has been booming in my head:
"To me, it is the most interesting,
fascinating, vibrant process
imaginable. There are no holds barred,
just unbridled passion. You get
the forces of good and evil clashing -- and both
sides think they're the
good ones. Ultimately, it's all up to the
"It is so magnetic to me. I am enormously
drawn to the process.
"This is full-bore, vintage Tim Eyman, not
the bawling boob they saw in
February. This is Tim Eyman, swinging the
bat, the guy who shakes up
the status quo."
His decision to become a long-term fixture
gladdens the heart of tax
critics who see him as a last line of defense
against Big Government --
and depresses those who think he is dangerously
services and representative government itself.
Both sides agree with Eyman that his ultimate
fate really isn't up to
him, and rests with the Eymanistas who pay for
the campaigns with their
$10 and $20 checks, and with the voters who
judge his ideas. Bottom
line: If he fails to qualify measures for the
ballot or the voters start
turning them down one after another, he's toast.
A NEW ROLE...
He's clearly still figuring out the details --
and it's still a
half-year off -- but Eyman confirms that he
intends to hang out his
shingle and run initiatives as a salaried
professional, rather than as
unpaid Citizen Tim.
Or pretending to be unpaid, as we now know.
For a time, his future as a political force was
very much in doubt.
Eyman earned a place in political history by
creating the state's first
initiative factory, which he called Permanent
Offense. He racked up
repeated victories by packaging his anti-tax
initiatives as the product
of a volunteer motivated only by the commonweal.
In February, he 'fessed up. He had been
secretly using campaign
contributions to create a salary fund -- about
$200,000 in all -- while
flatly, repeatedly denying it.
True, it's perfectly legal, even common, for a
campaign to pay political
consultants. Eyman's sin was that he had
lied -- even his astonished
co-chairmen didn't know about the secret pay
arrangement. And he got in
trouble with the law for numerous reporting
When the Public Disclosure Commission whacked
him and then turned the
case over to the attorney general to haul him to
court, the speculation
was that he might not be able to survive.
After all, the state had won
penalties of $400,000 against the teachers'
Would a gigantic fine, coupled with the torrent
of negative headlines,
be enough to sideline him once and for all?
For a time, the elders of his organizations
"benched" him, took away his
checkbook and suggested he zip his lip.
And so he withdrew to his Mukilteo home and
pondered his future -- much
of it beyond his control.
One big question was whether his backers --
perhaps 30,000 have
contributed to previous campaigns -- would stand
by him. Most did,
sending money, encouraging notes and voter
signatures for a new
Eventually, about five months after his February
freakout, Eyman tiptoed
out to test the water. He came to Olympia
to submit signatures for this
fall's Eyman initiative, trimming car-tab taxes,
and recently unveiled a
2003 edition, diverting car sales taxes from the
general treasury to the
The state's lawsuit still was pending, but
eventually went away. His
attorneys negotiated a $50,000 out-of-court
settlement that also
included an unprecedented agreement that he will
never control the
pursestrings of a campaign.
Both points -- the gigantic fine and the muzzle
-- would humiliate and
impoverish just about anyone, but Eyman kept his
bounce. He's already
soliciting donations to a legal defense fund,
and says he'll work for
Permanent Offense pro bono this year.
AND NOW WHAT?
Eyman began laying the groundwork to become
Consultant Tim last week.
He took his lumps by paying the fat fine, went
to court to deal with two
new lawsuits brought by challengers, and
declared his independence from
Permanent Offense for a new 2003 tax-limit
initiative. His newest
brainchild would limit local government revenue
increases to 1 percent
per year unless more is approved by voters.
In letters and e-mails to his supporters, Eyman
signaled that he intends
to stay involved in initiative politics
"for years to come," but doesn't
intend to draw a salary this year.
But next year is a different matter.
"I'm going to risk six months, and possibly
more, of my time to get the
initiative qualified. I'm going to donate
my services, my time and
effort and expertise, to get it on the ballot.
If, and only if, I am
successful in getting it on the ballot, I'm
going to go to our
supporters and say `I'd appreciate it if you
would compensate me for the
effort I'm putting into the fall
He has no idea how much that might be.
He said some initiatives fail to get on the
ballot because the campaign
consultant soaks up the early contributions for
salary and expenses,
rather than hiring paid signature-gatherers.
"Say what you want about my screwups,
everybody got paid off first and
Tim got paid last," he says.
REACTIONS ROLL IN
His allies at Permanent Offense were caught
flat-footed by his decision
to launch off onto his own.
"This is a free country," said
Co-Chairman Mike Fagan of Spokane. "We
always knew that was a possibility. We're
not married and there will
come a time when we will outgrow each other.
For the time being, we are
"Whether Tim turns pro, that's basically up
to him. Whether the rest of
us follow suit, I guess only time will tell. I
will have to make a
decision myself. We don't have any problem
with that (drawing a salary)
as long as it is all above board."
Fagan said he's glad Eyman is staying in the
He says the group's "plate is full and
runneth over," but that some
partisans may help Eyman's new endeavors.
Co-Chairman Monte Benham of Kennewick criticizes
Eyman's decision to add
a third initiative to the mix.
Christian Sinderman, Eyman's critic-in-chief,
says he's not surprised by
Eyman turning pro. Eyman has been at it
for five years and could have a
long run, given that there is always an
anti-government wave to ride, he
Eyman Fatigue will occur when voters finally
realize what he, and they,
have done to critical public services, he says.
"He clearly has faltered, but he's still
there as a force," says House
Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam.
"Ultimately, I think people
will realize they have to look more closely at
initiatives and when they
start seeing the pinch, they will realize that
Mr. Eyman is pinching
"They'll realize that things are not so
simplistic and that you can't
run a government by initiative."
Lobbyist Ed Owens says Eyman remains viable and
speaks for a significant
number of voters, but the public mood is
changing. That skepticism
could be Eyman's undoing, he says.
"Initiatives are out of control," he
Send letters to: Tim Eyman, Taxpayer
Advocate, 11913 59th Ave W, Mukilteo, WA