Eyman `benched' as initiative quarterback

The Associated Press
2/12/02 3:41 PM

OLYMPIA (AP) -- Tim Eyman has been "benched" as leader of the most
successful initiative organization in Washington's history, his
co-chairmen said Tuesday.

Eyman has been removed as chief spokesman and pitchman for Permanent
Offense, following his confession last week that he diverted more than
$200,000 in campaign contributions into a salary fund for himself.

His co-chairmen have taken away his checkbook and moved the
organization's headquarters to Kennewick.

Eyman is welcome to return in a lower-profile role later this year, but
has made no decision about his future, said the new chief spokesman,
Monte Benham.

Eyman revealed in an interview with The Associated Press last week that
he diverted $45,000 in campaign contributions as salary, after
repeatedly telling reporters he would never use the donations for
personal use. He said he took the money at the end of 2000 and had
planned to take another $157,000 later this year.

The remaining co-chairs, Benham and Jack and Mike Fagan of Spokane, said
they will leave it to Eyman to decide what to do with the $157,000.
They held open the possibility that a salary will be approved for Eyman
and perhaps other organizers later this year.

Eyman has said he regrets lying, but that he didn't do anything
illegal.  The state Public Disclosure Commission has filed a formal
complaint against him.

Eyman's three co-chairmen told a news conference near the Capitol that
Eyman remains a board member of Permanent Offense and an important part
of their campaign team. But they made it clear he no longer has power
over the pursestrings and won't be the public face for the group for

"He doesn't have the checkbook," Benham said.

Eyman has been in seclusion since the heavy media blitz surrounding his
confession. He sent a statement to be read at the news conference,
downplaying his front-line role.

"We have always been and always will be a team," he said, adding, "The
press and our opponents have never understood that our thousands of
supporters were always the leaders of this movement and Monte, Jack,
Mike and I were the followers."

Benham used a football metaphor throughout a lengthy news conference,
saying Eyman has been "benched" for now and that he himself is the new

The Permanent Offense organizers, all compatriots of Eyman's since the
wildly successful $30 car tab Initiative 695 in 1999, brimmed with
optimism about the chances of their new Initiative 776, despite Eyman's

"We come out of this stronger than ever before," with volunteers and
supporters more energized and motivated, Benham said. "What we're doing
is bigger than Tim Eyman."

He said over $20,000 in contributions rolled in last week after Eyman's
confession, and that nearly all e-mails and letters to the organization
have been supportive of Eyman personally and for his cause of smaller,
cheaper government.

Their new initiative would roll back car taxes to $30, the original
intent of I-695. The most dramatic impact would be to roll back about 20
percent of the funding for Sound Transit, the mass transit project in
Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.

Jack Fagan said organizers still are undecided whether to pursue a
second initiative Eyman had been pitching, to hold local government
revenue growth to 1 percent per year, not counting voter-approved taxes.

Benham said he couldn't guess whether Eyman will make a comeback as a
high-profile initiative king, but added that he needs to spend time with
his family.

"He's not ostracized," said Mike Fagan. He said Eyman needs some time
for healing and regrouping after several years of grueling work and this
latest rough patch.

"After running 100 miles an hour, the guy is burned out, a crispy
critter, big time," he said in an interview.


PO Box 6131
Kennewick, WA  99336

Sincerely, Monte Benham, email:  rmonteb@aol.com, ph:  509-783-3829

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