SEATTLE — Tim Eyman is bankrupt. But he’s not spending money like someone who’s bankrupt, at least according to the state of Washington, his largest creditor.
Eyman, whose personal, business and legal expenses are paid through donations from his supporters, has spent an average of nearly $24,000 a month over the past year, according to his bankruptcy filings.
Big chunks of that are for lawyers. The longtime anti-tax activist is waging legal battles on multiple fronts as he mounts a campaign for governor. But there are myriad other expenses that the state says seem needlessly extravagant and risk exhausting Eyman’s finances before he can pay off the debts he may owe.
There’s the vacation to Orlando. The $4,000 a month in unspecified business expenses Eyman has said he needs. The $2,500 a month he pays to his sister-in-law to rent a Bellevue condo. The list goes on. Eyman bought 97 Starbucks gift cards over 10 months, totaling at least $2,400. The first month after filing for bankruptcy, he ate out on 20 days. Last February, he made 74 restaurant purchases. In June he went to the movies eight times, spending nearly $300, in addition to $450 spent on cable, streaming services and Apple store purchases.
He gets a $79 haircut every few weeks. And just last month, Eyman reported meals at three separate restaurants to celebrate his birthday — at Daniel’s Broiler, The Cheesecake Factory and Pogacha.
The whole time, he’s been in contempt of court, racking up fines of $500 a day.
“The family spending is draining the bankruptcy estate and must be severely reduced,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who claims the conservative firebrand owes more than $3 million, wrote in bankruptcy court filings.
Ferguson, representing the state, and Eyman are engaged in two separate legal battles in two separate court systems, that, like a Venn diagram, overlap on Eyman’s finances.
Ferguson is suing Eyman in Thurston County Superior Court, charging that he’s a serial violator of Washington campaign-finance law who has spent years laundering political donations, accepting kickbacks and taking campaign donations for personal use. That case, which dates to 2012, is scheduled to go to trial July 13, just days before voters receive their primary ballots to determine whether Eyman will advance in his campaign for governor.
Eyman says the legal fees and potential fines from that case drove him to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in 2018. Because the state of Washington is Eyman’s largest creditor, Ferguson’s office has been piping up in bankruptcy court to ensure the state gets paid for the fines Eyman has already accrued, and the ones that will pile on top if a judge finds he’s broken the law in the campaign-finance case.
The claims in bankruptcy court are detailed and personal. Ferguson’s office not only calls the spending “wildly inappropriate for someone who is in bankruptcy,” but also suggests Eyman’s divorce case may be a ruse.
Last year, Eyman tried to rescind his bankruptcy claim entirely, while Ferguson tried to force him into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which would require him to sell off his assets. Both requests were denied.
As Eyman launches his gubernatorial run, he remains in a state of legal limbo. The lawsuit threatens to derail his two-decade political career as Ferguson’s office, in addition to hefty fines, seeks to bar him for life from managing or directing the finances of any political committee.
At the same time, his latest initiative victory, Initiative 976, which cuts car tabs to a flat $30, is forcing lawmakers to overhaul the state transportation budget. A judge has blocked it from taking effect, finding it is likely unconstitutional.
“Bob Ferguson wants to destroy me because of my political success fighting for taxpayers — he is demanding more money than I’ll ever have,” Eyman said in an emailed statement. “Bob Ferguson is doing everything possible to drive up my legal costs so that I run out of money in the hope of forcing me to give up.”
Ferguson says Eyman is playing games, withholding information from the court, delaying the case unnecessarily and ignoring court orders.
“He’s doing what Tim Eyman does best — avoid accountability,” Ferguson said in an emailed statement. “He knows he will have to pay a large financial penalty for his conduct, so he’s inappropriately spending down his estate to get out of paying.”