Eyman creates salary fund: Help us help

OLYMPIA — Initiative king Tim Eyman has created a salary fund for himself and two co-chairmen, days after failing to qualify an initiative for the first time in six years.

Eyman told supporters and reporters in an e-mail today he has formed a salary fund called "Help Us Help Taxpayers” to compensate himself and father-and-son team Jack and Mike Fagan of Spokane.

The size of the paychecks, which will be cut in December, depends entirely on supporters’ generosity.

“It’s official now,” said critic Christian Sinderman. “Tim Eyman is now the state’s highest-paid panhandler.”

Eyman, who runs a fraternity watch business out of his Mukilteo home, conceded that he and the Fagans had repeatedly said they would ask for salaries only if they qualified one or both of their 2003 initiatives for the statewide ballot.

He announced Thursday that neither measure had gained enough voter signatures to qualify. They dealt with state tax-and-spending limits and light rail in Puget Sound. Eyman is best known for initiatives that provided $30 car-icense tabs and property-tax limits.

Earlier today, Eyman asked supporters for their understanding, and their checks.

Eyman says failure of the latest anti-tax initiative to qualify was an ironic result of the group’s success in beating back tax increases in Olympia. That ongoing campaign, dubbed Voters Wants More Choices, also helped defeat restrictions to the initiative process, he said.

“We’ve put Olympia on a shorter leash and helped the average taxpayer have an equal voice in the process,” Eyman said.

Given the team’s six-year record, “we hope our supporters understand our decision to seek compensation anyway,” he said.

Public Disclosure Commission spokesman Doug Ellis said he’s unaware of any other group organized like Eyman’s, with a separate fund for salaries. It’s legal for initiative or campaign officials to take a salary, as long as it’s properly reported, he noted.

Eyman also is running a legal defense fund.

He got in trouble last year for shifting more than $200,000 in campaign contributions into a for-profit committee that he could tap for a salary. Eyman had steadfastly denied lining his own pockets. He was fined $50,000 and barred from ever being a campaign treasurer.

In his e-mail to reporters and supporters, Eyman said that “the only people howling will be opponents who don’t support our ideas anyway.

Eyman’s latest initiative proposal, designed for the November 2004 ballot, would cut the state property tax by 25 percent. In another e-mail to supporters over the weekend, he said he plans to begin collecting signatures in February.