Initiative profiteer and cabaret performer Tim Eyman took his one-man-show back to Olympia yesterday, dressing up for the TV camera
s as a very butch Buzz Lightyear. (I’m told Tim also does a dead-on Liz Minelli impersonation, but he’s saving that costume for the July 7th deadline.)
Eyman supposedly turned in 252,000 signatures on his anti-transit Initiative 917, and promised another 40,000 or so by the end of next week. Not at all surprising really, considering his prior statements, because I never trust a single thing he ever says.
Back on June 5, Eyman told reporters that he had collected only 142,000 signatures on I-917, a shockingly small number considering his army of paid signature gatherers had been on the streets since early February, and for much of that time, unopposed. This early season strategy permitted Eyman to pay some of the lowest street rates in the state — between $0.75 and $0.90 per signature — and yet through the end of May he’d already spent $324,800 on signature gathering efforts.
To spend that much money on so few signatures just doesn’t make sense. That’s about $2.30 per signature, a bizarre 200 percent markup for canvassing firm Citizens Solutions, Inc.
To further cast doubt on Eyman’s June 5th claim of only 142,000 signatures is the fact that reported sitings of I-917 had already trickled to virtually nil by that date. Indeed for much of June, while signature gatherers were out in full force pushing I-920, I-933 and other petitions, virtually none were carrying I-917. And yet now Eyman claims he’ll turn in 300,000 signatures by the deadline.
How could that possibly be? Well here’s a novel theory: Tim Eyman lied.
Of course, that begs the question “why?” What could Eyman possibly have to gain by deflating his June 5th numbers? He relies mostly on paid signature gatherers, so it couldn’t be some lame attempt at motivation.
Well, I have another theory which, lacking the subpoena power to open up the private books of Eyman and Citizens Solutions I cannot possibly prove, but… I think Tim’s ripping off his patron, Woodenville investment banker Michael Dunmire, who’d already contributed $307,700 to I-917 through the end of May.
See, here’s what I suspect is really going on. Eyman is paying his pal Roy Ruffino at Citizens Solutions a typical 100 percent markup per signature, so it’s probably costing the campaign about $1.50 each. Thus the $324,800 in signature gathering expenditures through May probably accounted for about 216,000 signatures.
Tim doesn’t have a volunteer organization to speak of, but he does mail out thousands of petitions, and surely, some of those do come back. So lets be generous and say he’s collected about 40,000 signatures from volunteers. That means that by June 5, Tim was likely comfortably past the 224,880 signature threshold and well on his way to hitting the 20 percent cushion everybody shoots for. But if he comes right out and says it, he can’t very well go back to Dunmire and ask for more money, can he?
So let me go out on a limb here and make a prediction: come the July 10th PDC filing we’re going to see another $100,000 or so contribution from Dunmire, and another $100,000 or so in expenditures to Citizens Solutions. But I think that these expenditures will mostly be for signatures that had already been gathered and paid for.
Again, I can’t prove it, but I’ve always suspected that Eyman has a financial stake in Citizens Solutions, or receives some kind of monetary “consideration”, and while none of this may be illegal it is certainly dishonest. Something is just not right here, and knowing Timmy, I can’t help but suspect that he’s cooking the books for personal gain. Again.
Think about it. What would it really cost to gather 150,000 signatures during the final three weeks of June, the busiest and most expensive time of the season? $300,000 bare minimum. So considering what Eyman had spent through May, and what he now says he’ll turn in next week, his June 7th claim was obviously total bullshit.
Now perhaps Dunmire doesn’t care. Perhaps Eyman told him from the start it would cost him about $400,000 to guarantee I-917 a spot on the ballot, and Dunmire doesn’t really care how it gets there or how much Eyman personally profits off the venture. But if this isn’t an attempt to deceive Dunmire I’m at a loss to explain Tim’s June 5th deception.
Perhaps Tim just plain enjoys lying?