Bait and Switch: Paid signature gatherers at Hemp Fest pitch the "real legalization" I-514 initiative, but hand stoners the I-517 petition to sign.
Sherry Bockwinkel, an early pioneer of Washington's paid signature-gathering industry, filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission yesterday alleging that initiative profiteer Tim Eyman and his business partners have failed to disclose campaign contributions and expenditures for I-517, an initiative for which they have apparently been gathering signatures since April.
According to the complaint, Harwig & Harwig Enterprises, a California based petitioning firm, began paying petitioners for I-517 signatures on or about April 15, 2012. Payment for signatures, Bockwinkel claims, is being coordinated by Rob Harwig out of a motel room at Americas Best Value Inn, in Edmonds. Bockwinkel's complaint lists several witnesses who can testify to being paid to collect signatures for I-517, a poorly written initiative to the legislature that would expand by six months the time allotted to gather signatures for initiatives, while making it a crime to interfere with signature gathering through "decline to sign" campaigns and the like.
Bockwinkel told me by phone that signature gatherers for Initiative 1185, which has since qualified for the ballot, were initially offered $0.75 for an I-1185 and $0.25 for I-517... if they turned in equal amounts of each. Bockwinkel says that canvassers gathering I-517 signatures last weekend at Hemp Fest told her they were being paid $0.75 per signature.
And yet Eyman and his partners, the father and son Fagan team, have reported no campaign contributions or expenditures for I-517 apart from a $4,444.38 in-kind contribution from Eddie Agazarm to print petitions. (Agazarm and Roy Ruffino are a co-owners of Citizens Solutions, the signature gathering firm Eyman sub-contracts through.) Indeed, Eyman and the Fagans didn't even file their C1PC form organizing their committee until June 11, months after witnesses say they started gathering signatures.
So where's the money coming from to pay for signature gathering on I-517? It's only speculation, but it wouldn't surprise either me or Bockwinkel if I-517 signature gathering has been funded directly or indirectly through Eyman's I-1185 campaign. But wherever the money's coming from, and however it may or may not have been laundered, it is certainly illegal not to disclose it.
(Neither Eyman, Ruffino, nor the four witnesses listed in the complaint returned my queries. Harwig's and Agazarm's phones appear to have been disconnected.)
UPDATE: I've talked to one of the witnesses named in the complaint. Bockwinkle's got Eyman by the short and curlies. More to come.