By Sandy Robson
July 10, 2018
In May of this year, some well known Whatcom County conservative stalwarts teamed up with one of Washington state’s most infamous tax opponents, Tim Eyman, and newly dubbed “Master Provocateur” Glen Morgan, to launch the “Full Contact Activism Tour.” The tour visited eight cities throughout the state.
On Saturday, May 10, 2018, the tour started with its first event held at Meridian High School, in Bellingham, Washington. The Facebook event posters used to promote the tour read: “Tired of Taxes and Government Overreach? Find out what to do to stop big government and take control of your future!” Eyman and Morgan were the tour’s featured speakers.
Tim Eyman, a conservative anti-tax zealot and political activist from Mukilteo, is known for the numerous, and mostly unsuccessful, initiatives he has put forth in Washington state since the 1990s. His latest stab at a $30 car tabs initiative (Initiative 976), for which Eyman is currently gathering signatures through the end of 2018, seems to have been one of the main driving forces behind the “Full Contact Activism Tour,” although that issue was not mentioned in the tour’s advertisements. Initiative 976 (I-976), an initiative to the Legislature, would gut funding for Sound Transit, King County Metro, and other transit agencies, along with Amtrak Cascades.
Eyman is also known for being on the receiving end of a $2.1 million campaign finance lawsuit filed in 2017, by Washington state’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson. The lawsuit stems from a 2015 investigation by the state’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). According to a March, 31, 2017 press release issued by the Attorney General’s Office, the lawsuit alleged “improper personal use of $308,000 in contributions made to political committees, concealment of contributions totaling $490,185 and misleading reporting,” and it accused Citizen Solutions of “participating in a scheme to conceal campaign money the company funneled to Eyman.” Citizen Solutions is a for-profit signature gathering firm that Eyman uses for his initiatives.
In the attorney general’s press release, Ferguson said:
“Taking kickbacks from contractors, using campaign funds for personal expenses, redirecting donations made for one initiative to a different initiative — it’s hard to imagine what more Mr. Eyman could have done to show his contempt for our campaign finance disclosure laws.”
However, during Eyman’s May 10 tour performance, he painted himself as a victim of persecution by a liberal state government in what seemed to be an attempt to garner sympathy from attendees who might then open their wallets and donate.
Eyman and Morgan: a serial initiative filer, and a serial PDC complaint filer
Eyman’s tour partner, conservative property-rights activist Glen Morgan, may be best known for being a “serial filer of campaign-finance complaints aimed at Washington’s Democratic candidates and organizations.” He has filed hundreds of campaign finance complaints with the PDC since 2017. At the May 10, Bellingham tour stop, Morgan told the audience he had filed 375 complaints with the PDC.
Morgan, who resides in Tenino, a small city just outside of Olympia, Washington, is also the executive director for the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR). CAPR’s website describes its organization as a “non-partisan political action committee where individual citizens and existing organizations can work together protecting property rights.” A more realistic description would be that CAPR is devoted to lessening and stripping environmental regulations such as water quality and fish habitat protections. Additionally, Morgan was the former property rights director for the Freedom Foundation, a Washington state-based libertarian think tank, until leaving the organization in 2015.
Morgan has been a frequent guest on former Whatcom Tea Party board member Kris Halterman’s weekly conservative talk radio show Saturday Morning Live (SML), on KGMI AM/790. Since January 2014, Morgan has been a guest on SML over 20 times, and he has even hosted the SML show multiple times for Halterman in her absence. Halterman also manages her Liberty Road blog which is affiliated with her SML talk radio show.
Tour sponsors are known players in Whatcom County conservative politics
Halterman was at the May 10, 2018 tour event held at Meridian High School, as she told attendees that she was representing Common Threads Northwest, one of the tour’s three sponsors. She was there to introduce Charlie Crabtree, a local Republican operative and former Chair of the Whatcom County Republican Party (Whatcom Republicans), who manages The Fourth Corner, a conservative political blog with an accompanying Facebook page.
The Fourth Corner, which Crabtree registered as a non-profit organization this year, was also one of the sponsors of the tour. So far, there does not appear to be any information available to the public about what individuals and/or groups provide funds to The Fourth Corner.
Before introducing Crabtree, Halterman took the opportunity to praise President Donald Trump, and she said to the audience, “they’re out there in D.C., they’re draining the swamp — believe me, Whatcom County has got a swamp just as deep as D.C.”
“Full Contact Activism Tour” speaker Glen Morgan, over the last three to four years, seems to have become quite involved with local issues in Whatcom County. His conservative politicking fits right in with the Whatcom Republicans and other conservative organizations and individuals active in Whatcom County. On Morgan’s personal Facebook page, he posted an April 30, 2018 post which was a photo of an award he received earlier this year from the Whatcom Republicans. The award was called the “Master Provocateur” award which was engraved to say that it was in appreciation for Morgan’s “dedicated service to the citizens of Washington State and the Whatcom County Republican Party.”
According to Facebook event advertisements posted on various local Whatcom County conservative Facebook pages, the third sponsor of the “Full Contact Activism Tour” was Asset Advisors, LLC, which has offices in Bellingham and Ferndale, Washington.
Asset Advisors, LLC, founded and run by Bellingham financial planner Dick Donahue, is a Northwest Washington wealth management firm. Donahue hosts a KGMI 790/AM talk radio show called, Wealth Wake Up. Over the years, he has been involved with Whatcom County Tea Party politics. He is also a listed director for one of the other sponsors of the “Full Contact Activism Tour,” Common Threads Northwest, which essentially assumed the former role of the Whatcom Tea Party after it closed its doors in early 2017.
Like The Fourth Corner, Common Threads Northwest is a conservative, dark money-funded entity. According to its Articles of Incorporation filed with the Washington Secretary of State, Common Threads Northwest’s listed purpose is, “supporting and improving economic vitality in northwest Washington state.” Many Whatcom Countians who follow local politics are aware of the fact that Common Threads Northwest has jumped into the local political arena on various issues quite often since it first appeared in March of 2015.
Tour sponsors thumb their noses at most local news media
At the Bellingham tour event, both Kris Halterman and Charlie Crabtree talked about what they said was a need for citizen journalists since they both felt the current news media is not doing a good job telling the public what’s happening. Halterman told attendees that The Bellingham Herald is not doing that, and KGMI is doing less and less of that.
Building on what Halterman told the audience about the supposed lack of good local news sources, Crabtree said they want to share the vision that she had started talking about as far as Common Threads Northwest and citizen journalism. He told the audience that he and others put together the tour to activate people around the state.
Crabtree also said that The Fourth Corner is “going to be invested in getting Fourth Corner started throughout the state of Washington, so we have valid news sources for local news.” The implication that Washington state does not have valid local news sources appears to echo the idea being presented by President Trump over the last year and a half, that most of the news the news media is putting out is invalid or fake.
By The Fourth Corner and Common Threads Northwest getting their conservative followers to dismiss other local news sources, and to instead follow their particular citizen journalist news platforms, then both organizations can better control the kind of information their followers would receive from them, which for the most part, tends to be propaganda. It’s as if The Fourth Corner and Common Threads Northwest are trying to develop their own small scale Fox News-ish platform throughout Washington state.
Whatcom Republicans sponsored supposed non-partisan political event last year
The Fourth Corner, Common Threads Northwest, and KGMI 790/AM were also involved in two political events last year which were held in October at the Meridian High School auditorium. One of those was the October 19, 2017, “Wake-Up Whatcom County Rally!” Tim Eyman and Glen Morgan were two of the three featured speakers at that event, and the three listed sponsors were Common Threads Northwest, The Fourth Corner, and KGMI 790/AM radio.
Leading into the November 2018 general election, there was also an October 5, 2017 “County-wide Candidate Forum,” held at Meridian High School that was billed as a “non-partisan” event. For that particular event, all of the ten sponsors were touted in event advertising as supposedly being non-partisan. Common Threads Northwest and The Fourth Corner were two of the ten sponsors, and the candidate forum was broadcast live on KGMI 790/AM radio.
After hearing about both of those October 2017 events, I had been curious about who had paid for those two rentals of Meridian High School’s auditorium, so last November I had contacted, via telephone, the Meridian School District. Meridian High School staff confirmed that the Whatcom Republicans organization paid the rental fees for the October 5, 2017, “County-wide Candidate Forum,” and for the October 19, 2017, “Wake-Up Whatcom County Rally!” The online expenditure reports filed with the PDC by the Whatcom County Republican Party PAC also confirms that fact.
This was a surprise because there had been no mention of the Whatcom Republicans organization in any of the advertising for either of those 2017 events. And again, the candidate forum was an event that was advertised as being “non-partisan,” which doesn’t seem to jibe with its having been paid for by the Whatcom County Republican Party.
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Because I had discovered this information about the Whatcom Republicans having paid for those two events held at the high school last fall, I was then curious this year, to know exactly who had paid for the May 10, 2018 rental of the Meridian High School auditorium for the “Full Contact Activism Tour” event. So, in May, I obtained public records from the Meridian School District.
In this case, the records I received showed that a rental fee of $85 for Meridian High School’s auditorium for the May 10 “Full Contact Activism Tour” was paid for by Charlie Crabtree’s Fourth Corner.
Records reveal local school district has been giving discounted facility rental rate to Whatcom Republicans
Contained in the records was a chart titled, “District Facilities Rental and Custodial Fees,” which lists the rental rates to be charged for various types of organizations. According to that chart, Non-Profit Groups (Group B on the chart) such as The Fourth Corner, are supposed to be charged a rate of $50 per hour. However, it appears that The Fourth Corner was given a reduced rate of $25 per hour, which is much lower than the listed facility rental rate displayed in the chart for “Non-Profit Groups.”
Therefore, I contacted, via email, Bryant Michaelson, Meridian School District Athletic Director, who handles rentals of school facilities for the district. I asked him why the school district seemed to be giving The Fourth Corner a reduced rate of $25 per hour for the auditorium rental, which is 50% lower than the listed facility rental rate of $50 for Non-Profit Groups. I also asked Michaelson why it appeared that The Fourth Corner‘s rental rate had been reduced even further, because in his initial email he had said that after the first two hours the rate would then be $10 an hour. There was no information shown in the chart to reflect a reduced rental rate for “Non-Profit Groups” after the first two hours of renting the auditorium.
“For the Charlie Crabtree ‘The 4th Corner’ we charge $25 for the first 2 hours and then $10 for every hour following. This means that if an event only goes 2 hours we would charge this group $50 ($25 x 2). If the event goes longer than 2 hours we charge an additional $10 per hour for every additional hour.
“The reason why [we] have a separate rate for ‘The 4th Corner’ is based on the length of time this group has rented our facility. They started renting our facility before our rates were changed and so we have continued to charge them the same rate that they had started at (past precedent).”
Seeking clarification, I replied to Michaelson and told him that when he used the terms ‘they’ and ‘this group,’ I assumed he meant The Fourth Corner, so assuming that was correct, I then asked him if the facilities rental rate for the auditorium had changed since January 12, 2018.
I asked him that because, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s corporations registration online data, The Fourth Corner only first registered as a non-profit corporation on January 12, 2018, therefore it seemed unlikely that specific group (The Fourth Corner) had been renting Meridian School District facilities at any time prior to January 12, 2018.
Michaelson replied in a May 14 email, and explained:
“Sorry for the confusion. Charlie was the chair of the ‘Whatcom Republicans’ group before he started his ‘4th Corner’ group. We have been treating ‘The 4th corner’ as an extension of the ‘Whatcom Republicans.’ That was the ‘they’ and ‘this group’ that I was referring to. I hope this clears things up. Thanks!”
So, according to Bryant Michaelson’s email communications, it appears that the Meridian School District has been giving the Whatcom Republicans a reduced rental rate since May 14, 2014, which was the last time those rates were raised by the district, and the district applied that same rate reduction to The Fourth Corner for its facility rental.
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Unlike the Whatcom Republicans PAC which has to follow campaign finance law and disclose its funding sources and expenditures, The Fourth Corner does not have to disclose its funding sources and expenditures to the public. Also, it’s notable that according to the filed reports available on the PDC website, it appears that the Whatcom Republicans PAC has failed to report the special rental rate reduction given to their organization, as an in-kind contribution, each time they’ve received that reduction from the school district since May 2014, when the rates increased.
Eyman used tour to promote I-976 and solicit donations
The Fourth Corner posted video recordings of the Bellingham and the Mount Vernon “Full Contact Activism Tour” events online. Those video recordings show Eyman telling audience members, “God put me on earth to drag the $30 tabs over the line.” He also told attendees at both of those tour events that he and his wife liquidated $500,000 of his retirement account, and were loaning that amount to the I-976 campaign.
From watching the posted videos of the tour events, it’s clear that the bulk of Eyman’s speaking time during the events was intended to promote I-976, and to recruit petition signature gatherers and solicit donations from event attendees. Eyman can be seen in the posted videos sporting a bright orange T-Shirt which promoted his $30 car tabs initiative. He told attendees of the Mount Vernon event held at the Skagit Public Utility District office that they would find an I-976 petition in their packets that he had distributed to them to be used to help gather signatures. Eyman also explained that while he was loaning the $500,000 to the I-976 campaign, attendees would see in the information in their packets that he is still looking for donations.
So, while it’s evident that Eyman was using the tour events to promote his $30 car tabs initiative and to raise money for it, in reviewing PDC online reports for his Voters Want More Choices PAC, it does not appear, however, that the PAC reported any facility rental expenditures or in-kind contributions relating to the eight “Full Contact Activism Tour” events which were held around Washington state. The Voters Want More Choices PAC is used by Eyman to support his various initiatives aimed at lowering taxes in Washington state.
It was surprising to learn from reviewing PDC online reports, that the “Voters Want More Choices” PAC has already paid $300,000 to Citizen Solutions, LLC for signature collection for I-976 since mid April. An officer of Citizen Solutions, William Agazarm, was also named in the lawsuit against Eyman that was filed in 2017, by Washington state’s Attorney General’s Office. Citizen Solutions and Agazarm could face penalties up to $924,555.
Eyman, along with his longtime initiative partners, the Spokane-based father-and-son team of Jack and Mike Fagan, are listed committee officers for the Voters Want More Choices PAC, according to the C1pc registration form filed with the PDC.
Jack and Mike Fagan are perfect bedfellows for Eyman because the three share a proclivity for unscrupulous tactics in terms of their joint efforts on initiatives. In 2013, Mike Fagan, when he was a Spokane City Councilman, he and his father, along with Eyman, as co-committee officers of the “Voters Want More Choices – NO NEW TAXES 2013” ballot committee, signed a fundraising letter in which they called Washington Governor Jay Inslee, “a lying whore.” The letter was included in a mass email soliciting donations for the “Voters Want More Choices – NO NEW TAXES 2013” ballot committee, which at that time was supporting an initiative for no new taxes in 2013.
Eyman told the May 10 tour audience that he has set up a legal-defense fund to help with the lawsuit filed against him by the state, and he asked the audience to think about donating to the I-976 campaign and to his legal-defense fund. It is unclear whether some of the funds collected from the “Full Contact Activism Tour” events went to him personally, or to his I-976 campaign, and if money did go toward his initiative campaign, if those contributions were then reported to the PDC.
Morgan: ‘Media is dead’
During his speaking time, Glen Morgan, playing the martyr to the audience, talked about the negative media coverage he has received due to his controversial campaign robocalls, and about the fact that there are two lawsuits filed against him. He also explained that the tour is aimed at trying to find more activists. Morgan told attendees that the tour is looking to find people who have a passion, but just may need some help getting started with activism. Toward the conclusion of his speech, Morgan talked about what he views as the non-existent media, and the need for citizen journalism:
“Media is dead. Traditional media is gone. It’s kind of like Wiley Coyote running off a cliff and you see him spinning in the air. You think you still have some newspapers left, but you don’t. Most of the journalists are gone, they laid them off…there are no journalists left…the newspapers are gone. Now that’s not a good thing. We can laugh about it because of how bad their reporting might have been, but the decline and collapse of media is a problem.”
So, the tour’s messaging to the audience during the Bellingham tour stop was that the news reporting we have is “bad,” that “media is dead,” and that we need The Fourth Corner because we don’t have valid local news sources. I guess that’s one way of trying to get people to only listen to the messaging that you will be disseminating.
Additionally, while the tour was supposed to be about minimizing taxes and government overreach, it looks like the players involved want to do that by way of giving that control to private organizations which can better conceal their funding and strategies from the public. It takes a lot of sleuthing to unearth some of their shady actions, of which there seem to be plenty. Meanwhile, a portion of those shady actions unfortunately, may never be unearthed. But we can’t stop digging.
After evaluating all of this information, I’m working on seeking more answers:
- I want to know why a local school district gives the Whatcom Republicans PAC a 50% reduction on its facility rental rate when it charges the standard rental rate to other non-profit groups.
- I want to know why at least three public facilities were rented and used to host the “Full Contact Activism Tour” which was, in large part, intended to promote and raise funds for a ballot measure, when that activity conducted in a public agency may potentially violate RCW 42.17A.555, which states in pertinent part: “No elective official nor any employee of his or her office nor any person appointed to or employed by any public office or agency may use or authorize the use of any of the facilities of a public office or agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office or for the promotion of or opposition to any ballot proposition.”
- I want to know why it appears that the Whatcom Republicans PAC failed to report, to the PDC, the rental rate reduction given to their organization by the Meridian School District as an in-kind contribution each time they have rented the Meridian High School auditorium and received that reduction from the school district since May 14, 2014, when those rental rates were changed.
- I want to know why it appears that Tim Eyman’s Voters Want More Choices PAC failed to report, to the PDC, expenditures or in-kind contributions related to the “Full Contact Activism Tour,” when it appears that part of the purpose of that tour was to promote I-976, and to raise funds for that initiative effort and for his legal defense fund for lawsuits filed against him regarding alleged violations he and his PAC committed on past initiatives.