Judge shuts down Sizemore operation

The past is catching up with anti-union political operator Bill Sizemore.

On April 30, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Jerome LaBarre signed an injunction order that dissolved Sizemore's "educational foundation" and hobbled his ability to create a new ballot measure machine.

The order is the latest development in a lawsuit filed December 2000 by the Oregon Education Association (OEA) and the Oregon chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. Those two plaintiffs were joined by the Oregon Justice Department after a jury found in September 2002 that Sizemore's organizations had used forgery and fraud to qualify several ballot initiatives for the 2000 election.

LaBarre is expected to issue his final judgment by the end of May, including an order to triple the damages awarded by the jury in September to $2.52 million, plus substantial attorney fees. OEA attorney Greg Hartman said within two weeks of that judgment being entered, the unions plan to file a separate lawsuit to hold Sizemore personally responsible for repaying the jury award. Because Sizemore's role was extensively documented in the first lawsuit, that secondary case would be practically cut-and-dried, Hartman said, and he predicted a "summary judgment" that could result in seizure of Sizemore's personal assets in a matter of months.

It would be a long-awaited payback for the two unions, which have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars taking the case to trial, and hundreds of thousands earlier to fight Sizemore-sponsored anti-union Measures 92 and 98. Measure 92 would have prohibited payroll deductions for political purposes without annual employee authorization, while Measure 98 would have prohibited government employers from deducting union dues if any part was to be used for political purposes. Both measures, which failed at the polls, were intended to cripple labor's ability to take part in politics. Neither would have qualified for the ballot without extensive fraud and forgery. During the trial, Sizemore admitted under oath that he intended the measures to weaken the unions financially by making them spend their resources fighting them.

In the 33-page legal decision (the injunction order and the legal findings that support them) LaBarre agreed with the jury's verdict ... and went further. While the jury found that there was a pattern of racketeering in the Oregon Taxpayers United political action committee and education foundation, the judge ruled that Sizemore himself was responsible for the violations.

"This court is intent on protecting everyone's rights of free speech and political activity," LaBarre wrote. "However, racketeering is not free speech and it does not belong in the process of making Oregon laws by initiative petition."

LaBarre detailed numerous legal violations point-by-point, and argued that Sizemore's conduct since the verdict demonstrates he's likely to break the law again if he's not shut down.

Documented in the judge's findings of fact were:
Tax Fraud and Charitable Activities Fraud. LaBarre described Sizemore's Oregon Taxpayers United Education Foundation as a "sham charity," set up to give his supporters tax-deductibility while using their contributions illegally to fund Sizemore's political campaigns (both by direct cash transfers and by paying people who would do the work of the political campaigns.)
Forgery. Sizemore hired a convicted forger, who then forged signatures on the petitions that were submitted to qualify Sizemore's measures for circulation. Next Sizemore had his political action committee hire his own company, I&R Petition Services, to oversee signature collection. His signature gatherers forged signatures, signed the names of fictitious people, and illegally copied legitimate signatures from one petition sheet to another. Even the signatures of the petition circulators themselves were sometimes forged.
Perjury. Sizemore signed and filed false Contribution and Expenditure reports with the State of Oregon, omitting substantial cash, overhead, and in-kind support from his "charitable" foundation, including foundation checks totaling more than $120,000 written to Sizemore's company and its subcontractors ostensibly for "research" that was never performed. [Much of that money was then paid to Sizemore personally.] He also signed and filed false reports to the Internal Revenue Service and the Charitable Activities Section of the Oregon Justice Department, denying that donations to his charitable foundation were being used for political purposes.
Phony Stock Purchase. Sizemore arranged phony stock purchases to enable wealthy supporter Robert Randall to secretly contribute $170,000 to his campaigns.
Money Laundering. To evade disclosure of other supporters' names, Sizemore arranged to have them write their checks to Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a Washington, D.C.,-based group headed by right-wing power-broker Grover Norquist. Sizemore would bundle these checks, then have ATR write a check back to his groups, or directly to petitioners for the total amount. [ATR also presumably broke the law in this scheme, but Hartman said he's not aware of anyone going after the group legally.]

Most of the evidence LaBarre cited was introduced during the three-week jury trial last September.

After the jury verdict, Sizemore continued to break the law, LaBarre determined.

"Sizemore has made no changes to the way he does business," LaBarre wrote. "His attitude is to view the jury verdict and the trial process with disdain."

LaBarre noted that Sizemore submitted another false report to the state, took no remedial action to prevent foundation funds from being used for political purposes, and submitted no corrections to the previously falsified reports.

Instead, in the months after the jury verdict, Sizemore paid out to himself nearly all that was left in his organizations' bank accounts, and announced the creation of a new organization - Oregon Taxpayers Union. The new committee uses the same computers, office supplies, furniture and donor list as the old one, and identifies itself on its Website as the successor to the old group, claiming the accomplishments of the old group as its own. LaBarre wrote that this was a transparent attempt to evade the consequences of the lawsuit.

By issuing the injunction, LaBarre determined that that's not going to happen.

Under the terms of the injunction:
* Sizemore's Oregon Taxpayers United Educational Foundation is dissolved.
* Any charitable foundation in which Sizemore participates is prohibited from contributing anything of value to any political action committee for the next five years.
* Any political action committee in which Sizemore participates is prohibited from receiving anything of value from any tax-deductible charity, for the next five years.
* Any charitable foundation or political action committee in which Sizemore participates is prohibited from doing business with any signature-gathering business in which Sizemore has any ownership, for the next five years.
* Any organization in which Sizemore participates is prohibited from any future violations of Oregon laws covering political, charitable or ballot measure activities for five years.
* Sizemore's existing groups are ordered not to transfer or destroy any of their assets until the jury award and attorney's fees are paid.

The injunction is enforceable by contempt of court proceedings that could result in jail time and substantial fines if Sizemore violates any of the terms.

In effect, the injunction breaks up Sizemore's vertically-integrated ballot measure business, forcing him to limit his activities to one part of the process and play by the rules.

"[Judge LaBarre] wrote a very powerful opinion," Hartman said. "I think he saw that Bill Sizemore and his organizations had really done nothing to change their behavior after the jury verdict. In fact the only thing he had done was to set up a new political action committee in hopes of dodging the judgment."

Sizemore attorney Greg Byrne pledged to appeal the verdict, but that won't delay the enforcement of the judgment. Hartman said in order to delay enforcement, Sizemore would have to post bond, which he's unlikely to do since it would mean the unions would get paid the full amount of the award if they prevail in court.

May 16, 2003 issue

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