| December 19, 2008 Volume 109 Number 24
Sizemore released from jail — but not from legal woes
By DON McINTOSH, Associate Editor
Dec. 4, one day after union adversary Bill Sizemore was placed behind bars for contempt of court, he was released from jail — but not from ongoing legal difficulty.
Because of the contempt of court ruling, Sizemore and a sham Nevada charity he created will likely owe $500,000 to $750,000 to two teachers unions, said union attorney Greg Hartmann. Plus, the judge granted the unions greatly expanded power to subpoena further testimony and documents from Sizemore, his groups and associates. And, evidence uncovered in the case could be the basis for further civil and criminal action against Sizemore and his millionaire financial backer, Loren Parks.
In the contempt of court ruling that sent Sizemore to jail, Multnomah County Judge Janice Wilson declared that he set up the American Tax Reform Foundation (ATRF) in order to evade the consequences of a jury award and judge’s order, to support himself and his family while he worked to get five initiatives on this year’s ballot, and to give his donors, particularly Loren Parks, an improper charitable donation tax break for donating to what were in fact political campaigns.
The ruling was the latest development in an eight-year legal battle that started when Oregon Education Association and American Federation of Teachers Oregon sued two groups controlled by Sizemore. A jury found the groups had engaged in a pattern of criminal activity including forgery and fraud in the course of getting initiatives on the 2000 ballot. That made the Sizemore groups liable for civil penalties under Oregon’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law.
That jury decision is the source of frequent references to Sizemore as a “convicted racketeer,” by his political opponents. Sizemore protested that in late November, filing a lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court that accuses over a dozen groups and individuals of violating Oregon elections law by making false statements about him. The suit argues that calling Sizemore a “convicted racketeer” is false: first because a civil judgment is not the same as a criminal conviction, and secondly because the jury found Sizemore’s groups, not Sizemore himself, had violated Oregon’s racketeering law.
“If Sizemore wants to have a public legal fight about what we can call him that a judge hasn’t already called him, then we’ll have that fight,” said Scott Moore, spokesperson for Defend Oregon, one of the groups named.
Of course, whatever inaccuracy it might be to call Sizemore a convicted racketeer pales in comparison to the misstatements Sizemore made under oath in sworn depositions and before Judge Wilson, and in forms he submitted to the Internal Revenue Service and the state of Oregon to secure his release from jail. In her contempt ruling, Wilson included a four-page appendix of “examples of deceipt by Mr. Sizemore.” Some of those examples could be used if District Attorney Michael Shrunk decides to charge Sizemore with perjury. Hartmann said typically perjury charges begin with a judge referring a case for prosecution, and so far, Wilson has not said publicly she intends to do that.
Sizemore may also have opened himself up to further liability with intentional misstatements on tax and charitable forms he turned in to get out of jail.
Wilson ordered Sizemore jailed after he broke a promise to turn in two years of tax and charitable forms for ATRF, forms which could shed light on whether he had violated the 2002 judge’s order. Signing and turning in the forms was made a condition of his release from jail. He did that, and was released.
But as reported by The Oregonian Dec. 5, on the IRS forms, Sizemore swore that ATRF had not attempted to influence "a legislative matter or referendum,” did not have officers or directors of the foundation who were related to one another, and had not paid anyone excessive benefits. Yet Wilson had determined that ATRF’s true purpose was to fund Sizemore’s political work. Sizemore’s mother was on its board. And ATRF paid Sizemore and his wife hundreds of thousands of dollars for work that had no value and little relation to the foundation’s stated mission; ATRF also loaned Sizemore money to buy property, bought his wife a car, paid for his family’s groceries, and purchased a time share in Mexico.
Sizemore backer Loren Parks could also be found liable as the case unfolds. In 2000, the State of Oregon sued Parks’ charitable foundation under state law for improperly using tax-deductible donations for political purposes. In the settlement resolving that suit, Parks paid $50,000 to the state, and agreed to abide by a court injunction not to repeat the offense. Based on the same information, the IRS currently has a case pending in Nevada against Parks.
As revealed in the most recent contempt case against Sizemore, some of the money for ATRF came from the Parks Foundation; that could prove to be evidence that Parks violated the injunction.
Seemingly every time subpoena power is used to shine a light in Sizemore’s political operation, lawlessness is exposed.
But Sizemore, far from taking a step back from politics, is already busy working on ballot measures for 2010. So far, he has turned in 1,000 signatures each to start the process for 13 initiatives. Several of them are different versions of the same idea, suggesting that Sizemore may be gaming the process to get an official ballot title that would be an easy sell to voters.
The proposals include:
• re-establishing new versions of the double majority requirement voters just struck down in November.
• making Oregon a kind of “right to work” state, in which workers in unionized workplaces wouldn’t be required to pay union dues;
• eliminating “card check” certification of public employee unions;
• requiring public employee unions to run for re-certification every four years; and
• declaring campaign contributions by public employee unions to be bribery;
• allowing the use of dogs in hunting cougars and bears.
Thus far, just one of Sizemore initiative is approved to circulate — a measure that would exempt senior citizens from paying property taxes on their primary residence.
Union leaders are hopeful that two newly elected state officials — Secretary of State Kate Brown and Attorney General John Kroger — will begin to police ballot initiative abuse more aggressively than their predecessors.
© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.