Oregon's most notorious initiative racketeer will soon be darkening the doors of the Oregon Supreme Court.
On Monday, the high court will hear an appeal of the 2002 jury ruling that found Bill Sizemore had engaged in racketeering, fraud and forgery during the signature gathering process. Interestingly, Sizemore is not disputing the jury findings or the findings of an appellate judge on that count. He's simply appealing the ruling on legal technicalities.
Do you remember the original court case? Here's a short refresher course on the sordid tale of Bill Sizemore, initiative racketeer.
The best primer comes from a daily journal that was kept of the 2002 trial by a staffer of the Oregon Education Association. That account, which matches media reports from the time, is fascinating.
Take a look at Sizemore's testimony that starts on Friday, September 20th. He claims not to have paid attention to the most basic aspects of his education foundation or political organizations. He claims that he's impoverished. (Yeah right! If poverty means owning a $2.2 million home with stables, sign me up!) When asked directly about his financial records Sizemore offered variations on the same theme: "I don't know." "I don't recall." "I've forgotten it's been so long." "I'm not sure." "I don't remember this clearly." (Maybe he should get Alberto's job...)
And don't forget when Sizemore's then-second-in-command, Becky Miller, testified in disturbing detail how Sizemore had laundered money from Oregonians and Oregon businesses through the Washington D.C. special interest firm, Americans for Tax Reform.
Miller outlined how Sizemore blatantly funneled money into his signature gathering outfit for his own personal use – including the purchase of a tractor, paying off credit card bills, payments to his wife and mother-in-law, and private-school tuition for his children.
Ultimately, a jury of 12 Oregonians handed down a ruling that included a $2.5 million-dollar judgment against Sizemore's companies to be paid to the Oregon Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-Oregon.
Last October, the Court of Appeals affirmed the jury's findings that Sizemore's organizations engaged in a "calculated course of criminal conduct" and "cynical, criminal manipulation of the democratic process." As I mentioned, Sizemore is not denying any of that.
Don't remember all this? Perhaps that's because the state's major media outlets have dropped the ball and continue to generously refer to Sizemore as an "anti-tax activist" as opposed to a law-breaking racketeer who acts as a bagman for Oregon's ultra-conservative wing that want to remain nameless, but still push their agenda and create a state that only serves the rich.
That Sizemore has committed fraud and forgery while trying to manipulate Oregon's beloved initiative system is rarely mentioned in the recent reports on how he's back in the initiative game. He's filed more than 45 awful initiatives for 2008 and recently turned in signatures for three that are merely recycled versions of previously-rejected bad ideas.
It's also a little-reported fact that Sizemore is currently under an injunction that bars him from further violating signature gathering laws and from raising and spending money through a PAC until the multi-million dollar judgment is satisfied.
Coincidentally, on the same day Sizemore's appeal will be heard by the Supreme Court, his chief petitioner PACs are required to file Contribution and Expenditure reports with the Oregon Secretary of State.
If he chooses to file on time, which he hardly ever does, the reports will be very, very, very interesting.
We can bet that we'll see a repeat performance of Sizemore's antics during the 2006 election cycle when he hid money by arranging for his sugardaddies to pay initiative mercenary Tim Trickey directly for signature-gathering efforts. This is Sizemore's attempt to avoid paying the judgment and keep his hands clean.
It may be technically legal, but it's a transparent effort to get around the law.
So what can be done to combat initiative racketeer Bill Sizemore?
First, we have to admit the role we play. In the interest of self-reflection, as progressives we collectively share in the blame for the "Great Sizemore Whitewash."
We stopped banging the drum. We stopped the vitriol. We became complacent. What do we need to do?
- We need to tell our friends and neighbors about Sizemore's illicit past (and we can assume, present) and urge them to decline to sign any initiative petition on which Sizemore is a chief petitioner.
- We need to start writing letters to the editor expressing outrage that this guy is still allowed to operate.
- We need to insist that the Secretary of State hold Sizemore accountable for his misdeeds.
- We need to stop buying windows and doors made by Jeld-Wen – whose founding father is now helping to finance Sizemore's operations (I know that may be hard for those of us who own fixer-uppers, but get your windows from the ReBuilding Center instead – they recycle!)
- We need to bring back the days when many of us were driving around with "Bill Sizemore owes me money too!" bumper stickers.
So that's your mission, should you choose to accept it. It's a critical mission. It's a moral imperative.
We can't let this guy continue to line his pockets and carry the bag for the bad guys.
And we certainly can't let him win.
According to the Oregonian, Sizemore says that 2008 is going to be a "banner year for conservatives in Oregon," and he "fully intend(s) to pass several of the measures we are placing on the ballot."
With renewed enthusiasm and armed with the facts, we can end Sizemore's racket.
I'm there. Are you with me?