Sizemore’s legal troubles limit his anti-tax push

EUGENE — Bill Sizemore, an activist who has campaigned against taxes for 10 years, must content himself with a supporting role in the most recent assault against a tax increase that is part of the Legislature’s budget-balancing package.

Sizemore has been mailing out petition sheets and fund-raising letters to help overturn the proposed increase, which would raise $1.1 billion during three years. But Sizemore is working largely on his own, shunned by anti-tax groups who worry that his legal entanglements could taint their campaign.

A Multnomah County circuit judge in spring found that Sizemore conspired with his group, Oregon Taxpayers United, to funnel money illegally from the foundation into what should have been separate initiative petition-gathering efforts.

The decision, and a $2.5 million jury verdict, were the result of a racketeering lawsuit brought by labor unions against Oregon Taxpayers United.

“Until those are resolved, we’re not going to have him involved in any official capacity with the campaign,” said Russ Walker, Northwest director of Washington, D.C.-based Citizens for a Sound Economy and a key figure in the petition drive.

“I think those legal issues are serious issues. And until those are resolved, his credibility is in question with the general public.”

Opponents of the three-year tax must submit petitions containing at least 50,420 valid voter signatures by Nov. 25 to force a statewide vote on the tax. That would occur Feb. 3.

Sizemore said it is difficult for him to play a limited role in the anti-tax campaign — but watching others take up his banner is encouraging.

“There is some personal satisfaction in watching this historic signature drive happen with me only playing a minor role, because it says to me it’s no longer just Bill Sizemore against the tax-and-spenders,” he said. “There are now a lot of people rallying to the cause.”

Last year’s legal ruling prevented Sizemore from organizing charities similar to the one used to funnel donations into his organization’s political campaigns. He is not banned, however, from gathering signatures or otherwise participating in the political system.

Portland political analyst Jim Moore said that including Sizemore in an official anti-tax campaign could make its sponsors vulnerable to attack from opponents who could portray Sizemore as a “loose cannon.”