Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Jail Time for Failure to File Nonprofit Forms

An Oregon circuit court judge sent Bill Sizemore to jail for contempt for failure to federal and state tax forms for a charitable organization, American Tax Research Foundation. Sizemore's problems are bigger than forgetting to file a few forms. Sizemore is well known in Oregon as "the most prolific ballot measure author in Oregon history." In this past fall's election the voters refused to approve all five Sizemore measures in the ballot. For a lot of people, knowing that Sizemore is behind a measure is enough to know which way to vote - against. Sizemore measures take on all sorts of things, but he has been in a long-running battle with the Oregon Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers in Oregon. In 2002 a jury awarded the two organizations $2.5 million plus attorney fees from two now-defunct organizations controlled by Sizemore. A judge in that case issued an injunction restricting Sizemore's ability to use tax-exempt organizations to advance his activities (which for federal tax purposes would be classified as lobbying rather than political campaigning). Sizemore has continued to violate the injunction, using money from the American Tax Research Foundation to pay personal bills and to finance ballot measures in 2006 and 2008. Before jailing Sizemore, Judge Judith Wilson read her findings for two hours, describing Sizemore as lying repeatedly under oath and using the Foundation's bank account as his "personal piggy bank." See the Portland Oregonian's story here.

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