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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ An organization headed by Oregon's foremost anti-tax activist was ordered by a jury Friday to pay $840,000 for racketeering violations involving forged petitions that got two anti-union measures on the ballot.

A short time later, the state attorney general's office said it was opening an investigation to determine whether Oregon Taxpayers United had broken any laws regarding nonprofit groups.

The civil jury awarded the amount to the state's two largest teachers' unions. A judge will decide later whether to triple the verdict under Oregon's anti-racketeering law.

The Oregon Education Association and the Oregon chapter of the American Federation of Teachers sued Taxpayers United, founded in 1993 by activist Bill Sizemore, over two measures on the 2000 ballot.

The unions said they spent nearly $700,000 fighting the two failed measures, which would have prohibited or limited the use of union dues for political contributions without permission from members.

The unions argued that the petitions used to get the two measures on the ballot contained forged signatures, and that Sizemore's two organizations filed false tax and campaign contribution reports. The jury agreed, but awarded the damages based on the latter complaint.

Sizemore's attorney, Greg Byrne, said any misconduct was the result of ``carelessness, not deception.'' He promised an appeal.

Sizemore testified that he never forged signatures or sanctioned them.

The former house painter and toy salesman has put tax measure after tax measure on the ballot, including a property tax limit approved by voters in 1996.

Sizemore was the state's Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1998, losing to Gov. John Kitzhaber.