Yost warns House Bill 6 supporters to not harass referendum workers

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"Yost issued the warning Monday after reviewing a 'handful' of reports of misconduct by “blockers,” who are instructed by bailout supporters to attempt to discourage voters from signing the referendum petition forms.

'There’s enough reports in the news media and on social media I am concerned about it. I don’t want this to become normal practice in Ohio political life,' the attorney general said.

'It’s great if you are saying, ‘Don’t sign that, it is going to be bad,’ that’s free speech. But, intimidating or harassing a circulator, that is over the line into criminal conduct.'

'This is not just political pranksterism,' Yost said. Interfering with a petition circulator is a misdemeanor carrying 90 to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, the Republican said.

Yost encouraged those who witness misconduct by petition circulators or 'blockers' to contact his office’s help center so information potentially can be referred to county prosecutors."

-- Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch  

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3 Ohio Supreme Court justices remove themselves from House Bill 6

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COLUMBUS -- "Two Ohio Supreme Court justices recused themselves Friday from hearing a lawsuit seeking to stop a referendum attempt to cast aside the House Bill 6 bailout of two nuclear power plants.

A third justice plans to disqualify himself from the case in a filing Monday.

The common thread: Two of the defendants in the House Bill 6 case managed the three Republicans’ successful election campaigns.

Justice Patrick Fischer removed himself from the case Friday morning, with Justice Judith French following Friday afternoon. Justice Patrick DeWine told The Dispatch he would recuse himself Monday.

Fischer and French did not state the reason for disqualifying themselves from hearing the case in which FirstEnergy Solutions is suing Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts in a bid to negate the group’s petition effort to place a House Bill 6 repeal referendum on the November 2020 ballot."

-- Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch

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More disclosure needed on dark money interests funding untrue ads

COLUMBUS -- "Greater disclosure from dark money groups is needed to tamp down “fear mongering” political rhetoric such as the ads from a dark money group fighting a potential referendum on the Ohio’s nuclear bailout bill, two community groups said Thursday.

The League of Women Voters and Common Cause Ohio are calling on state lawmakers to adopt new campaign finance rules that would shed more light on the sources of funding for dark money interests.

Representatives from those groups said during a press conference Thursday that they are concerned about an aggressive campaign by Ohioans for Energy Security, which supports Ohio’s relief package for First Energy Solutions’ nuclear power plants. In mailers and television ads, the group has tried to link opponents to China and called on people to report the location of those collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to repeal the law."

-- Rick Rouan, Columbus Dispatch

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Fear is a powerful tool

Ohio Citizen Action regularly manages petition drive-type work throughout the state on numerous issues. Due to the language of the ads being run by Ohioans for Energy Security, volunteers and employees of Ohio Citizen Action may be targeted under false pretenses as agents of a foreign government, a blatantly false and defamatory conclusion.

Editorial: Don’t believe ads opposing FirstEnergy bailout referendum

AKRON -- "How much money is at stake in Ohio lawmakers’ bailout of Akron-based FirstEnergy Solution’s nuclear power plants?

Enough to motivate backers of House Bill 6 to produce slick TV commercials and mailers that wildly twist the truth in an effort to stop a referendum seeking to block the bailout. It’s even been enough to prompt a physical altercation between a woman and a man asking people to sign petitions whom she was monitoring.

We say enough already, FirstEnergy Solutions...

HB 6 bails out two nuclear power plants by giving its owners nearly $1 billion, and that will save those 1,400 jobs and preserve renewable power sources for now. The bill also does a lot to damage Ohio’s future, and Ohioans have good reason to second-guess the legislature’s actions.

It’s an issue worthy of more public debate, presuming it can be based on arguments resembling facts.

For now, we call on FirstEnergy Solutions to hold its supporters to a much higher standard."

-- Editorial, Akron Beacon Journal

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Who's behind Ohioans for Energy Security's ad campaign to scare voters?

Ohioans for Energy Security tells voters to call its hotline to report petition gatherers.

"The server for the group’s website – www.ohioansforenergysecurity.com – also hosts the websites of Elsass’s Strategy Group Company and Front Porch Strategies. 

It also hosts a site – LarryHouseholderFightsforus.com – supporting Ohio’s Republican House Speaker Larry Householder, whose rise to the speakership was backed by FirstEnergy and Generation Now. Householder then led the drive to pass HB 6. The pro-Householder site is paid for by the Michigan-based Hardworking Americans Committee, which spent over $450,000 on ads opposing Householder’s Republican primary opponent Kevin Black in 2018. 

Federal Elections Commission data shows the Hardworking Americans Committee received $50,000 in 2018 from the PAC of Murray Energy, a coal producer that stands to benefit from HB 6. 

The Hardworking Americans also received $50,000 that year from Political Education Patterns, the PAC for the Cleveland-based International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18. IUOE Local 18 doled out $295,000 to Generation Now in 2018 and 2019, according to FEC data. Mark A. Totman, the union’s VP, serves as one of Governor Dewine’s appointees to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Nominating Council, where he represents organized labor."

-- Dave Anderson, Energy and Policy Institute 

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Ohio Citizen Action files Cease and Desist Letter with Ohioans For Energy Security

Letter delivered amidst police reports of violence toward signature collectors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 11, 2019

Contact: Rachael Belz, 513-602-4115

or Melissa English, 513-307-8527

Cincinnati, OH – September 11, 2019- Ohio’s largest consumer and environmental advocacy group has issued cease and desist letter (attached) with Ohioans for Energy Security regarding their ad campaign and website opposing signature collection for the citizen referendum on House Bill 6. Ohio Citizen Action is calling for an end for all unlawful defamation, slander, and/or libel around actions and statements relating to Ohio ballot petitioners and website language encouraging Ohioans to report seeing petition circulators via a “hotline.”

In addition to a ludicrous $2.3 million ad buy asserting that signing a House Bill 6 referendum petition would result in personal information being given to the Chinese government, Ohioans for Energy Security has now hired workers referred to as “blockers” who shadow petition collectors in efforts to prevent voters from signing petitions. Their goals are to confuse and intimidate petition signers and interfere with the signature collection process.

On September 10, a paid signature collector for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts filed a police report in the city of Dublin (Columbus suburb) saying he was assaulted by someone hired by Generation Now. While an investigation is pending, it is clear that the messages coming from Generation Now are having their desired effect of putting signature collectors in harm’s way.

“Those supporting the bailout of Ohio’s nuclear power plants have stooped to a new low,” said Rachael Belz, Executive Director of Ohio Citizen Action. “Individuals are being sent to block a voter’s Constitutional right to sign a petition through confusion and intimidation. Sounds like they know Ohioans are ready to sign and are prepared to stop at nothing to protect the benefits of their corporate bailout.”

Ohio Citizen Action regularly manages petition drive-type work throughout the state on numerous issues. Due to the language of the ads being run by Ohioans for Energy Security, volunteers and employees of Ohio Citizen Action may be targeted under false pretenses as agents of a foreign government, a blatantly false and defamatory conclusion.

“Claims made in these ads are false and disparage the reputation of Ohioans exercising their democratic rights,” said Belz. “Our cease and desist letter gives this campaign 10 days to stop these potentially harmful tactics or face possible legal action.”

Cease and Desist letter (pdf)

House Bill 6 referendum petition circulator says he was assaulted in Dublin

COLUMBUS — "A Las Vegas man gathering petition signatures for the House Bill 6 repeal referendum says he was assaulted Tuesday in Dublin by a woman who slapped his cell phone from his hand as he took her picture.

Harold Chung called police at 12:56 p.m. Tuesday to report he was attacked outside the Dublin branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 75 N. High St., according to a police report.

Police said an investigation is continuing and no arrest has been made.

Chung told officers the woman who shoved him with her shoulder and slapped his phone to the ground had been following other petition gatherers from his unidentified company around prior to the incident.

'It looks like she is hired blocker to keep me from gathering signatures,' Chung said in his 911 call to police. The woman, who was carrying fliers she dropped, 'kind of shoulder blocked me away,' when he attempted to pick up his phone, he said."

— Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch

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Ohio nuclear bailout defenders deploy ground troops to thwart repeal effort’s signature collection

COLUMBUS — "Generation Now, a pro-House Bill 6 political group, has hired on-the-ground workers to try to prevent voters from signing petitions from a different group seeking to place an HB6 repeal on the November 2020 ballot.

Political professionals generally refer to this category of campaign workers as “blockers,” who are tasked with interfering with the signature collection process. But Generation Now spokesman Curt Steiner called them 'educators.'

'They’re going to be going to places where there’s a likelihood that there will be activity to gather signatures,' Steiner said. 'They’ve also been asked, where they see people, to be polite, give them information and don’t interfere with anyone trying to sign a petition.'

Gene Pierce, a spokesman for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the group collecting the signatures, said the blockers’ early tactics have been aggressive."

— Andrew J. Tobias, Cleveland.com

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Ads claim voter referendum would allow 'China to control Ohio’s power'

Screenshot from the pro-HB 6 advertisement.

COLUMBUS — "Both sides are limited liability corporations that do not have to reveal who’s paying their bills. Both say they will comply with Ohio law and have not chosen to voluntarily disclose their backers.

Mr. Loparo declined to say whether FirstEnergy Solutions is among its backers while Mr. Pierce stressed there is no Chinese money involved in the referendum effort. Mr. Pierce also noted that FirstEnergy Corp., the Akron-based corporation that spun off FirstEnergy Solutions, also benefited from investment from the China bank.

Corporate Bailouts also claims that its coalition includes representatives of consumer and environmental organizations as well as others opposed to the passage of House Bill 6, although it remains to be seen how the scope of the coalition will be reflected in its campaign filings."

— Jim Provance, The Blade

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