"'When HB6's supporters' false and misleading propaganda failed to slow down our petition drive, they resorted to physical intimidation tactics. When intimidation tactics didn't work, supporters switched to trying to confuse the situation even more with a withdrawal campaign. Voters are not confused. They know HB6 is a bailout and they know this petition will put the billion dollar bailout up for a vote,' Pierce says in a written statement.
Catherine Turcer with the voter rights group Common Cause Ohio, says the effort to remove names from the petition is just the latest strategy from groups trying to interfere with a citizen's right to referendum.
'Making it just even harder for voters to have the opportunity to vote on this energy bill,' says Turcer. 'There are so many hoops to do a referendum, it's just creating yet another hoop.'"
-- Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau
COLUMBUS — "Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is investigating new allegations that people circulating petitions for a statewide referendum on a controversial energy bill are being offered cash to quit the campaign and to sell signed petitions to the opposing side.
It’s the latest chapter in a costly, contentious fight over House Bill 6, which was signed into law in July. It mandates Ohio’s 4.8 million utility customers pay monthly fees to bailout aging nuclear power plants owned by Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions and two coal-fired plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electricity Corp. The bailouts add up to more than $1 billion.
Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, which faces an Oct. 21 deadline to collect 265,744 valid voter signatures, alleges that opponents of their campaign have offered their circulators as much as $10,000 to quit and one of their petition circulating vendors was offered $100,000 to pull out."
— Laura A. Bischoff, Dayton Daily News
"Yost called on signature-gatherers to report harassment and intimidation directly to his office by calling (800) 282-0515.
A statement from Generation Now, the pro-HB 6 group that has hired petition blockers, said it would not tolerate illegal tactics. 'Field staffers have been reminded repeatedly to act appropriately and generally it appears they are,' said the statement from spokesman Curt Steiner. 'One staffer was fired after misbehavior was documented and FieldWorks will follow up on any documented incidents.'
But the best and surest way to end these incidents is for FirstEnergy to step forward now and do the right thing, by condemning the intimidation and calling for it to end."
COLUMBUS -- "Generation Now is a dark money group funding a counter referendum effort. They're trying to protect the nuclear subsidies bound for FirstEnergy Solutions. Part of that effort is to pay for people to follow petitioners like Sutherly around.
Sutherly says these trackers are becoming aggressive and intimidating. She says they've crowded around her, followed her in a car for miles while she was driving home, and, while she was collecting signatures on Ohio State University's campus, assaulted her.
'The one gentleman turned around and wailed my hand in front of three students and knocked the phone out of my hand,' Sutherly explains.
Sutherly, who's wearing a brace on her left wrist, says she reported the case to OSU police."
-- Andy Chow, National Public Radio
"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
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
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
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.
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
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