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)
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
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
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
Those costs, however, apparently won't be borne by everyone. Municipal power companies and rural electric co-ops are exempt from HB6 and their customers won't have to pay the subsidies, their members and associations say."
-- Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business
COLUMBUS — "The filing notes that a number of opponents of HB6 argued that it was a tax during legislative debate over the measure earlier this year.
The suit was filed against Secretary of State Frank LaRose – the state’s chief elections official – as well as Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the group pushing to hold the referendum.
Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts got the go-ahead last week to begin collecting the roughly 266,000 valid petition signatures from registered voters to place the referendum on the 2020 ballot. The group has until Oct. 21 to submit the signatures.
FirstEnergy Solutions asked the Supreme Court to rule quickly, arguing in a motion that "'The sooner the Court invalidates the Referendum Petition, the fewer the number of Ohio electors who will be misled by the Committee’s illegal referendum effort and the less public resources that will be wasted in determining the sufficiency of signatures and other legal requirements relating to the futile Referendum Petition.'”
— Jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland.com
COLUMBUS — "Efforts to hold a statewide referendum to overturn Ohio’s newly passed nuclear power plant bailout law moved a step closer to reality Thursday, as Attorney General Dave Yost announced he has approved supporters’ ballot summary language.
According to usual practice, Yost, a Columbus-area Republican, didn’t weigh in on whether he supports or opposes the measure.
If Secretary of State Frank LaRose certifies an initial batch of 1,000 signatures collected from registered voters favoring the referendum, that means backers of the effort will have the green light to start collecting the 265,774 petition signatures by Oct. 21 needed for the referendum on House Bill 6 to appear on the November 2020 ballot.
Earlier this month, Yost rejected proposed ballot summary language – a succinct explanation of the proposal provided to voters asked to sign a petition supporting the measure – submitted by Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the group seeking the referendum. The AG cited 21 errors he found in the proposed language, including inaccurate definitions of terms and misstating the size of energy projects that are eligible for a property tax exemption."
— Jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland.com
The website of Ohioans for Energy Security warns, "don't give your personal information to the Chinese government."
"Brace yourselves, Ohio, for another whole holler-fest around House Bill 6, the recently passed law using Ohioans’ electric bills to bail out two nuclear power plants plus a couple of coal plants. It also will boost a few specific solar-energy projects but otherwise decimate clean-energy development in the state.
Unsurprisingly, the law has enough opposition that a campaign was mounted quickly to subject it to a ballot referendum. Equally unsurprisingly, HB 6 backers plan to fight the referendum effort.
If the law’s opponents succeed in getting the 265,774 valid petition signatures they need by Oct. 21 to put the issue on the November 2020 ballot, we can all expect a hard-fought campaign with a barrage of ads like those we saw while the General Assembly was debating the bill. Obnoxious ad wars are standard for high-profile ballot issues.
In this case, though, those who want to see the bailout bill survive aren’t even waiting for an election campaign; they’re spending money to keep an election from happening. A new group called Ohioans for Energy Security is running an ad urging people not to sign the referendum petition."
-- Editorial, The Columbus Dispatch
(Screenshot from the new pro-HB 6 ad)
COLUMBUS -- "One problem with discerning the motives of the two groups around the legislation signed last month by Gov. Mike DeWine is that as limited-liability corporations, neither has to say who is giving them money, and both are refusing to do so.
'We’re not going to get distracted,' Pierce said. 'We’ll make our filings.'
Similarly, FirstEnergy Solutions is in bankruptcy after receiving $10.2 billion in state subsidies since 1999, but supporters of the bailout won’t say who’s financing the current $1 million ad campaign.
A spokesman for DeWine said he had no comment on the ad or its secret financing.
House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, was perhaps the biggest supporter of the bailout and on Tuesday he seemed to support the ad as well.
'We continue to be concerned about increased foreign ownership of America’s critical infrastructure and the potential threat it poses to our national security, energy security and public safety,' said his spokeswoman, Gail Crawley.
Another backer, Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said he favored the bill because it saved jobs. 'That’s the right public policy for the people of Ohio, regardless of whatever messaging either side uses on the campaign trail,' he said in an email."
-- Marty Schladen, The Columbus Dispatch
"As cleveland.com’s Jeremy Pelzer reports, this could be just the opening salvo in a likely spending spree to protect the nuclear bailout, should the issue get on the ballot.
But what is the evidence to support the ad’s alarmist rhetoric about a Chinese invasion?
Ohioans for Energy Security, the group behind the ads, cites the fact that Ohio natural gas plants built or being built by entrepreneur Bill Siderewicz -- one of those behind the anti-HB-6 referendum effort -- have Chinese investment money (yes, along with private U.S., British, and French money and equity from Australian and Germany firms, as well).
That’s not exactly the same as an invasion."
-- Editorial Board, Cleveland.com