COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is investigating a complaint that petition circulators for a voter referendum on the state’s $1 billion nuclear plant bailout are being offered cash to quit the campaign and to turn over the signatures gathered.
“We know that at least two people have been approached,” said Gene Pierce, spokesman for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts. “Two people were approached and offered $10,000 to $20,000 to quit and work for the other side – passing their bogus petition that they’re circulating to try to confuse people about our petition.”
Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Ohioans for Energy Security, issued a statement in response:
“Despite the millions of dollars Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts has spent on this misguided repeal effort, they appear to be falling short of the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Now they’re looking for excuses. Their allegations are nothing more than a desperate and fraudulent attempt to buy more time for their failing effort. Shame on them.”
The allegation of cash offers is the latest complaint in the ongoing battle to sway the public’s understanding of the controversial energy bill that became law in July.
Should enough signatures be collected for the referendum, voters would be able to decide if House Bill 6 (HB6) should remain in effect. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts has until Oct. 21 to collect 265,744 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
HB6 is also known as the Ohio Clean Air Act and the Nuclear Bailout Bill.
The bill was passed by state lawmakers and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine this summer.
It adds a fee to all electricity users’ bills to pay for a $150 million annual bailout of FirstEnergy Solutions’ two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio. The company claims the plants are not profitable and there is a bankruptcy case involving them.
Ohioans for Energy Security, a non-profit that will not reveal who its donors are, is airing commercials that claim the Chinese government is trying to invade America’s energy grid by entangling themselves financially in the companies that create and distribute energy.
It also claims the group spreading the petition to overturn HB6 is working to benefit the communist government and recent iterations ask people to report petitioners’ locations to a phone number provided on screen.
Another group is sending out what they call field staff from FieldWorks to “educate” people. The group is Generation Now, another non-profit group that is not revealing its donors. This group wants to convince people not to sign the petition.
Pierce said some of the tactics being used to oppose the signature-gathering effort may be criminal.
“Basically, it’s petition bribery where you are paying people to destroy or lose their petitions and that’s specifically against the law,” he said.