COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The group collecting signatures for a voter referendum on the state’s billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout has taken its fight to federal court.
Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts is challenging a state requirement which, it said, is hindering the process.
The group is also accusing opponents of the referendum effort of trying to buy out the people hired to collect signatures.
Gene Pierce, a spokesman for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, said the group routinely files required forms with the state listing the names and contact information of people hired to gather signatures.
“Our opposition has been using that form, which becomes a public record, to track down our people and call them and either try to intimidate them or to buy them out for $2,500 and a plane ticket,” Pierce said.
Advertising funded by supporters of the bailout has warned of foreign influence in Ohio’s energy supply.
Ohioans for Energy Security and other groups have also been conducting a ground campaign to dissuade voters from signing the referendum petitions.
Christopher Finney, an attorney for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, calls the anti-referendum campaign an assault on the Ohio constitution.
“They have spread literally millions, probably more than $10 million throughout the state, in order to obstruct the petition process,” Finney said.
“They sent out a blast e-mail to all of our petitioners offering $2,500 plus a plane ticket to anywhere in the continental United States to stop working for us,” Finney continued.
We have hundreds of paid petitioners on the ground. Fifty people or more took that offer on Wednesday night significantly impairing our petitioning effort. We think this is organized crime activity.”
At issue is House Bill 6, passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor, that will provide First Energy Solutions with nearly $1 billion to bailout two nuclear power plants and two coal-fired plants.
The money would be generated by an additional charge applied to all rate-payers in Ohio.
Ohioans Against Corporate Bailout is seeking a temporary restraining order from the federal court and plans to also request an extension of the October 21 deadline to submit the required signatures.