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Group Seeking Referendum on Energy Bill Says Petitioners Being Paid to Drop Out

photo of people signing House Bill 6 referendum petitions
Person holding an HB6 referendum petition.

The Ohio Attorney General is looking into allegations that a nuclear bailout group is trying to pay off petitioners and to buy the signatures they've gathered.

Gene Pierce said he keeps seeing a decline in hired petition circulators. He said one day they’ll work for his anti-bailout group, gathering signatures to put the law before voters. And they'll disappear the next.

Pierce said the opposition, which wants to save the subsidies for FirstEnergy Solutions’ nuclear plants, is offering to pay circulators to drop out and sometimes offers money for the signatures they've collected, which is illegal.

"Our opponents have been harassing, intimidating, and now they're breaking the law by offering to buy signatures in a desperate effort to stop this petition to repeal that bailout," Pierce said.

But the pro-bailout group Generation Now, which has been sending monitors to follow anti-bailout circulators, said they're not familiar with these allegations and have not engaged in those practices.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.