March 30, 2023

COMPLICITY: Norfolk Southern gave thousands to Ohio’s GOP Governor

COMPLICITY: Norfolk Southern gave thousands to Ohio's GOP Governor

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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) has some explaining to do after reports that the company responsible for the environmental disaster in East Palestine two weeks ago donated thousands to the governor’s campaign.

Norfolk Southern shelled out $10,000 to help fund DeWine’s inauguration party last month, bringing the total amount received from the Virginia-based corporation since 2018 to just under $30,000, according to local affiliate ABC6,

The railway company has donated $98,000 to Ohio politicians over the past six years in what ABC’s 6 On Your Side says is an “extensive, ongoing effort to influence statewide officials and Ohio lawmakers.”

Save for a $3,000 donation to DeWine’s 2018 Democratic opponent, Richard Cordray, nearly all funding went towards the support of Republicans.

Lobbyists for Norfolk Southern allegedly targeted state legislators to influence policy aimed at regulating the industry.

The railway company has worked diligently to prevent safety measures proposed to avoid disasters like the East Palestine derailment from happening.

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The corporation successfully lobbied to block a 2021 bill that would have required a two-person crew, and allowed civil recourse if found to have broken the law.

Co-sponsored by State Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), the proposal went through five rounds of hearing before the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee before eventually being defeated.

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“Railroads are a very important part of commerce, but if you start thinking about what’s carried in a rail car, what kind of havoc that could wreak on your districts and your communities. I think it is a common-sense solution to require a two-man train crew,” Hillyer said.

A spokesperson for Gov. DeWine’s campaign insists that Norfolk Southern’s donations have no bearing on the governor’s decisions regarding the incident and that the state is ready to sue the company if the corporation fails to keep its commitment to cover the cost of damages and clean-up.

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Norfolk Southern spent over $4 million lobbying legislators in 2021, with the company writing on its official website, “We make political contributions when we determine them to be in the best interests of the corporation.”

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As local and federal officials – including the Environmental Protection Agency – assess the physical and environmental damage as a result of the release of toxic chemicals into the air, how Gov. DeWine handles the impending fallout from the derailment – and whether Norfolk Southern will continue to get what they paid for – remains to be seen.

Original reporting by Darrel Rowland at ABC6.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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