Home Markets Sen. Bob Casey Gives Federal Funds to Norfolk Southern Days After Accepting Lobbyist Cash

Sen. Bob Casey Gives Federal Funds to Norfolk Southern Days After Accepting Lobbyist Cash

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Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) may have publicly berated Norfolk Southern Railroad after the East Palestine Disaster, but privately he lavishly directed federal funds their way only days after accepting a campaign donation from their high-powered lobbyist.

The donation and grant announcement occurred after the February 23, 2023, rail disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, which sits on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. A Norfolk Southern train more than a mile long derailed, scattering dozens of train cars and toxic chemicals which spewed columns of black smoke for days.

The wind blew acrid smoke into East Palestine residents’ homes and coated their cars with ash. It was days before officials cleared them to return to their homes.

Wade Lovett, 40, poses for a portrait along Leslie Run creek on February 22, 2023, in East Palestine, Ohio. Lovett was working at Rollerena Auto Sales when a Norfolk Southern train derailed on February 3, causing 38 cars of about 150 to fall off the tracks and cars carrying hazardous materials to catch fire. As the train burned, Lovett says he continued to work until residents and businesses were forced to evacuate. Three days later, the railroad burned vinyl chloride from five tanker cars to prevent an explosion, according to published reports. Lovett says he is still experiencing symptoms, including losing his voice, and experiencing a sore throat and a cough. “Every time I lay down, it feels like I’m drowning,” Lovett says. (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

Since the disaster, Casey has touted his support of legislation to improve railway safety and provide assistance after disasters. And his stump speeches have been littered with tough talk about Norfolk Southern, including saying the company bore legal and moral responsibility for the derailment.

“What they do when we propose legislation year after year is they send their high paid lobbyists to try to stop the bill,” Casey said in April 2023.

Casey appears to know the activities of those lobbyists first-hand. His reelection campaign continued raking in cash from Norfolk Southern through its Political Action Committee (PAC) and even the lobbyists he publicly belittled raised questions about the sincerity of Casey’s rhetoric.

The timing of some of those donations raises further questions.

On December 4, 2023, Bob Casey accepted $1,000 in campaign cash from Denis Dwyer, a lobbyist for Norfolk Southern who lobbies on appropriations issues impacting the rail industry.

Just two days later, on December 6, 2023, Casey announced a $143 million federal grant for Norfolk Southern.

The report of the donation was not filed until January 19, 2024, over a month after the donation and the federal grant announcement.

Those federal funds to Norfolk Southern are classified for track and safety improvements but will be allocated to support expanded Amtrak passenger service between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Casey made clear he fought for the funding, which was announced months after the East Palestine disaster and after Casey’s earlier condemnation of the railway company for bearing responsibility for the East Palestine ecological disaster.

“I fought for this funding because when Pennsylvanians can move quickly and easily across the state for work, study, or travel our Commonwealth thrives,” he said. “Improving rail service means more jobs, more economic opportunities, and more time spent with family for urban and rural communities alike.” 

But that donation is a drop in the bucket compared to Casey’s total haul from Norfolk Southern. The Pennsylvania senator has taken tens of thousands of dollars from Norfolk Southern’s corporate PAC – called the Norfolk Southern Corporation Good Government Fund – including $10,000 since his last re-election.

The total Casey has taken from Norfolk Southern’s corporate PAC is $37,500, according to Federal Elections Commission filings.

Dwyer, called “one of Washington’s top four transportation lobbyists” by Influence Online, was formerly the head of the international trade association of the railroad and rail rapid transit manufacturing and supplier industry.

In 2021, Dwyer played a key role in securing a controversial multi-million dollar rail contract in Hawaii. His firm received a no-bid contract from the Honolulu transit authority thanks to his close relationship with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).

But Casey has accepted thousands more in six separate campaign donations from other Norfolk Southern lobbyists, Israel Klein, Chris Wilcox, and Bert Carp, since the East Palestine train disaster.

Klein is a former “top communications aide” for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Wilcox is a former aide to former Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). And Carp is a “senior and respected Democratic strategist” who remains “very active in Democratic politics.”

Their donations to Casey add up to $4,640.

As for the three bills Casey regularly touts – the Railway Safety Act, Railway Accountability Act, and Assistance for Local Heroes During Train Crises Act – the Democrat-led Senate has failed even to vote on any of them.

Casey first ascended to public office after winning the race for Pennsylvania Auditor General in 1996 – almost three decades ago – only returning to the private sector for two years after losing a race for governor. He is now seeking his fourth 6-year Senate term.

Bradley Jaye is a Capitol Hill Correspondent for Breitbart News. Follow him on X/Twitter at @BradleyAJaye.

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