The Progressive


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For Immediate Release
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One Year After Ohio Train Derailment Disaster, Report Finds Norfolk Southern’s Federal Lobbying Spending Increased 30 Percent

Stronger Corporate Lobbying Disclosure Rules Needed to Protect Public and Inform Investors, Say U.S. Senators and Advocacy Group

A year since the Norfolk Southern train derailment disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, a new analysis of OpenSecrets data by Public Citizen reveals that the company and its subsidiaries spent $2,340,000 lobbying the federal government in 2023 – up 30% from the $1,800,000 it spent the year before. This includes money spent lobbying Congress on issues such as railway safety and railroad staffing requirements.

Norfolk Southern’s federal lobbying spending total in 2023 was its highest reported federal lobbying spending total since 2015, according to the analysis. In the decade before the February 3, 2023 train derailment, federal filings show that Norfolk Southern spent $20,700,000 to lobby Congress, federal agencies, and the White House.

“We have a general sense from these filings and news reports that Norfolk Southern lobbied on railroad safety and staffing following the East Palestine disaster, but current disclosures don’t paint a full lobbying picture of what impact all that lobbying actually had,” said Jon Golinger, Democracy Advocate at Public Citizen and author of the report. “Currently, federal lobbyists and their clients aren’t required to disclose exactly what people they lobbied, how much they spent lobbying on a specific issue, what they were trying to achieve, or even whether they were lobbying for or against a bill. This is just the latest example of why we need far more robust federal lobbying disclosure rules to inform investors and protect the public.”

In the wake of the findings, and as corporate spending on lobbying across the board reaches record highs, Public Citizen is supporting a recent request from a group of United States Senators that the federal Securities Exchange Commission use its authority to strengthen corporate lobbying disclosure rules to ensure investors and the public know more about a company’s lobbying spending, lobbying strategy, and any potential financial risks.

According to the report, Norfolk Southern’s 41 federal lobbyists in 2023 featured a bipartisan mix of Washington power-players including former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), former U.S. Senator John Breaux (D-LA), and former U.S. Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA). The company’s lobbyists also included dozens of former White House aides, regulatory agency officials, and Congressional staff.

The report also found that Norfolk Southern also has a substantial lobbying presence on the state level in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, a mishmash of state lobbying disclosure laws, differing terminology, lax requirements, and data scattered across many systems can make it difficult, if not impossible, to understand the full extent of a company’s state-level lobbying under existing rules.

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

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