What do the Norfolk Southern train crash spewing toxic chemcials and Silicon Valley Bank closing have in common?
Follow the money. How do corporations getting regulations relaxed? Who are the politicians bending rules for their wealthy donors? How gets stuck with the bill?
Rail lobby money at work. "The influence of rail companies on policymaking was thrust into the spotlight after a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3 while carrying toxic chemicals that could pose long-term health risks to residents. But the industry’s hold of the Congress goes beyond Norfolk Southern and its efforts to water down legislation addressing systemic safety issues." - Open Secrets
Bank lobby money at work. "Eight years before the second-largest bank failure in American history occurred this week, the bank’s president personally pressed Congress to reduce scrutiny of his financial institution, citing the “low risk profile of our activities and business model". Three years later — after the bank spent more than half a million dollars on federal lobbying — lawmakers obliged. - The Lever
Follow the money weakening safety regulations
Political lobbying in action
BANKING. Luetkemeyer in his most recent annual disclosure, disclosed a stake worth up to $25 million in St. Elizabeth Bancshares, a S corporation.
- His brother Brice is the president and CEO of the bank and his spouse is on its board of directors.
- Rep. Luetkemeyer has taken in between $4.6 million and $26 million in pass-through income from the bank since becoming a member of Congress, according to his annual disclosures.
- His spouse has collected annual director’s fees.
- Luetkemeyer was the chairman of the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee in the 115th Congress.
- The congressional record shows that Luetkemeyer interacted with the ABA in his official capacity on the subcommittee without disclosing that he owns one of the group’s members.
In 2018, during a hearing he convened on CECL, Luetkemeyer submitted a letter from the ABA for the record, again without mentioning that the lobbying group represents his own bank.
“Personal enrichment is a temptation that is hard to resist,” Holman said, “That is why Congress made such a conflict of interest illegal for executive branch officials. But Congress has deemed that the same self-serving conflicts of interest shall not apply to itself. Members of Congress can use their official positions to cash in, and Luetkemeyer is making the most of it.” - Read Sludge
BANKING. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) — the Senate’s third largest recipient of rail industry campaign cash — pushed to repeal the electronic braking rule outright, before settling for a measure requiring additional research and a new cost-benefit analysis of the technology. Under former President Donald Trump, the braking upgrades quickly became another casualty of his administration’s slash-and-burn approach to regulatory policy.
Trump’s Transportation Department ultimately rescinded the brake rule in late 2017. Thune praised the decision in a statement arguing that “sound science and careful study” had won the day. Lever News
At the state level, the industry spent $60.3 million in lobbying between 2002 and 2022 in the 20 states OpenSecrets collects data on, with the top recipients being California, Texas and New York. In this time frame, the top company with disclosed lobbying at the state level was BNSF Railway, which spent $12.7 million since 2003. In 2022, railroad companies spent $3 million lobbying the 20 states. The years in which OpenSecrets has data in those 20 states vary. Since the 2002 election cycle, the industry has contributed $85 million to federal candidates, political parties and outside spending groups, with the majority of contributions historically going to benefit Republicans. The biggest contributors were BNSF Railway, Union Pacific Corp., CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern. - Open Secrets
TakeAway: Stop politicians bending safety regulations for wealthy donors. Your life and savings may depend on it.
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