Republican Doug Mastriano told supporters he didn't get any money from Ohio derailment train operator Norfolk Southern. Records show he took $1,000.
Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano is holding a hearing Thursday on the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment.
Mastriano, a Republican, recently denied receiving any money from train operator Norfolk Southern.
But campaign records show he accepted $1,000 from the company's political action committee.
On social media, state Sen. Doug Mastriano — a Pennsylvania Republican who last year ran for governor with the backing of former President Donald Trump — has gone after "radical environmentalists" and Democrats over this month's train derailment just across state lines in East Palestine, Ohio, suggesting both have neglected the crisis.
In one meme he shared Monday with his nearly 170,000 followers on Twitter, a parent, labeled "US government," is depicted in a pool lifting up one child dubbed "Ukraine" while another, "Ohio," struggles to stay afloat. Another comment he shared attacked President Joe Biden and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, who defeated Mastriano in the 2022 election. "Biden's in Ukraine and Shapiro's MIA," the user wrote, praising Mastriano for visiting East Palestine over the weekend.
As chairman of the state Senate committee charged with overseeing Pennsylvania's emergency preparedness, Mastriano is hosting a hearing on Thursday where he will seek testimony from state officials as well as representatives from Norfolk Southern, the company whose rail cars crashed and contaminated local waterways with toxic chemicals, killing thousands of fish and sparking concerns for the long-term health of nearby residents.
Mastriano has positioned himself as a truth-teller who bucks the establishment in both parties. But in a Facebook live stream last week in which he addressed the derailment, the senator misrepresented his own financial connection to the disaster.
When the lawmaker — who campaigned for governor on a platform of deregulation and expanded oil and gas development — told viewers "we can probably use our imagination" to explain the alleged neglect of East Palestine, one viewer, Paulette, offered up this response: "Norfolk rail donates to politicians" ("Donating to Democrats I'm sure!" another viewer, Karen, added in the comments).
"Yeah, Paulette, I heard on one of the news stations last night that that rail network is heavy into donating to politicians," Mastriano replied during the February 16 stream. While Mastriano said he couldn't confirm that was the case, "I know my own finances. I didn't get any money from that train network."
That's not true, according to campaign finance records. Since 2019, Mastriano has in fact received $1,000 from Norfolk Southern's political action committee, the Good Government Fund, per filings with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State. The last contribution, amounting to $500, came in 2020 when he was running for reelection to the state Senate.
Mastriano did not respond to a request for comment.
Norfolk Southern has also donated to Democrats. Indeed, in the 2022 election cycle, at the federal level, it gave a total of $725,000 to candidates from both parties, with roughly 51% of its contributions going to members of the Democratic Party. That was the first time since 2010 that a majority of its support did not go to the GOP, according to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics.
The company has been criticized for lobbying against stricter regulation of the rail industry, including a rule proposed during the Obama administration — and rescinded by the Trump administration — that would have required trains carrying hazardous chemicals to be outfitted with more advanced brake technology, The Washington Post reported.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, assured East Palestine residents that their drinking water is safe. Earlier in the day he and EPA Administrator Michael Regan toured the area and drank tap water from residents' homes.
Joining them was Pennsylvania's Shapiro, a Democrat, who last week ordered his own state's environmental regulators to conduct independent monitoring of water supplies. He lauded the EPA for ordering Norfolk Southern to cover the cost of cleaning up the accident.
"It was my view that Norfolk Southern wasn't going to do this out of the goodness in their heart," he said, CBS affiliate KDKA reported, adding: "There is no goodness in their heart."
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