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McCarthy’s First Announced Bill As Speaker Is a “Parents Bill of Rights” That Polices Schools and Students

This bill may not seem dangerous, but it escalates an attack on schools across the country.

Kevin McCarthy
Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Kevin McCarthy

To become speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy had to give the most radical parts of his party pretty much everything they asked for. The negotiations elided the fact that McCarthy is actually not all that different from his detractors. By introducing the repressive so-called “Parents Bill of Rights,” McCarthy reminds us that indeed, he’s in good company.

The Republican-led bill aims to police teachers and school staff even more, at a time when school boards across the country have expressed concern for academic freedom (and even for their lives) in the face of a loud minority protesting everything from Covid safety precautions to classroom material.

The bill, introduced on Wednesday by Representative Julia Letlow, says that parents’ “God-given right to make decisions for their children’’ is being disrupted as “special interest groups try to criminalize free speech.” Letlow’s bill—applauded by far-right special interest groups like Moms for Liberty (funded by billionaire heiresses and endorsed by figures like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis)—polices schools down to the materials teachers use in class and what books kids are allowed to read.

Couched in what may appear like reasonable respect for parents’ concern for their children, the bill in reality opens up more avenues to attack already overworked and under-appreciated teachers.

The bill—echoing practices already being rolled out in places like Florida—calls for school districts to post curriculum information and provide parents with lists of reading materials available in school libraries. Again, what may seem like reasonable enough requests have been, in practice, draconian. Teachers in Florida subject to similar standards have been forced to either empty classroom libraries, cover them up, or catalog each book into a central system to check for compliance with their districts’ restrictive standards.

Other parts of the Bill of Rights seem to fearmonger and imply that parents are never listened to in schools. The bill calls for school districts to consider community feedback when making decisions, allow parents to address school boards, and notify parents of violent activity happening on school grounds. These are already more-or-less standard practices for schools across the country, but in combining these demands with others that are more radical, the bill’s proponents push an agenda that escalates an already ongoing assault on teachers and students.

In 2021, the National School Boards Association sent a letter to the government asking for a comprehensive investigation into violent threats against school board members, writing that the threats “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the Justice Department to carry out such an inquiry shortly after. In February, House Republicans subpoenaed officials including Garland, questioning such efforts to support school board members, in attempts to cast doubt on the school board letter and their concerns in the first place.

And now, Republicans are lining up behind a bill that broadly mandates educators and policymakers to “respect the First Amendment rights of parents as well as their right to assemble.” In hiding behind amorphous constitutional language, Republicans are signing off on, and encouraging, threats against school staff and escalating an attack on the freedom of teachers to teach and students to learn without being policed by outside interests.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel Was Targeted in Plot to Kill Jewish State Officials

The Democratic attorney general is the latest target in growing antisemitism and political violence in this country.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks outside with a microphone in hand
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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel revealed Thursday that she was the target of an antisemitic extremist attack, part of a growing wave of violence against Democratic lawmakers and Jewish people.

The FBI and local authorities arrested a man named Jack Carpenter III for plotting to kill all Jewish Michigan elected officials. Carpenter tweeted on February 17 that he was “heading back to Michigan now threatening to carry out the punishment of death to anyone that is jewish in the Michigan govt if they don’t leave, or confess,” according to court documents. He also insisted that a “New Israel” had been formed in the town of Tipton, where he lived.

The FBI has confirmed I was a target of the heavily armed defendant in this matter,” Nessel tweeted Thursday morning. “It is my sincere hope that the federal authorities take this offense just as seriously as my Hate Crimes & Domestic Terrorism Unit takes plots to murder elected officials.” Carpenter had three handguns, a shotgun, and two hunting rifles, one of which was a military-style weapon.

Nessel is not the only recent victim of political violence. She isn’t even the only one in her state: In 2020, four men plotted to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer because of the Covid-19 safety restrictions she had implemented. They also thought she would tighten gun regulations.

More recently, a man broke into former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home in San Francisco in October and attacked her husband, Paul Pelosi, with a hammer. Paul Pelosi had to have emergency surgery on his skull because of his injuries, though he appears to be recovering.

Antisemitism has also become increasingly visible over the past year, fueled in part by rapper Kanye West’s open embrace of Nazis and hateful rhetoric. He and noted antisemite Nick Fuentes met and had dinner with former President Donald Trump in November.

Trump did not apologize for the meeting or condemn the two men’s beliefs. Republican leadership has stayed mostly silent on the meeting. They have also used the Paul Pelosi attack to spread conspiracy theories and even mock the Pelosi family.

In doing so, they are condoning political violence. Keep in mind, this is the party that has continuously played down the January 6 insurrection and even tried to claim that it was not carried out by Trump supporters. Their actions will only embolden more people to keep up these and other terrifying attacks.

Every Democrat Who Voted With Republicans to Block a Rule on Sustainable Investing

Environmental, social, and corporate governance, or ESG, investing is Republicans’ new favorite target in the war on “wokeness.” And a few Democrats are helping them.

Senators Joe Manchin and John Tester speak outside. The Capitol is in the background.
Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Senators Joe Manchin and John Tester

Two Senate Democrats sided with Republicans Wednesday to pass a bill blocking the Labor Department from implementing a rule that allows retirement plans to consider environmental, social, and corporate governance, or more sustainable, investing practices.

The bill, the latest salvo in Republicans’ manufactured culture war, passed 50–46. It passed the House on Tuesday and now goes to Joe Biden, who has said he will use his veto powers for the first time in his presidency to block the measure.

The Democrats who helped Republicans get the bill over the finishing line in both chambers of Congress are:

  • Senator Jon Tester of Montana
  • Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia
  • Representative Jared Golden of Maine

Environmental, social, and corporate governance, or ESG, is a framework that helps investors understand how an organization—in this case, retirement savings plan managers—manages risks and opportunities regarding sustainability. Issues of sustainability include environmental protection, impact on society, and aligning corporate leadership goals with stakeholder ones.

The Labor Department rule makes it easier for retirement plan managers to consider ESG factors such as climate change when making investments or voting on behalf of shareholders. It does not actually require the plans to include these considerations, making it clear this bill is just another Republican attempt to fearmonger over something that’s really not bad.

ESG investing also tends to have positive long-term effects, including higher sales to customers, higher employee productivity, and higher company valuation, as well as the impact on environmental and social issues.

Both Manchin and Tester, who are up for reelection in 2024, said they were voting to block the Labor Department rule because they thought retirement funds should focus solely on ensuring returns on investments—even though there is a link between positive performance for ESG investments and financial returns.

House Democrats, meanwhile, have introduced a competing bill called the Freedom to Invest in a Sustainable Future Act that would codify retirement plan managers’ right to consider ESG factors when making decisions. It is unlikely to get the support it needs to pass the Republican-controlled House.

Kevin McCarthy’s Pathetic Defense for Giving January 6 Footage to Tucker Carlson

The House speaker keeps coming up with new reasons why the Fox News host should get access.

A close-up of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, glancing to the side.
Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has accused the news media of being “jealous” that Fox News host Tucker Carlson got there first to ask for access to the security footage from the January 6 attack.

McCarthy has come under fire for giving Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of security footage from the 24 hours surrounding the insurrection. Democrats are worried that Carlson, who has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the attack and claimed it was a false-flag operation, will use the videos to spread more disinformation about January 6.

“It almost seems like the press is jealous,” McCarthy told The Washington Post. “And that’s interesting because every person in the press works off exclusives on certain things.”

“People like exclusives, and Tucker is someone that’s been asking for it,” said McCarthy, describing Carlson’s coverage as “opinion,” not news. “So I let him come in and see it, but everyone’s going to get it.”

Putting aside the fact that McCarthy’s main argument is that Carlson called first dibs, giving Fox News access in any case is dangerous. As Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, “They are experts in manipulating media and cutting context, so it’s absolutely true that they may take some of that tape and manipulate it in really disturbing ways that could incite violence.”

Carlson and his colleagues are fully aware that they are spreading conspiracy theories and false information about the 2020 election and January 6. Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch admitted he knew his organization was spreading lies about the 2020 election results in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems made public Monday. A week earlier, Dominion also released a trove of messages and depositions from anchors, including Carlson, in which they admitted they knew the election conspiracies were false but continued to share them anyway.

Releasing the footage could provide key information to anyone who might want to try to redo January 6. The videos could reveal strategic locations in the Capitol, such as safe rooms and cameras, as well as give people a better sense of the building’s layout, making it harder for lawmakers to run and hide.

McCarthy has managed to one-up himself, though, announcing Tuesday that the January 6 footage would also be made available to the defense lawyers for people charged in connection with the riot.

The California Republican insisted that the footage was already made available to the defendants under former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But a Pelosi spokesperson said she never authorized access to the footage “because Speaker Pelosi did not have that authority and believes that it appropriately belongs to security officials.”

McCarthy also accused the Democrats of hypocrisy because the House January 6 investigative committee had shown footage from the day, and Pelosi’s daughter had posted a video online of lawmakers in a secure military base after evacuating the Capitol.

Alexandra Pelosi’s video did not show the escape route from the Capitol or any information about their location that was not already publicly known. A spokesman for the January 6 committee had already said in a statement that any footage shown during the hearings “was treated with great sensitivity.”

“Access was limited to members and a small handful of investigators and senior staff, and the public use of any footage was coordinated in advance with Capitol Police. It’s hard to overstate the potential security risks if this material were used irresponsibly,” the spokesman said.

Bernie Sanders Moves to Subpoena Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for Union-Busting Allegations

Schultz has previously declined invitations to appear before the Senate about the allegations.

Howard Schultz close-up
Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for The New York Times
Howard Schultz

Senator Bernie Sanders is continuing to use his newfound committee influence to hold corporate leaders’ feet to the fire. Now he’s calling to subpoena Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, on allegations of the company’s union-busting.

Sanders announced Wednesday that the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, or HELP, Committee will vote on March 8 as to whether it will issue a subpoena to the Starbucks executive, who previously declined a voluntary invitation to appear in front of the committee.

Starbucks cited Schultz’s scheduled March step-down as reason to offer a company chief public affairs officer to appear instead. The HELP committee was not interested in the alternative and subsequently is looking to forcibly subpoena Schultz.

“The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed over 75 complaints against Starbucks for violating federal labor law and there have been over 500 unfair labor practice charges lodged against his company,” Sanders said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Mr. Schultz has given us no choice, but to subpoena him. A multi-billion dollar corporation like Starbucks cannot continue to break federal labor law with impunity. The time has come to hold Starbucks and Mr. Schultz accountable.”

The announcement comes the same day that over 70 white-collar Starbucks employees and even managers released a letter in protest of the company’s return-to-office policies and its alleged union-busting activity. “We call on Starbucks to commit to a policy of neutrality and respect federal labor laws by agreeing to follow Fair Election Principles, and allow store partners, whether pro- or anti-union, to decide for themselves, free from fear, coercion, and intimidation.”

As of this writing, at least 412 Starbucks stores nationwide have attempted a unionization effort; 281 have successfully unionized, and another 37 elections are ongoing. Given allegations of union-busting activity coming from both store and corporate workers, as well as Congress itself, the 57 failed and 33 withdrawn bids may generate further scrutiny, when compared to the overwhelming number of successful efforts.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Make Railroads Safer After East Palestine Train Derailment

A new bill would go a long way in trying to prevent another disaster like the one in Ohio.

The train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 14

Don’t miss it—Congress might actually be doing something to hold railroads accountable and make workers and the broader public safer.

On Wednesday, a group of bipartisan senators (Sherrod Brown, J.D. Vance, Bob Casey, Marco Rubio, John Fetterman, and Josh Hawley) introduced the “Railway Safety Act of 2023” to address some of the concerns about rail safety that resurfaced after the disastrous Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

The bill calls for stronger safety standards for all trains carrying hazardous materials and also expands those standards to trains not currently subject to high-hazard flammable train, or HHFT, regulations (like the train in East Palestine).

It also mandates a freight train be operated by at least two-person crews, which rail workers have been demanding for some time, and increases penalties for companies that violate any rail safety standards.

Enforcement for many of the bill’s provisions will be key, however, says Railroad Workers United Co-Chair Ross Grooters. “It appears to be a step in the right direction, but we need to pay attention to the details,” Grooters told TNR. “Often railroads are reactionary. They tend to do the minimum and create unintended consequences within the law. Ensuring we have strong enforcement and no loopholes is key.”

The Senate legislation, similar to a House bill introduced Tuesday, directs rail carriers to proactively communicate with local, state, and tribal emergency response commissions when hazardous materials are being transported.

The bill also calls on the transportation secretary to carry out numerous provisions and enact further regulation. So, to Grooters’s point, the execution will still depend on agency will.

Under the legislation, the transportation secretary is responsible for creating new safety standard procedures on an array of items, including how big trains can be and how fast they can go, how frequently trains should be inspected, and to direct audits of the inspection programs themselves.

The bill also directs the transportation secretary to issue new regulations on the equipment used to monitor trains carrying hazardous materials. This measure comes as the National Transportation Safety Board deemed that an overheated wheel bearing was part of what led to the Norfolk Southern train derailing in East Palestine. The bill mandates that trains carrying hazardous materials be scanned by hotbox detectors every 10 miles and that the detectors be equipped to alert rail operators effectively.

The legislation further calls to collect funds from rail operators in order to carry out additional emergency response training. And the bill appropriates $22 million for research and development into detectors and $5 million for developing safer tank cars.

There are some differences between the Senate bill and the separate rail safety bill introduced in the House, including on what gets classified as a high-hazard flammable train.

Of note is that the bill also did not include any specific guidance or directive surrounding the revival of the Obama-era rule to mandate updated braking systems at least for trains carrying hazardous materials.

Nevertheless, it is unmistakably a great step forward for Congress to be pushing the slate of measures, particularly in a bipartisan manner. The words are now officially on paper, and anyone looking to oppose or water down the bill should be put on notice—especially since there’s still much more to be done.

Who is Julie Su, Biden’s New Pick for Labor Secretary?

President Joe Biden has officially nominated Julie Su to serve as labor secretary. Here’s what her record looks like.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Julie Su

Julie Su is on track to become the first Asian American person to serve as a Cabinet secretary under the current administration.

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he was nominating Su, currently the deputy labor secretary, to head the entire Department of Labor.

“Julie knows in her bones … that people who get up every morning and go to work and bust their necks just to make an honest living deserve something, someone to fight at their side to give them an even shot,” Biden said in an official announcement ceremony Wednesday. “Julie has spent her life fighting for that vision.”

He also highlighted Su’s upbringing as the daughter of Chinese immigrants in Wisconsin. “Julie is the American dream,” Biden said.

Su, 54, first made a name for herself almost three decades ago as a young lawyer in California. When she was just 26, she led a legal team representing a group of more than 70 enslaved Thai garment workers in El Monte, near Los Angeles. The workers were undocumented and forced to live and work in an apartment complex that functioned as a sweatshop in order to “earn” their freedom. Many had been trapped there for seven years before the operation was discovered in a police raid.

Su and her team sued the workers’ captors, as well as the manufacturers and retailers of the clothes produced in the sweatshop. The case, which was one of the worst instances of labor exploitation and human rights violation in the United States, helped spur a change in California’s legislation to increase worker protections.

Since then, Su has served as the head of California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and as the state’s labor secretary. In February 2021, Biden nominated her as deputy secretary for the Labor Department. She was seen as a younger, more progressive voice, and her nomination was welcomed by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, which has called on Biden from the start to nominate more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to his Cabinet.

Su’s nomination for deputy passed the Senate 50–47 along party lines. Although Democrats control the Senate, Su may be up for a bit of a fight. Many party members, such as Nancy Pelosi, have backed former New York Representative Sean Patrick Maloney—the man who cost his party several key seats during the 2022 midterms—for labor secretary.

Su could also be unpopular for her role in helping avert a national rail strike in December, which culminated with Biden signing a bill that imposed a contract with no paid sick leave on 115,000 rail workers, the majority of whom had opposed the contract.

Progressive Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have hailed Su’s nomination, with Warren calling her “terrific.” Sanders, who is chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he thought Su was an “excellent” choice and looked forward to working with her to “protect workers’ rights and build the trade union movement.”

In Fake Culture War, House Republicans Vote to Ban Retirement Plans From Considering ESG Investments

Republicans are targeting a Labor Department rule that allows (but does not require) retirement plans to take into account environmental, social, and corporate governance.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday blocking the Labor Department from implementing a rule that encourages retirement plans to consider environmental, social, and corporate governance, in Republicans’ latest manufactured culture war.

Representatives voted 216–204 for the measure, mostly along party lines. Only one Democrat, Maine Representative Jared Golden, voted for the measure, which now goes to the Senate. President Joe Biden has said he will veto the bill if it makes it to his desk.

Environmental, social, and corporate governance, or ESG, is a framework that helps investors understand how an organization—in this case, retirement savings plan managers—manages risks and opportunities regarding sustainability. Issues of sustainability include environmental protection, impact on society, and aligning corporate leadership goals with stakeholder ones.

The Labor Department rule makes it easier for retirement plan managers to consider ESG factors such as climate change when making investments or voting on behalf of shareholders. It does not actually require the plans to include these considerations, making it clear Tuesday’s vote was just another Republican attempt to fearmonger over something that’s really not bad.

Republicans have slammed the rule as another facet of “woke capitalism.” The GOP has declared war on “wokeness,” meaning anything that has to do with social equity or change. Last week, Vivek Ramaswamy, a prominent critic of ESG investing, announced he is running for president in 2024. Florida Governor Ron Desantis, another likely Republican presidential candidate, also proposed banning ESG investment in the state earlier this month.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the House bill would make sure retirement plan managers only consider financial returns on investments, instead of “extraneous factors” such as climate change and employment policies.

“Democrats want to let money managers make these unrelated ideological goals a higher priority than getting their clients—ordinary American workers—the best returns for their own retirements,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “I’ll be proud to support this commonsense measure later this week.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote, where all Republicans and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin support it. The measure needs only a simple majority to pass, and with Senator John Fetterman out getting treated for depression, it is likely to get through.

House Democrats, meanwhile, have introduced a competing bill called the Freedom to Invest in a Sustainable Future Act. The bill would codify retirement plan managers’ right to consider ESG factors when making decisions. It is unlikely to get the support it needs to pass the Republican-controlled House.

After Weeks of Fake Outrage Over East Palestine, Republicans Push to Weaken Water Protection

The Ohio train derailment story is also a story about water pollution.

Michael Swensen/Getty Images
Olivia Holley, 22, and Taylor Gulish, 22, test the pH and the total dissolved solids of the water from Leslie Run creek on February 25 in East Palestine, Ohio.

Republicans have spent weeks criticizing the response to the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment, lobbing attacks at any target close enough for something to stick. Seldom have they directly confronted the clear-as-day culprit: corporate-bought deregulation. The charade has now hit another milestone, as Republicans line up behind a party-wide push to deregulate water protection in the United States.

On Tuesday, the Republican-led House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to reverse a Biden administration rule on water protection—which could affect communities contaminated by disasters like the one in East Palestine.

In 2015, the Obama administration announced a rule that expanded the definition of what kinds of bodies of water can be covered under the Clean Water Act, the now 50-year-old law tasked with overseeing water pollution and protecting the integrity of the country’s waterways.

In 2020, the Trump administration rolled back Obama’s changes, letting polluters off the hook and leaving regulators with less jurisdiction over protecting waterways. The approach limited federal protection to cover only “permanent” bodies of water and not other smaller but still impactful waterways, like streams of water that flow only part of the year. As a result, Trump’s rule deferred to states to determine what would and wouldn’t be protected by the Clean Water Act. In a case like Ohio, where the local government has been slow to respond to the contamination of water, such limits could make communities worse off.

In January, the Biden administration issued a rule overturning former President Trump’s limited scope of water protection, instead moving toward Obama’s more inclusive framework. Biden’s rule would allow waterways or wetlands that display a significant connection to more established waterways to be regulated. Biden’s water rule also aims to set a “durable” standard that more concretely defines when a waterway in question “significantly affects the chemical, physical, and biological integrity” of other already-established protected waters.

In East Palestine, the train derailment implicated numerous scales of waterways—some that interlink with adjacent smaller streams and wetlands. Contaminated local stream Sulfur Run flows into nearby stream Leslie Run, which flows into the nearby Bull Creek, which flows into the North Fork Little Beaver Creek, which flows into Little Beaver Creek, which empties, finally, into the Ohio River.

Still, scores of Republicans—lawmakers in Congress, state attorneys general, and Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices—are threatening to make it harder for the federal government to protect waterways.

On February 2, just one day before the East Palestine derailment that polluted numerous community waterways, all 49 Senate Republicans and 152 House Republicans signed on to a challenge against Biden’s rule, clamoring to deregulate water protection. And on February 16, 24 Republican attorneys general—including Ohio’s—announced a lawsuit against the EPA, complaining about federal overreach as the world witnessed Ohio bungling the protection of its own community’s waters and stubbornly refusing to accept federal help.

While Republicans push for the resolution over the coming weeks, they just need to win a simple majority vote. Biden will have the ability to veto the bill, and likely would not face a two-thirds overruling from Congress blocking his veto power. Republicans just aim to dare him to veto it, if they can pass it at all.

Meanwhile, Sackett v. EPA, a concurrent Supreme Court case, deals with the question of assessing waterways’ significance; the case was heard in October 2022 and the opinion is now pending. So the case of water protection is subject to both a conservative-stacked court and a broader Republican Party committed to dulling the government’s ability to act on behalf of its people.

Of note is that Biden’s rule is a self-proclaimed effort to achieve a “middle ground” between the Obama and Trump rules, and in fact mirrors much of the degree of regulatory jurisdiction settled before Obama’s updates. Nevertheless, Republicans still cannot stop themselves from hollowly railing against “federal overreach,” even while their counterparts are operating in a fairly conciliatory manner.

And still, Republicans pretending to care about the people of East Palestine and their waterways have signed on to a party-wide effort to roll back water protections. Their guiding mission to deregulate the economy trumps all sense, welfare of people or the environment be damned. All while companies like Norfolk Southern funnel millions into lobbying and buying favor from politicians, leading to as few as four Republicans collecting almost half a million dollars in less than two presidential election cycles.

The interconnectedness and fluidity of the flow of our water necessitates a granular and careful water protection, not a flippant and relaxed one; Republicans are working yet again to maintain the latter.

The Republicans Who Like Talking About Ohio but Not How Much Money They Received From Rail Companies

Quite a few Republican lawmakers who are suddenly vocal about the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, received a lot of money from the rail industry.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Since the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment, Republicans have continued their campaign of pretending to care about working people, environmental damage, infrastructure, and community welfare generally. But a select group of them—Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Ron Johnson—have consistently raked in cash from the top four American railroad companies. Since the 2016 cycle, these four Republicans alone have collected at least $472,000 from rail giants BNSF, CSX, Union Pacific, and Norfolk Southern.

The rail companies have contributed to other Republicans of course, and to Democrats as well. But Senators Rubio, Cruz, Johnson, and Hawley have gone above and beyond in pretending to care about rail workers and the people of East Palestine.

Rubio, Hawley, and Cruz were among a handful of Republicans last December who signed on to Bernie Sanders’s bill that would have added seven days of paid sick leave to the rail workers’ contract. The bill fell short, which may explain the famously anti-labor Republican senators’ willingness to support it.

Since the East Palestine train derailment, Rubio has spent a significant amount of time calling for Pete Buttiegieg’s resignation. But since 2016, Rubio himself received at least $54,500 from the big four rail giants, while his PAC has received at least $107,000.

Cruz has said he hopes that after Ohio, policymakers will “address the derailment’s root causes rather than simply advance narrow political interests.” (He issued this statement one day after posting a Twitter video celebrating low regulation.) But you don’t have to look far to determine which Cruz is which: Since 2016, Cruz has received at least $32,500 from the big four rail giants, while his PAC has received nearly $100,000 from them.

And Cruz has done his best to earn the corporate cash. In 2021, he co-sponsored legislation narrowing the amount of time agencies have to complete environmental reviews of proposed federal action, and assigning penalties to agencies that don’t comply with those timelines. Cruz also pushed a bill in the same Congress, alongside Senators John Kennedy and Kevin Cramer, to prohibit the Department of Transportation from issuing any regulation to limit the transportation of liquefied natural gas by rail.

Nearly two weeks after the East Palestine train derailment, Hawley sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency expressing his supposed concern for “the health, safety, and well-being” of those affected. He has since complained about corporations, the EPA, and Buttigieg. Meanwhile, his Fighting for Missouri PAC received $3,000 from the aptly named Norfolk Southern Corporation Good Government Fund and $10,000 from BNSF before the 2020 election. Hawley also received a personal $2,000 donation from Norfolk Southern board member Thomas D. Bell Jr., during the 2018 cycle. As Missouri attorney general, Hawley was among the Republican officials who helped weaken Obama-era water protections.

Johnson has sent out multiple fundraising emails about the East Palestine derailment, feigning concern for the community before shamelessly asking voters to pay off his campaign debts. And again, since 2016, Johnson received at least $53,500 from the big four companies, while his PAC pulled in $114,000 from them.

One of the few rail-related bills Johnson co-sponsored was backed by the Association of American Railroads and sought to delay the industry-wide implementation of a monitoring system to help prevent train collisions and derailments.

Again, these Republicans aren’t alone. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who has still refused to declare a statewide emergency or disaster, has received at least $29,000 from Norfolk Southern since 2018, as well as another $2,000 from CSX.

And as TNR has reported, rail corporations’ influence is also cross-partisan. Hakeem Jeffries, the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition’s PAC, Joe Manchin, Jim Clyburn, and Sean Patrick Maloney were among the many 2022 election recipients of funds from Norfolk Southern’s “Good Government Fund.”

But Republicans’ guilt is particular, insofar as their purported concern for the derailment lies in direct opposition to their fundamental ideology of cutting regulation. While corporate greed pervades both parties, conservative regulation-cutting ideology is much more foundational to the Republican political project.

Accordingly, if Democratic leadership wants to genuinely present the party as an alternative to Republicans beset by the ills of regulatory capture, they ought to prove which party is more interested in carrying out governance.

And the contrast is already on display. Representatives Ro Khanna and Chris Deluzio have introduced legislation to expand the definition of “high-hazard flammable trains” and ensure reforms like Obama-era braking updates would apply to trains like the derailed one in East Palestine. Meanwhile, conservatives are by and large offering no solutions beyond lip service to the people, and favors to the corporations lining their pockets.