Sins of the Father

Yesterday, I noted the crucial role Media Matters played in exposing the corporate media’s refusal to hold the George W. Bush administration accountable for its failure to provide adequate help to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Media Matters is thankfully still going strong, and still calling out corporate-media chicanery, to wit:

The Boston Globe continues to publish columns by former Republican Sen. John E. Sununu that carry massive conflicts of interest…

Sununu wrote in his August 17 column that “Obama’s bureaucrats reach ever deeper into the economy, pursuing expensive and unnecessary regulation of the internet.” Sununu and the Globe did not disclose that he is the highly-paid honorary co-chair of Broadband for America, an organization whose members have included major broadband providers and has been heavily funded by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Broadband for America’s most recent IRS 990 form states that the group paid Sununu $480,067 for “lead consulting” during parts of 2013 and 2014.

Sununu also serves on the board of directors for Time Warner Cable (TWC), which fights Internet regulation. TWC wrote in its 2014 annual report that “‘Net neutrality’ regulation or legislation could limit TWC’s ability to operate its business profitably and to manage its broadband facilities efficiently and could result in increased taxes and fees imposed on TWC.” It added that “TWC’s business is subject to extensive governmental regulation, which could adversely affect its operations.” TWC is merging with Charter Communications, pending regulatory approval.

TWC gave Sununu approximately $272,000 in compensation in 2014, according to company documents.

In his column, Sununu also criticized the Obama administration for environmental regulations, writing that at the “EPA as elsewhere, arrogant leadership and incompetent bureaucracy are a dangerous combination. Today, America’s coal plants have never been cleaner, our nuclear plants have never been safer, and the evolution of fracking (a 40-year-old technology) has driven down energy costs to their lowest levels in decades.”

Akin Gump, the largest Washington, D.C. lobbying firm, lists Sununu as an “Adjunct Senior Policy Advisor” who “advises clients on a wide range of public policy, strategic and regulatory issues” including “policy and regulation.” Akin Gump’s policy and regulation page lists subpractices such as “Energy Regulation, Markets and Enforcement,” “Environment and Natural Resources,” and “Environmental Permitting and Approvals.”

Akin Gump’s policy and regulation page states that their clients include the coal industry. They write elsewhere in the “environmental litigation” section of their site that “Akin Gump’s environmental lawyers remain at the forefront of the defense of coal-fired power plants sued as part of EPA’s Utility Enforcement Initiative.”

Sununu, of course, is the offspring of former New Hampshire Governor John H. Sununu, who served as President George H. W. Bush’s Chief of Staff from 1989-1991. As Al Gore noted in his seminal 1992 book Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit:

[Bush’s] chief of staff, John Sununu, has openly derided the notion of global warming, campaigning actively to dampen any moves within the government to confront the issue…[Bush] allows Sununu not only to set policy in Bush’s name but also to stifle disagreement within the administration.

Despite the fact that the evidence of a severe threat from carbon pollution was already overwhelming before Bush 41 took office…despite the fact that Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker, acknowledged the need to act on the climate crisis in a January 1989 speech…despite the fact that Bush 41 himself stated in February 1990, “We all know that human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and in unprecedented ways”… Sununu Sr. didn’t give a damn about the data. All he cared about was being obsequious to oil and courteous to coal. Such a shame that his son also shares the same goal.

UPDATE: More from Miles Grant.

SECOND UPDATE: From 2014, former Boston Phoenix writer Dan Kennedy asks “why the Globe would hand over precious op-ed space to a partisan hack like Sununu.” Good question.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.