CNN’s David Urban hid lobbying conflict of interest in op-ed for Pennsylvania paper

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

CNN political commentator David Urban wrote an op-ed that urged Congress to pass a trade agreement favored by President Donald Trump. But Urban, who has a history of violating ethical standards, didn’t disclose that he recently registered to lobby for that agreement’s passage. 

Urban is the president of the lobbying firm American Continental Group and an adviser to Trump’s 2020 campaign. He also works as a political commentator for CNN. Urban has used his CNN platform to push his lobbying clients’ interests (without disclosure) on issues such as the military, environment, taxes, and trade

Urban wrote a June 2 op-ed for The Morning Call of Allentown, PA, which touted Trump’s alleged success in Pennsylvania and attacked Democratic candidates for their economic policies. He also called on Congress to approve “the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement [USMCA] that President Trump negotiated to replace NAFTA,” stating that it would “let American workers compete on an even playing field for the first time in decades.” 

Trump’s reelection campaign and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel shared Urban’s op-ed on Twitter. 

Urban didn’t disclose that he’s registered to lobby on that issue. In early April, the 501(c)(4) group Trade Works for America retained Urban and his firm to lobby for the agreement’s passage in Congress. Media Matters previously documented that Urban also used his CNN employment to push for the USMCA shortly after registering to lobby for it. 

After Media Matters inquired about the Urban conflict of interest, The Morning Call added the following note to the piece: “Urban is president of the American Continental Group, a lobbying and consulting firm in Washington, D.C. ACG represents Trade Works for America, which is advocating for passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in Congress.” 

Michael Hirsch, the publication’s director of content/opinion and community engagement, told Media Matters: “After The Morning Call became aware of this, we updated the online version of the op-ed to clarify that David Urban’s company is lobbying for passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. In addition, we will be running a print clarification in Wednesday's newspaper.” 

Urban’s op-ed also identified him as a Trump adviser and “a commentator for CNN” -- which points to a larger problem, this one for the cable news network and its employment of Urban, who has countless real and potential conflicts of interest through his multimillion-dollar lobbying firm. Jake Tapper’s CNN program The Lead features a recurring segment called “Conflict of Interest Watch” about the Trump administration’s regular financial conflicts in governing. That segment, of course, could easily cover a Trump adviser who frequently appears as a paid contributor on the program: David Urban.