How Did The Boston Globe Not Disclose This To Readers?

Columnist Advocates For Keystone XL While His Lobbying Firm Works For Pipeline Builder

Boston Globe columnist John E. Sununu's latest piece urges approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and criticizes regulations against oil and gas companies. The Globe did not disclose that Sununu is an advisor for a Washington firm that lobbies for the pipeline's construction on behalf of its would-be builder. 

Sununu is a former Republican U.S. Senator from New Hampshire who lost re-election to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in 2008. He joined Akin Gump, the top-earning lobbying firm in Washington, DC, as an adjunct senior policy advisor in 2010. His corporate profile states that he “advises clients on a wide range of public policy, strategic and regulatory issues.”

He is also a “columnist” for the Globe, where he has repeatedly written about policy issues that intersect with the interests of his lobbying firm.

In the latest example, Sununu wrote a November 20 column criticizing Democrats for failing to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. He wrote that “Democrats still don't know what the Keystone debate is really all about,” adding that Keystone XL “is a debate about infrastructure, regulation, and the power of government to thwart investment on the flimsiest of grounds.”

Sununu added that “the public understands that allowing the government to arbitrarily stand in front of private investment and economic development sets a dangerous precedent -- something Democrats in the Senate do not.”

The column did not disclose that the lobbying firm Sununu advises is involved in Keystone XL and oil and gas regulation issues. The paper described him as follows: “John E. Sununu, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, writes regularly for the Globe.”

Akin Gump's website states that it “has been at the forefront of representing domestic and international oil and gas leaders in their transactions.”

According to lobbying disclosure forms, the firm has been paid at least $90,000 by Quanta Services, which would be responsible for building the Keystone XL pipeline if it is approved. Akin Gump's December 2011 lobbying registration form for Quanta states it was hired to lobby on the “Keystone XL Pipeline.” Subsequent lobbying reports in late 20112012, and 2013 also list Keystone as Akin Gump's lobbying issue. Forms for 2014 have either left the specific lobbying issue blank (1st quarter) or state the issue is “relating to reliability” (2nd quarter) and “reliability and workforce development” (3rd quarter).  

Observers have previously raised questions about Sununu's dual career as a newspaper columnist and lobbying shop adviser.

Contacted by Media Matters in 2012 about Sununu, the Globe's editorial page editor described Sununu's role with Akin Gump as “very limited” and said that Sununu and his editor “closely monitor his columns for conflicts of interest and disclose them when they occur.”