The Boston Globe says columnist John E. Sununu will no longer write about cable and Internet issues because of his financial conflict of interest. Media Matters criticized the paper after it allowed the former Republican senator to complain about the "unnecessary regulation of the internet" without disclosing he has been paid over $750,000 by broadband interests.
In an August 17 column, Sununu attacked the Obama administration for reaching "ever deeper into the economy, pursuing expensive and unnecessary regulation of the internet, carbon emissions, and even car loans." Sununu serves on the board of directors for Time Warner Cable, and is a paid "honorary co-chair" for Broadband for America, which has been supported by broadband providers and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
Dan Kennedy, an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University, wrote that Globe Editorial Page Editor Ellen Clegg stated "Sununu has told me he will avoid writing about issues pertaining to cable and internet access because of his seat on the Time Warner Cable board." Clegg reaffirmed that the Globe is "posting bios for our regular freelance op-ed columnists online and linking those bios to their bylines" to provide "more transparency."
She added in her email to Kennedy that Sununu "has also assured me that he will disclose his support of GOP presidential candidate John Kasich in the text of any columns he writes about presidential politics (he is chair of his campaign in New Hampshire.)" Sununu devoted his June 22 column to Donald Trump, writing that he's "running a race where both the chance of winning and the risk of losing are zero." The piece did not note Sununu's ties to Kasich.
Sununu is also an "Adjunct Senior Policy Advisor" for lobbying firm Akin Gump and "advises clients on a wide range of public policy, strategic and regulatory issues" including "policy and regulation." Media Matters has noted that Sununu's Globe columns frequently intersect with Akin Gump's subject areas such as environmental regulation.
The Boston Globe continues to publish columns by former Republican Sen. John E. Sununu that carry massive conflicts of interest. The Globe today allowed Sununu to advocate against "unnecessary regulation" of the Internet and coal power plants without noting his financial ties to those industries.
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.
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.
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."
Media Matters previously noted that Sununu has written about issues related to Akin Gump's business practices without disclosing his role in the firm. The Boston Globe told Media Matters in 2012 that Sununu's role with Akin Gump was "very limited" and "We looked into whether he should make some sort of blanket disclosure, but it doesn't seem warranted by the small amount of work he does for the firm."
UPDATE: Reached by phone by Media Matters' Joe Strupp, Editorial Page Editor Ellen Clegg said she's on vacation and hasn't "read this column closely." She said the Globe plans to include online biographical sketches that "should help readers learn more about who the freelance contributors are and opt for more disclosure. They will be able to link to the italicized tagline at the bottom. It's been in the works for some time. Our contract with freelancers requires that they disclose conflicts of interest. We rely on them to push it out. We're going to disclose board memberships and consulting gigs and other paid work as well as books they've written and things like that." She said that "on this particular column, we'll link to the bio sketch when it's up."
Asked how the Globe would address the print edition of columns -- Sununu's column ran in the print edition, according to the Nexis database -- Clegg said she'll "take a look at it" and "we do require that [disclosure] when we think it's warranted."
Three of Rupert Murdoch's largest and most powerful news outlets promoted baseless conspiracy theories that Google is using its alleged "close ties" with the Obama administration to receive favorable treatment and to push its policy agenda. Murdoch has a long history of attacking Google.
On March 24, News Corp's Wall Street Journal reported on the purportedly close ties between the Obama administration and Google after discovering that Google employees have visited the White House multiple times since President Obama took office. The piece went on to allege that Google used its ties with the White House to get favorable action from a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) antitrust probe into the company.
The New York Post (News Corp) went further on March 28 in an article titled "Google controls what we buy, the news we read - and Obama's policies." The article speculated that Google has used its influence and financial contributions to the Obama administration to receive favors including net neutrality regulation, favorable FTC action, and contracts to fix the Affordable Care Act's website. The piece speculated on "what's coming next: politically filtered information."
21st Century Fox's Fox News echoed the New York Post during the March 30 edition of Fox & Friends, with co-host Clayton Morris claiming "the same search engine that controls our news also controls the White House." During the show, Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo claimed that Google was "being investigated, the president dropped it -- net neutrality -- Google wanted the president to go that way." Bartiromo also speculated on whether Google was "editing" the news "to make it more favorable for the president."
But the Wall Street Journal admitted that the "FTC closed its investigation after Google agreed to make voluntary changes to its business practices." And the FTC pushed back critically to the Journal's piece, writing:
The article suggests that a series of disparate and unrelated meetings involving FTC officials and executive branch officials or Google representatives somehow affected the Commission's decision to close the search investigation in early 2013. Not a single fact is offered to substantiate this misleading narrative.
Rupert Murdoch, head of both News Corp and Twenty-First Century Fox, has a history of attacking Google. Murdoch has accused Google of being "piracy leaders," and in 2009 found himself in a war of words against Google and threatened to block his content from the search engine.
From the February 26 edition of iHeartMedia's The Ken Matthews Show:
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A Fox News Special Report segment attacked new rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure net neutrality, claiming the rules were done in secret and would slow down the Internet. But the FCC received millions of public comments in favor of net neutrality, and experts say the rules will ensure Internet fairness.
Today, the FCC passed "net neutrality" rules, which allows the agency to regulate Internet service as a utility and prohibits "Internet service providers from granting faster access to companies that pay for the privilege."
On the February 26 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier reported that "the FCC approved sweeping new rules that no member of the public has even seen." Correspondent Peter Doocy called the new regulations a government "power grab" that will result in consumers having slower Internet.
In fact, the public overwhelmingly supports new net neutrality regulations. During the public comment period, the FCC received a record 3.7 million comments on the topic of net neutrality. According to a report by the Sunlight Foundation, fewer than one percent of the first 800,000 public comments were opposed to net neutrality enforcement.
Furthermore, tech experts have called net neutrality the guiding principle that has made the Internet successful. Google's director of communications explained that the new net neutrality rules would promote competition and help the economy. And the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that "there is unlikely to be any negative impact from such regulation on [Internet Service Provider] investment."
The Washington Post reported that new rules could make the Internet faster by "mak[ing] sure services such as Google Fiber can build new broadband pipes more easily."
Radio host Rush Limbaugh suggested that reports of the recent arrests of three suspected American supporters of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) are actually a ploy by the Obama administration to push net neutrality regulations and a ruse to "ban the sale of bullets."
On February 25, two men were arrested in New York City, along with an accomplice in Florida, charged with "providing support for the Islamic State" according to The New York Times.
During the February 25 edition of his radio program, Limbaugh suggested that the news of the arrests was politically timed to coincide with the FCC's ruling on net neutrality regulations. Limbaugh also described the arrests as a media conspiracy meant to give cover for the government to "ban the sale of bullets," an apparent reference to a proposal by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to limit the availability of ammunition that when fired from a handgun is capable of penetrating body armor worn by law enforcement officers. Listen:
LIMBAUGH: Barack Obama is taking over the Internet today. He's gonna be sued. It's going to have a long shake out period. I mean, it's not gonna cease to operate today the way you're used to it. But the objective is to put it all under the control of government -- and here comes the story how ISIS has sympathizers in New York City. They're in Brooklyn and in all 57 states, and ISIS is using the Internet to recruit terrorists, and the government must have control of the Internet if we are to be safe.
The narrative just happens to magically fit the Democrat Party agenda every day. The narrative in the news media just happens to be exactly what the issues that Barack Obama cares about happen to be. And banning bullets -- what do you bet, when the story breaks, it becomes mainstream that this action, that this stuff we've learned about ISIS operating in New York City -- well, we have to, we have to take extraordinary actions to maintain homeland security. We can't have bullets readily available over-the-counter with ISIS in the country -- 57 states with outposts buying up weapons themselves and ammo. It all happens under the aegis of your safety. It all happens under the claim of making you safe and secure. Because the Democrat Party really cares about you -- and they know they can't ban everybody's guns, but to keep you safe they will ban the sale of bullets.
From the February 26 edition of CNBC's Squawk Box:
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Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy pushed a Republican attempt to tar net neutrality when he said that it "could do to the Internet what Obamacare did to the healthcare system," a right-wing attack widely discredited when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) pushed the idea in November.
During the February 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Peter Doocy reported that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on net neutrality protections for the Internet on February 26. Doocy compared the alleged lack of transparency in the FCC's proposed plans to the Affordable Care Act's passage and claimed, "some critics already calling a slowed down web Obamanet, and their fear is that these changes could do to the internet what Obamacare did to the healthcare system."
This attack echoes right-wing media outlets and Republican lawmakers who pushed the analogy that net neutrality regulations would be like "ObamaCare for the web." In a February 22 Wall Street Journal opinion piece, L. Gordon Crovitz dubbed net neutrality regulations "Obamanet." But the idea behind the term gained popularity after a November tweet sent by Sen. Ted Cruz where he asserted that "'Net Neutrality' is Obamacare for the Internet."
"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.-- Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
Cruz was roundly criticized for his misleading attack. Tech blog Gizmodo called Cruz' tweet "disingenuous" and "dangerous." And according to Salon, "Cruz was absurdly wrong on the substance and demonstrated an ignorance of both healthcare and tech policy." Salon did concede however that healthcare and internet service did share some "common features":
Healthcare and Internet service in America do share some common features - specifically, we pay a lot for both, and the product we get in return kinda sucks relative to how much we spend. Head to Europe or Asia and chances are that you'll be able to purchase faster Internet access for far less money than you'd pay here. Also, Internet connections abroad are getting faster and cheaper, while prices and speeds are pretty much staying the same in the U.S.
Click here for more information on net neutrality
The Hill legitimized Republican claims that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to delay its vote on net neutrality to give the public time to review the idea, ignoring the fact that the agency received nearly 4 million comments -- which overwhelmingly favored net neutrality -- during an open-comment period in 2014.
From the February 24 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The New York Times legitimized a discredited study from the Progressive Policy Institute claiming that net neutrality could cost American consumers up to $15 billion annually -- a claim that has been widely debunked for relying on "fuzzy math" and "significant factual error[s]."
In a February 20 Bits blog, The New York Times reported that a bipartisan group of senators "presented legislation that would permanently ban taxes on high-speed Internet service to American homes," under the Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998.
The Times blog cited research from the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) to claim that implementing the stricter net neutrality rules proposed by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to protect consumers from paid prioritization of Internet access would cost "$15 billion a year," and the recently presented bipartisan legislation would lower the cost to $11 billion.
Buried in a single paragraph at the bottom of the blog, the Times noted that FCC spokesperson Kim Hart has asserted Wheeler's plan "'does not raise taxes or fees. Period.'" Left unsaid was the fact that PPI's net neutrality cost estimate has been thoroughly discredited. In a January 16 blog, The Washington Post's Fact Checker shattered PPI's net neutrality cost estimate, awarding the claim that utility-style net neutrality regulation could cost $15 billion "Three Pinnochios," for what it called "significant factual error[s] and/or obvious contradictions." And as the nonpartisan Internet advocacy group Free Press pointed out, PPI's claim is based on a critically flawed methodology that overstates the worst-case scenario tax burden by nearly 75 percent.
Furthermore, Congress passed a moratorium last year banning states from imposing new taxes on internet access through October 2015, regardless of any new FCC regulations.
Fox News' Special Report falsely claimed that the public won't have a say in the upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Open Internet rule, ignoring reports that the record number of public comments on the rulemaking were overwhelmingly positive and polls that show the public greatly supports net neutrality regulations.
On February 26, the FCC will vote on a proposal that will subject Internet providers to utility-like regulation. During the February 11 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier told his viewers that "you may have absolutely no say in the matter."
Contrary to Baier's claim, in May 2014, the FCC requested public comments on "how best to protect and promote an open Internet" as part of the rulemaking process. While correspondent Shannon Bream did acknowledge this and mentioned that the FCC received a record 3.7 million public comments, she failed to report that the vast majority of these favored net neutrality. The Sunlight Foundation found that fewer than 1 percent of the first 800,000 public comments were opposed to net neutrality enforcement.
In fact, recent polls indicate widespread bipartisan support for net neutrality:
In a new survey, the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication found that support for neutrality is strong and widespread -- regardless of gender, age, race and level of education. About 81 percent of Americans oppose allowing Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon to charge Web sites and services more if they want to reach customers more quickly, that is, allowing what are often called "Internet fast lanes."
Rush Limbaugh warned his listeners Monday that net neutrality was part of a secret plot to undermine the radio host as well as Fox News and to control the media.
Limbaugh's scare tactics come amid an industry-funded push in the media to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from passing rules to defend net neutrality.
But Tim Karr, senior director of strategy at Free Press, explained on Media Matters Radio that net neutrality regulations simply protect the principle that all content should be subject to the same rules. "It's just a question of regulation for whom," Karr said, explaining that the FCC rule reclassifying broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon as utilities would protect users.
According to Karr, those protections are necessary given the push by companies like Comcast and Verizon to control Internet access:
We need to put in place protections against these companies, because they have spoken out on numerous occasions over the last 10 years about their desire not just to simply provide us with access, but to start to try to privilege certain Web sites and to slow down others so that they can have more control over the future of this communications medium.
Karr also pushed back on claims that net neutrality protections would cost jobs. "They are simply scare tactics," he told Media Matters Radio. According to The New York Times editorial board, the FCC's "strong rules will actually help innovation flourish."
Listen to Tim Karr refute net neutrality myths on the February 7 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
MSNBC's Harold Ford, Jr. used air time to push net neutrality myths without disclosing his relationship to the telecom industry, which has contributed millions of dollars to lobbying against net neutrality regulations.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to vote February 26 on a proposal for stronger net neutrality regulations drafted by chairman Tom Wheeler and detailed in a February 4 op-ed on Wired's website. According to The New York Times, Wheeler's proposed net neutrality rules "will give the commission strong legal authority to ensure that no content is blocked and that the internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else. Those prohibitions are hallmarks of the net neutrality concept."
On the February 5 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, political analyst Harold Ford, Jr. raised the issue of net neutrality, claiming that the proposed FCC plan to regulate internet service as a utility would "stifle investment."
FORD: Whatever your thoughts about what Obama said in his State of the Union message -- some of it I liked, a lot of it I didn't like -- but one take away that both parties should take from it is that he talked about empowering the middle class. Now if you're about raising wages and creating jobs you ought to do those things.
I think what's happening in Washington today -- you saw that F.C.C. Chair come out and say we've got to regulate the internet like a utility. That's not going to create higher paying jobs, it will actually stifle investment. You talk about wanting to reduce taxes on small businesspeople, Republicans want to reduce the corporate tax, Democrats want an infrastructure plan -- government, I'm old-fashioned, I think you are, too. We believe government can work. You've got to come together and compromise if you want it to happen.
Neither Ford nor MSNBC disclosed that the analyst is an "honorary co-chair" of Broadband for America, an industry-funded group whose members have included major national broadband providers like Comcast (a parent company of MSNBC), Cox Communications, and Verizon. Among its members, Broadband for America received a $2 million donation from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which has spent millions of dollars to lobby against net neutrality regulations.
The Wall Street Journal adopted the language of net neutrality critics to describe the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net neutrality proposal, deeming the new potential rules an "intrusive regulation."
On January 30, the FCC announced that it would "introduce and vote on new proposed net neutrality rules in February." Although the official proposal has yet to be released, according to The Huffington Post, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler "suggested that Internet service... should be regulated like any other public utility."
In a February 3 article discussing the FCC's plans, The Wall Street Journal wrote that the proposed net neutrality measures would "subject" companies "to more intrusive regulation" (emphasis added):
The move would fully embrace the principle known as net neutrality, and if enacted, would bring a new definition to the economics of the Internet industry: Rather than regulating broadband firms lightly, as has been its practice so far, the FCC would treat them like telecommunications companies and subject them to more intrusive regulation, especially in areas relating to how they manage traffic on their networks.
But The Wall Street Journal's rhetoric is borrowed directly from net neutrality critics who oppose such measures. Later in the same article, a lobbyist for the wireless industry was quoted as calling such a move an "intrusive public utility regulation" (emphasis added):
Meredith Attwell Baker, CEO of CTIA--The Wireless Association, the Washington lobby for the wireless industry, said, "We have significant reservations with any approach that applies intrusive public utility regulation on mobile broadband for the first time, which is why Congress's consideration of net neutrality legislation is the best path forward to provide certainty to all stakeholders."
In contrast, The New York Times described the coming proposal as a move to regulate "Internet service like a public utility," noting that it will actually take a less intrusive approach than previous plans. The article explained that Chairman Wheeler "will advocate a light-touch approach" to net neutrality, "shunning the more intrusive aspects of utility-style regulation."