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CNN Cut Ties With Conservative Contributor Over Lobbying, But Doesn’t Seem to Have Clear Lobbying Policy

What is CNN's Lobbying Policy?

Almost every on-air analyst at the networks has another, often more lucrative job. So we were interested when CNN recently pointed out to Mediaite, in response to a story, that they parted ways with former network contributor Bryan Lanza shortly after he began lobbying on behalf of a Russian oligarch’s conglomerate on the U.S. sanctions list.

Lanza, a former senior campaign and transition aide to President Donald Trump, recently shared his disdain for CNN in an interview with Mediaite, in which several former pro-Trump commentators joined him to voice their own displeasure and belief that CNN has become the “hate Trump network”. In response to our story, CNN pointed out that Lanza was let go from his position based on the lobbying.

While Lanza’s contributorship was ended after the lobbying came to light, several other CNN contributors, who also engage in lobbying or related activities, continue to actively lend their commentary and thoughts during the various shows that the 24-hour news outlet broadcasts. And what makes it particularly tricky, is that lobbying is not exactly the most transparent vocation.

Questions about lobbyists on the CNN payroll have lingered for while, particularly since last year when MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted:

Former two-time Senator Rick Santorum, a CNN contributor since 2017, currently serves as co-chair of Americans for Energy Security and Innovation which is a biofuel lobbying group. Santorum is also vice president of VikingPeak Energy Fuels, which focuses on waste energy fuel production.

CNN and CNN en Español political commentator Maria Cardona reigns over the Dewey Square Group as a partner. The public affairs lobbying firm boasts clients such as Lyft, Biodiesel and Bloom Energy.

Former Trump presidential campaign advisor David Urban, a current CNN political commentator and frequent face on the network, is president of the American Continental Group, a D.C. lobbying shop.

“Our team is composed of the nation’s leading policy and subject matter experts, yielding our clients sophisticated legislative and regulatory solutions in defense, education, financial services, healthcare, housing, intellectual property, tax, technology, and trade,” reads ACG’s about page.

Three current CNN contributors. All with active, in-your-face lobbying jobs. To be fair, all lobbying isn’t created equal. Working for a conglomerate on the U.S. sanctions list isn’t like lobbying to protect the environment, but it’s hardly clear where the line is.

Mediaite reached out to CNN for clarification on whether or not they had a policy on lobbyists working for them as contributors. The network did not respond to multiple requests.

A current cable network source told Mediate that they were unaware of any cable news channel that had specific policies detailing whether or not lobbyists could work as network contributors. But the source did assert that it’s common for broadcast outlets to require prospective personalities to disclose any potential business dealings or activities that could be considered conflicts of interest for the sake of on-air transparency.

Since contributors are not full-time staff and are used to offer varying perspectives, being a lobbyist alone wouldn’t likely be a reason to remove, or not move forward with a potential contributor.

Whether that should be the standard network’s adhere to is less of a hot topic amongst journalism experts.

“Unfortunately, this is another sign that there continues to be a decline in traditional journalistic standards at all cable news networks,” Brett Atwood, a clinical associate professor at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, told Mediaite.

“It is part of a larger phenomenon where many news outlets continue to chase ratings by giving a forum to charismatic personalities over those who may be qualified to provide more balanced, neutral and rational perspectives. The general public would be better served to hear credible insights from those who are not tainted by financial ties to either political party or special interest groups,” Atwood said.

And it is this need for transparency on an important journalistic issue that makes CNN’s unwillingness to even comment on the matter all the more puzzling.

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Wade Heath is a Business Journalist at Mediaite. Email him: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @wadewire