By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – As President Donald Trump refuses to make public his tax returns, the NH Democratic Party wants to see Gov. Chris Sununu’s returns. And the party is releasing a “map” showing Sununu family business dealings that beg questions they say could be answered by his tax return.
NHDP Map: The Sununu Family’s Foreign Government and Business Connections
They include claims the Sununu family has 30 businesses or political connections tied to 26 foreign nations such as Syria, China, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia and political donations to the governor’s race.
Democrats say there are plenty of questions that could be answered by Sununu releasing his tax returns.
While most of the links included in a NHDP news release are related to Sununu’s brother, former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu after serving in Washington, some links include $1,000 contributions to Chris Sununu from lobbyists representing interests in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
The map and a series of activities this past week by the Democratic Party are focused on connecting Sununu to Trump and what they see as failures in transparency.
At a press briefing Monday, gubernatorial challenger and Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes of Concord accused Sununu of using his office to help family and friends and asserted he will not allow no-bid contracts to be awarded if elected.
Feltes called for Sununu to publicly release his tax returns to help explain things related to his family and their business dealings and his own. Feltes released 10 years of tax returns https://danfeltesnh.com/transparency/ in 2019 when he brought the same issue forward, and it was reported in the New Hampshire Labor News.
A request for Feltes’ 2019 tax returns was made to his campaign Thursday morning.
The New York Times reported this past week that Trump paid $750 in federal income tax for two recent years while president and nothing for more than a dozen years. Trump, who refused to release the documents, dismissed the report as “fake news.”
Ben Vihstadt, the spokesman for the Sununu campaign, said, “Governor Sununu releases all financial disclosure forms as required by law, as every governor has before him.
“This is a gimmick. Not a single other person on the state Democratic ticket, from Jeanne Shaheen to Chris Pappas to Annie Kuster has released their tax returns, and that shows you how seriously everyone takes this from Dan.”
InDepthNH.org emailed the links to all of the allegations about Sununu and his family to Vihstadt seeking a response.
Vihstadt added in an email to InDepthNH.org, “why isn’t Dan asking the rest of his ticket to release their tax returns also?”
The NH Democratic Party is also launching a new website at www.SununuTaxReturns.com.
“Visitors to www.SununuTaxReturns.com will simply find a ‘404 not found error,’ because Sununu, like Trump, has hidden his tax returns from public view, raising serious questions about what he’s hiding,” the release stated.
The website launch is part of an aggressive week-long campaign by the Democrats to spotlight what they see as Sununu’s lack of transparency on the tax issue.
Another issue the Democrats raised this week, and filed a state ethics complaint about, is based on Sununu’s decision to participate in a guidance document to reopen ski resorts in the state during the pandemic when Sununu’s family is majority shareholders of one of the state’s largest ski resorts, Waterville Valley.
Before being elected governor, Sununu had operations experience running not only the ski areas – both alpine and Nordic – but restaurants, bars, and retail establishments in Waterville Valley.
Sununu said he currently has no business involvement with the resort and took that action when he first took office as governor.
Democrats contend he still has an interest. Sununu argued that he should review the ski areas’ guidance and that he has looked at all other guidelines on reopening aspects of the state’s economy since the pandemic began.
The decision on various guidance is in consultation not only with the state’s epidemiologist and the team at the state Department of Health and Human Services, but a bipartisan task force following input from the related industries.
Sununu also said he did not participate in the development of the guidance but spoke to a few of his former industry colleagues generally about it.
The Democrats see any ski guidance with Sununu’s name on it as a problem.
“Just like Donald Trump, Chris Sununu has refused to release his tax returns, raising serious questions about if Sununu pays his fair share and exactly how Sununu is using and abusing his position to benefit himself and his family,” said Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
“Is he hiding that his family’s close business relationships couldn’t be further from New Hampshire? Just like Trump, Sununu’s family’s business investments, and political donations come from special interests with connections to countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, China, Syria, and many other foreign powers.”
The Democrats sent out the following details with links to various federal filings for lobbyists representing various governments in Washington. Many are dated 2015 through 2018. The Democrats’ YouTube on the Sununu map is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNEWEQseEB0&feature=youtu.be
The release said: The map details the Sununu family’s more than 30 business and political connections to 26 foreign nations, including:
- Sununu Connections to Saudi Arabia: Employees of Flywheel Government Solutions, which lobbies for the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, contributed $1000 to Chris Sununu’s political campaign. [Foreign Agents Registration Act Records, Flywheel Government Solutions, 5/30/17]
- Sununu Connections to Bahrain: A registered lobbyist for the Kingdom of Bahrain contributed $1000 to Chris Sununu’s political campaign. [Foreign Agents Registration Act Records, DLA Piper, 9/30/18]
- Sununu Connections to Bermuda and Kenya: John H. Sununu was board chairman of Rift Energy, an oil and gas company, which relies on two Bermuda-based subsidiaries that hold Kenyan oil rights. [Riftenergycorp.com, Board of Directors, accessed 2/10/18; The Use Of Tax Havens In The Ownership Of Kenyan Petroleum Rights, OXFAM, May 2016]
- Sununu Connections to Syria: John E. Sununu accepted a trip to China from BLJ Worldwide LTD, which also represents Bashar Al-Assad and the Gaddafi Family. [Foreign Agents Registration Act Records, BLJ Worldwide LTD, 8/7/15; Guardian, 12/7/18]
- Sununu Connections to Azerbaijan: BGR Government Affairs, which contributed $1000 to Chris Sununu’s political campaign, lobbied for the Republic of Azerbaijan [Foreign Agents Registration Act Records, BGR Government Affairs, 6/30/17], and John H. Sununu was a director of Anglo Asian Mining PLC that operates gold, copper, and silver mines in Azerbaijan. [Companies House, accessed 10/1/2019; angloasianmining.com, accessed 10/1/2019]
According to the Democrats’ press release about the map, here: The Sununu Family’s Foreign Government and Business Connections
The map also outlines a series of his family’s business connections to the United Arab Emirates.
“Sununu left the corner office for a week and took a secretive trip to Dubai — funded by a foreign entity — without disclosing details of the trip to taxpayers,” the release said.
*Dhabi One Investments, based in the UAE, invested $10,000,000 in Rift Energy, a company John H. Sununu chaired. [Newswire, Rift Energy Corp Press Release, 2/20/13]
*John E. Sununu served on the board of Akin Gump, which lobbied for the government of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates Embassy. [Akingump.com, Press Release, 7/7/10; U.S. Department Of Justice, Definers FARA Registration, submitted 12/29/17]
*John E. Sununu served on the board of Tap Advisers which advised a Dubai-based real estate company. [TAP Advisors, Press Release, 7/15/14; Reuters, 11/25/18]