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Michael J. Sullivan (born October 3, 1954) is an American lawyer and politician who served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (2001–2009) and Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (2006–2009). His work as U.S. Attorney largely focused on national security and health-care fraud. A native of the HolbrookAbington region, Sullivan served earlier in his career as the District Attorney for Plymouth County, Massachusetts, and as a Republican member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Michael J. Sullivan
Michael Sullivan ATF Acting Director.jpg
Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
In office
September 2006 – January 20, 2009
Appointed byAlberto Gonzales
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byCarl Truscott
Edgar A. Domenech (acting)
Succeeded byRonald "Ronnie" A. Carter (acting)
Kenneth E. Melson (acting)
U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
In office
September 2001 – April 2009
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byDonald Stern
Succeeded byCarmen Ortiz
District Attorney of Plymouth County
In office
June 1995 – September 2001
Preceded byWilliam O'Malley
Succeeded byTimothy Cruz
Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
from the 7th Plymouth district
In office
January 1991 – June 1995
Preceded byEmmet Hayes
Succeeded byRonald Whitney
Personal details
Born (1954-10-03) October 3, 1954 (age 64)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Alma materBoston College
Suffolk University

Early life and careerEdit

Sullivan was born October 3, 1954, the second of seven children, and grew up in Holbrook, Massachusetts.[1][2] He attended Boston College High School and Boston College, and went onto Suffolk University Law School. He worked with the Gillette Company from 1973 to 1989 before moving into private law, becoming partner at McGovern & Sullivan in the early 1990s.[3]

Representing the town of Abington, he was elected as a Republican state representative in 1990. He was voted "Legislator of the Year" by the Massachusetts Municipal Organization in 1994.[3] Among his initiatives was a budget amendment to have the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority charge municipalities for sewage management by volume instead of population, which moved much of the cost burden away from outlying towns and toward Boston. The amendment was adopted by the House but reversed the following day under pressure from Democratic leaders.[4] He stepped down in 1995 after being named District Attorney for Plymouth County.[3] He took early steps to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Ted Kennedy in 2000, but retracted before declaring an official candidacy.[5]

Tenure as U.S. AttorneyEdit

Sullivan (second from left) is recognized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2003 as part of the Boston Gun Violence Reduction Program.[6]

Sullivan was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts by President George W. Bush on September 14, 2001, in the wake of the September 11 attacks. His early work revolved around the terrorist attacks, which were launched from Boston's Logan Airport.[5] Sullivan was the prosecutor in the 2001–2002 criminal trial of Richard Reid, widely known as the "Shoe Bomber".[7][8]

He prosecuted airport workers arrested at Logan Airport as part of "Operation Tarmac" accused of lying about their nationality on job applications. According to the Boston Phoenix, "every US attorney prosecuting Operation Tarmac cases [...] either reduced or dropped the charges" except for Sullivan, who wrote, "Ignoring the alleged criminal activity of illegal immigrants sends the wrong message to the rest of the world."[9]

Within a few weeks of taking office, Sullivan organized a health-care fraud unit in his district and nearly tripled the number of prosecutors assigned to medical cases, prosecuting companies such as TAP Pharmaceuticals as well as smaller facilities and individual providers. He said: "You couldn't ignore this, even in light of 9/11."[5]

He spoke before the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security in support of the USA PATRIOT Act in May 2005, urging Congress to make the act's surveillance provisions permanent.[10]

Sullivan presented charges, in Boston, on November 23, 2005, against Abdullah Khadr, an Egyptian from Canada who is alleged to have sold arms to the Taliban.[11][12][13]

In February 2009, following the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Sullivan announced his intention to resign his position, following the customary practice of U.S. Attorneys, who typically do not retain their posts in a new administrations.[3]

Tenure as ATF DirectorEdit

In 2006, Sullivan was made Acting Director of the ATF by President George W. Bush.[3] The position had been made subject to the Senate confirmation process and Sullivan was the first nominee to be sent to the Senate. Bush nominated Sullivan to be permanent director in 2007, but the nomination was blocked by a Senate hold placed by Senators David Vitter (R-Louisiana), Michael Crapo (R-Idaho) and Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho). They expressed their concern that the ATF is hostile to small gun dealers, pursuing them overzealously for small paperwork infractions and driving law-abiding small retailers out of business. They said that Sullivan was indifferent to their concerns and "exhibits a lack of willingness to address these problems."[14]

Sullivan has been criticized frequently by one such affected gun dealer, Ryan Horsley of Red’s Trading Post, Twin Falls, Idaho, Idaho's oldest gun dealership.[14] Horsley says that the ATF has a long track record of abusive behavior and Sullivan, as Acting Director, continued to defend the ATF's abusive actions without any indication of making changes.[15]

Sullivan was a keynote speaker and special guest at the 2007 Great Lakes Summit on Gun Violence conference.[16] This conference was organized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and funded by a $375,000 grant from the Joyce Foundation.[17] The report of the conference was titled "Taking a Stand: Reducing Gun Violence in Our Communities" and called for the passage of several gun bans and gun control measures.[16] The National Rifle Association has criticized the IACP report, calling it "a rubber stamp, bought and paid for, of the pre-existing agenda for gun ban groups." The report was produced with assistance from the Joyce Foundation's Communications Director and with contributions from gun control advocates such as Kristen Rand and Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center. The NRA has called the Joyce Foundation an activist foundation whose "shadowy web of huge donations" leads "straight to puppet strings that control the agenda of gun ban groups".[18]

Sullivan's confirmation was opposed by gun rights groups such as the Gun Owners of America,[19] Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms[20] and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.[21] The NRA did not categorically state its opposition to the confirmation of Mr. Sullivan but expressed its concern over the ATF's "overly restrictive legal interpretations" and "overly zealous enforcement activities".[22]

Sullivan resigned as Acting Director effective January 20, 2009 to make way for incoming President Barack Obama to name his own nominee.[23]

U.S. Senate election, 2013Edit

Sullivan announced on February 14, that he would collect signatures to run for the Republican nomination in the 2013 special election to succeed John Kerry as U.S. Senator.[24] He relied on volunteers rather than paid organizations to gather signatures. On February 27, he announced that he had gathered the requisite 10,000 signatures to appear on the primary ballot. He faced state Representative Dan Winslow and former U.S. Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez in the April 30 primary.[25] Sullivan was defeated in the primary by Gabriel E. Gomez who garnered 93,632, or 51% of the votes. Sullivan, gathered 66,164 votes, or 36%, whereas state Representative Dan Winslow, collected 24,057, or 13% of the votes, with 99 percent of precincts reporting shortly before 11:30 pm, on April 30, 2013.[26] Sullivan later endorsed Gomez.[27]

Personal lifeEdit

Sullivan's residence is in Abington. He and his wife Terry have four children.[3] He has been partner at The Ashcroft Group since 2009.[28] His Daughter Alyson Sullivan is the State Representative for the 7th Plymouth District.


  1. ^ Rubin, Ben (December 10, 2007). "Michael Sullivan: Friends, neighbors reflect on rise to national prominence". The MetroWest Daily News. Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  2. ^ 1991-1992 Public Officers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kelly, John P. (February 12, 2009). "U.S. attorney Michael Sullivan of Abington will not stay on the job". Patriot Ledger.
  4. ^ Fehrnstrom, Eric (May 28, 1993). "Reps reverse vote on MWRA". Boston Herald.
  5. ^ a b c Simons, John (October 27, 2003). "Why Do Drug Companies Fear This Man? Maybe because he's declared all-out war on cheats in the drug industry". Fortune.
  6. ^ "Boston Gun Violence Reduction Program Recognized As National Model". Drug Enforcement Administration. February 28, 2003.
  7. ^ Belluck, Pam; Chang, Kenneth (December 29, 2001). "A NATION CHALLENGED: THE INVESTIGATION". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "Accused 'shoe bomber' intends to plead guilty". CNN. October 2, 2002.
  9. ^ "Prosecutorial abuse: US Attorney Michael Sullivan should drop the charges against the Logan 19". Boston Phoenix. 2002-05-09. Archived from the original on 2004-12-20. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  10. ^ "Statement concerning the surveillance provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act (§§ 201, 202, and 223)" (PDF). United States House Committee on the Judiciary. May 3, 2005.
  11. ^ Boston judge issued warrant for Abdullah Khadr Archived 2012-11-06 at the Wayback Machine, Vancouver Sun, December 20, 2005
  12. ^ Eldest son of family linked to terrorism arrested in Toronto, Boston Globe, December 18, 2005
  13. ^ Court papers: Suspect confessed to weapons buys for al-Qaida, Boston Globe, December 19, 2005
  14. ^ a b Richard B. Schmitt (2008-02-25). "ATF nominee in the crossfire". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2008-05-24. Retrieved 2008-03-01. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  15. ^ "Senator Vitter continues to keep a hold on ATF Director Nominee". 2008-02-14. Archived from the original on 2008-02-21. Retrieved 2008-03-02. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  16. ^ a b "Taking a Stand: Reducing Gun Violence in Our Communities" (PDF). Archived from the original (pdf) on 2008-10-29. Retrieved 2008-03-03. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. ^ The Joyce Foundation Archived 2009-09-21 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Cox, Chris (December 2007). "Follow the Money". American Rifleman. Vol. 155 no. 12. National Rifle Association of America. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved 2007-12-04. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  19. ^ "Senate Close To Confirming A Ted Kennedy-style Liberal To BATFE". Gun Owners of America. Retrieved 2008-03-03.
  20. ^ "CCRKBA urges Senate to withhold Sullivan confirmation at BATFE". CCRKBA. Archived from the original on 2008-02-16. Retrieved 2008-03-03. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  21. ^ Aaron Zelman, Executive Director. "An Open Letter to the People of America". Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. Retrieved 2008-03-03.
  22. ^ Chris W. Cox (2007-12-27). "Letter" (PDF). pdf. National Rifle Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-29. Retrieved 2008-03-03. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  23. ^ "Sullivan resigns from post as acting ATF director". The Associated Press, via WHDH. 2009-01-13. Archived from the original on 2011-08-16. Retrieved 2020-02-16. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  24. ^ Chabot, Hillary. "Former U.S. Attorney Sullivan gathering signatures for Senate run". Boston Herald. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  25. ^ "Sullivan: I'll be on Mass. US Senate ballot". February 27, 2013.
  26. ^ "Gabriel E. Gomez wins GOP nod in special US Senate primary; Edward J. Markey to run for the Democrats". April 30, 2013.
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-09. Retrieved 2013-05-07. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-03-03. Retrieved 2013-02-16. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit