April 5th, 2008
12:26 PM ET
4 years ago

Colombia cuts ties with Clinton strategist

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Mark Penn is a chief strategist for the Clinton campaign.
Mark Penn is a chief strategist for the Clinton campaign.

(CNN) – The Colombian government severed ties with Clinton strategist Mark Penn and his public relations firm Saturday, unhappy Penn referred to a recent meeting with the Colombian ambassador as an "error in judgment."

"Mr. Mark Penn, President and CEO of Burson Marsteller, responded to claims by Union representatives who questioned his relationship with the Colombian Government by declaring that it was an 'error in judgment' to meet with his client the Colombian Ambassador on March 31. The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians, and finds this response unacceptable," a statement from the Colombian embassy said.

Penn's comments came Friday after it was reported he had met with the Colombian ambassador in his role as CEO of his P.R. firm to promote a free trade agreement with the country that Hillary Clinton has sharply criticized on the campaign trail.

"The meeting was an error in judgment that will not be repeated and I am sorry for it," Penn said in an issued statement. "The senator's well known opposition to this trade deal is clear and was not discussed," Penn said in a statement.

The meeting, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, occurred Monday. The Colombian Embassy hired Penn's firm in 2007 to help achieve congressional approval of the trade agreement signed in 2006 by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the Bush administration.

Change to Win, a union federation that has endorsed Barack Obama and represents more than 6 million workers, immediately called on Clinton to fire Penn, saying " It’s time for [her] to send her vaunted ‘chief strategist’ Mark Penn packing - back to his job consulting for union busting corporations and anti-labor governments for good.

On Friday, Clinton spokesperson Mo Elleithee said the New York senator "remains steadfast against the Colombian Trade Bill," and maintained Penn's meeting was "not in any way done on behalf of the campaign."

Clinton has sharply criticized America's free trade agreements as she campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, and was particularly critical of rival Barack Obama in February when it was reported that one of his chief foreign policy advisors had suggested to a Canadian official that the Illinois senator was not as anti-free trade as he was claiming to be on the trail.

"I don't think people should come to Ohio and tell the people of Ohio one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors," Clinton said then. "That's the kind of difference between talk and action and that I've been pointing out in this campaign."

"I would ask you to look at that story, substitute my name for Senator Obama," she also said. "If some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments and basically saying ignore what I'm saying because it's only political rhetoric … I think it raises serious questions."

– CNN's Juan Carlos Lopez, Alex Mooney and Mike Roselli contributed to this report


Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (341 Responses)
  1. Peter Kavanagh

    This is why Obama has no federal lobbyist working on his Campaign .
    You have to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest as well as the actual conflict of interest .

    The Clintons have so many interests outside of their public life its hard to know where to begin .

    This fund that Bill is involved in , I wonder how many Pen Catholics know about how they are going around buying up church land at fire sale prices .

    "Do as I say not as I do " right Hillary ?

    April 5, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. kim p.

    Well, it appears Hillary's "roosters are coming home to roost." I wonder how the media will spin this one for Hillary. There is no "alleged" here, only the facts. What shall we call this one? Is it me, or does it appear everytime the Clinton camp spends lies and deceit, it comes back twice as hard and more damaging? There is some truth to karma perhaps!

    April 5, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  3. winter86

    He's sorry that He got caught!!!! Oh what a double standard the Clinton campaign plays. I'm so glad that the Obama campaign is of a higher moral standard not to get down in the gutter and play politics with this recent news. Liers NEVER WIN, and the truth will always prevail. I can't TRUST another president who is "TWO-FACED". who thinks the American people are just plain dumb and can't see through the same old politics.

    April 5, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  4. Bob

    If this were an Obama campaign manager Hillary would have called a press conference in Pennsylvania by now and challenged him to a debate! What a hypocrite she is!

    April 5, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  5. markus

    A loud, retired Pastor doesn't scare me nearly as much as THIS.

    April 5, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  6. Juice

    2008 Is Hillary Clinton's Moment Of Lies; She Can Never Tell The Truth

    April 5, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  7. Dave Hussein

    David Schuster MSN was suspended for saying hillary was pimping Chelsea, Obamas Campaign manager discharged for calling Hillary Monster!... another Air America host suspended so hillary can get her bottle of blood ...and Nobody came out to defend these peoples Jobs.

    Penn actions could cost American Patriots Workers millions of Jobs...all he gets to do is appologize and keep his Job. is there something wrong with this picture.......American Wake UP.. She is bed with Lobbyist..

    April 5, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  8. SlapStick, FL

    Well it will not be the first time that the Clintons have been dropped for some reason or other. Who will drop them next.

    April 5, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  9. Juice

    2008 Is Hillary Clinton's Moment Of Lies; She Can Never Tell The Truth.

    April 5, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  10. JOE

    If Obama is the democrat nominee, then McCain will be our next President. I am a die-hard democrat and if Obama wins the nomination I will be voting for John McCain in the fall election.

    April 5, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  11. Paul

    Jonsey

    Yes It should cost him his job and his relation ship with the clintons

    It should also cost Clinton her JOB ALSO remember that the clintons have pay him over 10 millon dollar to do what he does

    This is not about being black or white

    April 5, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  12. Sylvester

    Sue, you're not hearing about it because Senator Obama has not had a change of heart on Iraq. An advisor that also acts independently made an unrelated proposal NOT to Obama but a entirely unrelated group.

    Do Clinton fans ever read?

    April 5, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  13. SPYTURTLE

    Another person close to the Clinton's bites the dust. A very disturbing pattern with Bill and Hillary.

    April 5, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. Kansas for Barack Obama

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    PENNSYLVANIA, INDIANA, NORTH CAROLINA, MONTANA, OREGON VOTERS.....

    ARE YOU BEGINNING TO NOW SEE CLINTON FOR WHO SHE REALLY IS?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    April 5, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. Kansas for Barack Obama

    jonsey,

    you are INSANE! Obama has never said that he does not like white people.

    get a life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 5, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  16. Kevin

    It's too bad that Clinton hasn't acted as quickly and decisively as the Colombian government. She should sever ties with him also. This wasn't his only error in judgement in running her campaign...

    Thought they'd win Feb. 4th. No money left. No strategy for the later states. No real strategy for Michigan and Florida (so she ends up looking like a flip-flopping panderer.)

    I believe Hillary Clinton is a decent, hard-working person. However here judgement really concerns me.

    April 5, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. DSP

    What is wrong with people getting together and having discussion? Even horrible people, tyrants, cheats, and corrupt politicians? (but enough about Hillary). In fairness, I just don't "get it." Why shoulnd't these people talk and communicate? If it's only to disagree. At least then, each side knows where the other stands and military options put a face and personality behind an aggressive decision.

    April 5, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  18. Monica, Texas

    HiIllary how can you have some one with such a high position in your camaign who has thoughts and actions are contrary to your stance? Although you may not have known about Penn's PR clients before you do now. How will you handle this matter? We are waiting and watching....

    April 5, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  19. Chanda-Cincinnati Ohio

    To Jonesy and those who think like him/her:

    NOT ONE TIME DID REV. WRIGHT SAY ANYTHING ABOUT HATING ANOTHER RACE OR ADVOCATING VIOLENCE AGAINST ANOTHER RACE!!!! He said that the US has done evil...which our Gov has. He said that this country has been led by affluent white men since its conception...which it has. He said that Hillary does not know anything about being black in America...which she does not. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell said that America reaped what it had sown after 9/11, and I don't recall anyone calling for their heads. MLK in his Riverside Church speech of 1967 said that the United States was the greatest perpetrators of violence in this world, and that some day it would come back on us. You don't have to agree with how Rev. Wright said what he said, i don't either, but if you do your homework, you will see that he was not lying. If you took the time to read the transcript of the entire post 9/11 sermon, you would see that he was calling for more love in this country and for this countyr to start showing more love to the world. But you and people like you listen to the three or four sound bites the MEDIA wants you to hear, and choose to sum up this mans 30+ year ministry with out finding out anything for yourself. How pathetic is that? Hillary can lie about NAFTA, embelish her foreign policy involvement in her husband's administration, "misspeak" about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia, go on Jay Leno and joke about it, tank healthcare reform back in the 90s with her bullying ways ( not my words, opinions from members of congress), be a defendant in a campaign fraud case (in progress), mismanage her campaign, lie to the people of the state of NY about the jobs she would bring there as a Senator ( they have actually lost more jobs since she has been in office), still has not released the tax return from last year with the Dubai company in question, and somehow people still believe she is the better candidate. Are you that afraid of a black man becoming president that you are willing to look past her lies and lack of character? Stop closing your eyes and letting your imagination run wild, and open them to see what is going on right under your nose. Stop letting the media spoon feed you your opinions and develop one of you own. AN OPINON BASED ON FACT AND NOT FICTION.

    April 5, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  20. Aisie

    If all you Clintonites care to read the article you will see that Obama's advisor who discussed 80K troops in Iraq has clearly said that this does not represent Obama's view. He said that even before the media started the scrutiny. I'm not so sure Mark Penn made that distinction.

    In anycase, why is it everytime Clinton is in trouble you Clintonites try to drag Obama into it? Is that the only defense you have? Is your style to always point fingers at the next person and say... i'm not the only bad person? How about justify your actions, or say sorry and move on.

    Leave Obama out of this Clintonites.... You have all right to fight for the white house, jsut like any other American... but PLEASE leave Obama out of this.

    April 5, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  21. gregory

    MY FALLOW UP ON MS HRC NOW PA YOU CAN NOT LET THIS LADY REPRESENT PA IN NO WAY WHAT EVERY YOU DO WE GOT ONE LIAR ALL READY AT THE TOP OF THIS STATE .. THIS IS NOT JUST AND IT IS A SIN FOR HIM TO BACK HER UP ... NO WE NEED A FRESH FACE ... AND SOME ONE YOUNG MR OBMA !!!!!!

    April 5, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  22. Ito, Yokosuka Japan

    I wanted to give HRC the benefit of the doubt here, but this makes the whole thing look fishier.

    As for Mr. Penn he had it good, paid $300,000 by Columbia to lobby Clinton and paid $10.8 million by Clinton to BE lobbied.

    HRC is trash and this shows that she is too close to lobbyists to be an effective agent for change. She hired one as her top campaign manager, for crying out loud.

    HRC is a stink bomb.

    April 5, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  23. jo

    He was doing Hillary's bidding. While she was doing other things and trying to distract the nation with complaints of Obama and McCain she had her strategist try to make secret plans with Colombia to benefit some of her big corporate cronies.

    I personally think her and Bill belong in jail.

    April 5, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  24. doc

    Muslim heritage?

    April 5, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  25. Mary Jastron, Pittsburgh

    Please look into influence peddling by Bill Clinton. Why is he being paid in millions? Is there a reason he is fighting so hard on Hillary's behalf. Has he promised - "When Hillary is elected...."???/

    April 5, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
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