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. Allen in NC

    Penn blew that one up big time.... He lost a big NAFTA deal for Hillary.... Oh Oh sorry about that ... She doen't support NAFTA... Right?.... Oh yeah thats right...... I guess?..... It was only Penn that was sending our american jobs to another country, Our food. Our health care money, Our future.... Yeah thats right it was only Penn the clinton strategist... And William Clinton is a part of thier campange, The same guy that with a pin stroke singed away millions of american jobs. >NAFTA< Bills law.... It was only Penn... Not hillary.... married to the guy that signed this american nightmare into law. It was only Penn.... We all know that hillary is totally against NAFTA.... Thats what she told Ohio, Texas, And now PA,...... Thats right it was all Penn.....

    April 5, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  2. Lies, lies, lies

    Ballgame's over, folks. How many lies are we going to tolerate. Hillary's double-speak is going to bite her, once again. If by some miracle she were able to secure the democratic nomination, the republican machine will have a FIELD DAY with this one. Next time she ought to try honesty – if that's possible for her.

    Ballgame's over, folks. Let's move on

    April 5, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  3. Not for clinton anymore

    "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."

    PA do you hear her? I'm so glade i didn't make my mind up, true colors of Clintno NAFTA are showing. I'm sorry but someone that is Lobbying for NAFTA to another country and is a top adviser, would not be with clinton unless he knew something about it that we do not.

    Clinton pushed so hard during in OHIO on Obama campagin two talking, and later it was just the clinton campagin and nothing to do with obama. I hope...I hope the Media plays this as often as they played Obamas sto....

    April 5, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. Michael Guinn- Ventura, CA

    "The Senator is unhappy with this trade deal and it was not discussed."
    Right.
    Mark Penn helped persuade several to leave the Clinton side with all his questionable moves.
    She should have sent him packing long ago.
    Can you say "Conflict of Interest"?

    April 5, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  5. TellItLikeItIs

    Sue April 5th, 2008 12:29 pm ET

    An error in judgement. Didn't Obama have one when he stayed at his chuch? Who cares. I care about the issues and who can solve the problems we have facing us today. I do not care about tax returns. More power to anyone who can make lots of money! I WANT TO SEE MORE ABOUT OBAMAS CHANGE OF HEART ON IRAQ WAR…..KEEPING 80,000 TROOPS ETC……WHY ARE WE NOT HEARING ABOUT THIS? CNN THIS WOULD BE FAIR REPORTING!!

    Sue, are you a highschool dropout? You come off as someone who is really dumb and also a liar.

    April 5, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. D.D.

    What is this? Tell the American republic one thing and tell the foreign officials another? The truth needs to prevail. Are we so simple we can not comprehend the indepth of government truths or the government truths so intensely corrupt they can't tell the truth?
    How does this man continue in his job without Carvelle barking verbal tirades at him? Does he know too much to dismiss him regardless of what he does or does not do for the campaign? Or was he sent by the Clintons on this unbeknownest mission?

    April 5, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  7. 2008 for Obama

    IF THIS WAS AN OBAMA SUPPORTER, HILLARY WILL BE ALL OVER THE NEWS ABOUT THIS.

    April 5, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  8. Charles Douglas Lemay

    For the love of God, how much more do we have to take from this
    utterly corrupt woman! She is completely unable to even manage
    her own campaign, how in the hell does she think she can manage
    the government? In the name of God, Hillary, GO!

    April 5, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. Bubba

    how can she run our country when she can't even run her staff??? You name the topic...and it's a complete disaster for HRC.

    April 5, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. TellItLikeItIs

    The Clintons knew all about this. There's no way that the Clintons would hire Mark Penn without knowing anything about his dealings. Another lack of good judgement? Lies, Lies Lies. No liar can beat the TRUTH. The truth is that the Clintons have an agenda and will say anything to get votes to get back in office and keep their agenda going. It's all apart of the staus quo's plans.

    April 5, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. TellItLikeItIs

    The Clintons knew all about this. There's no way that the Clintons would hire Mark Penn without knowing anything about his dealings. Another lack of good judgement? Lies, Lies Lies. No liar can beat the TRUTH. The truth is that the Clintons have an agenda and will say anything to get votes to get back in office and keep their agenda going. It's all apart of the staus quo's plans.

    Post this CNN!!

    April 5, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. DB, San Francisco

    All this spin is making me dizzy... Nader is running, right? Hey, it didn't work for me the last couple elections, but maybe the 3rd time is the charm.

    April 5, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. Shirley, Silicon Valley, CA

    The Clintons and Mark Penn are untrustworthy!

    Hillary is NOT ELECTABLE!

    Hillary is a congenital liar on a pathological scale!

    April 5, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  14. Mauricio Galvao Anderson

    Oops! her campaign did it again !

    April 5, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. Sean-NY

    Sniff! Sniff! I smell something!! Smells like the stinky odour of Clinton NAFTA Hypocrisy. So WHO now says one thing about NAFTA but actually REALLY did something else? i.e championed its eventaul making into law? Who claims that its part of her EXPERIENCE in office but she would selectively like to omit from her "record"?

    Step off the plate Hill! Your through!

    April 5, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  16. Sean

    And of course the key difference between Hillary's accusations against Obama over his supposed "wink wink" treatment towards Canada in regards to NAFTA, and this story about Mark Penn is that the Mark Penn story actually happened.

    It's been well established that Obama's supposed "wink wink" to Canada never happened, yet Clinton still brings it up as if it did. That's lie number one from Clinton here.

    Meanwhile, Clinton's chief campaign strategist is out there actively pushing for trade deals that Clinton tells voters she is opposed to. I don't care if he was representing Clinton's campaign or the lobbying firm he's chief executive at, this is a blatant contradiction from her. Given Hillary's track record with lying, this makes me think her opposition to the trade deals she claims to oppose may be somewhat less than she'd like the voters to believe. So this could be lie number two in this whole thing.

    April 5, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  17. dEMABRAT

    Come on Hiallry- get it together! We cannot have these sort of fumbles : (

    April 5, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  18. chenny

    this is one of the reasons americans donot trust clintons and there campain. cnn is so soft on this bad news b/c its the clintons but remember how you and hillary jumped on obama for a lesser but similar news b/4 march 4 which actually cost him ohio.Now you should let the pens state to know how untrustworthy clinton and her campain could be.

    April 5, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  19. Marc, Toronto

    This is a much worse indiscretion than Barack Obama's alleged aid with the Canadian Government. Hillary used the old "wink – wink" to help her win Ohio because of it.

    In my view this race would have been over had Hillary not used that gaf to her advantage in Ohio and Texas. Now it will come back to haunt Hillary and her multiple personalities.

    The Democrats cannot win without Barack Obama. Black America will rebel and those of us hoping for a new direction in North America will feel betrayed if Hillary manages to some how steal the nomination away from Obama.

    April 5, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  20. Desiree

    Hillary needs to dump this guy.

    April 5, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. UNITER 08

    Hillary Clinton is a chronic liar. Things are not going to change if she gets elected. She will be favoring her friends just like George W and Cheney had done during their 8 years in the whitehouse.

    April 5, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. Too Bad

    Sue

    You are correct. Lets talk about the issues.

    Obama 08

    April 5, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. HH

    You said a few weeks ago Queen Hillary that if it was your adviser caught taking to other countires the story would be different. I hope and pray every news media runs this story for the next month. I can not wait until you drop out of the race.

    Countdown to Clintons exit- 32 Days.

    April 5, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  24. Felix

    I'm Colombian and I do not feel disrespected. We have a government that systematically kills, torture, and displace workers. The free trade agreement will be a reward to this practices. Hillary Clinton shows again ambiguity, and this lack of a solid position in important issues won't lead us to the White House.

    Enough of political dynasties. Obama 08!!

    April 5, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. Jacob S

    So by Sue's argument if I were a low, low level Clinton adviser who nobody had ever heard of and released a memo saying we begin nuclear war with Russia, that means that Clinton wants to nuke Russia! I mean, it's a pretty obvious conclusion, right?

    As to the actual story, so the Clintons get rid of a hypocritical business tie and the Colombians get rid of Mark Penn. Both sides win here.

    April 5, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
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