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. bladedancer

    LOL! Try and spin this one Hillary!

    April 5, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. Sad state of affairs

    Hilary was all over Obama for something similar. I'm glad Obama hasn't gone the Hilary route.

    That's what she gets for her bad karma moves.

    How can anyone trust her? I'd love to see a woman be president but she is just bad.

    April 5, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. Rosalind

    Wolf Blitzer, why aren't you talking about this? Why isn't James Carville talking about this? He should be on one of his tirades about now!

    April 5, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. B Dogg

    I used to like Hillary until I really got to know her. It seems to me that she really didn't anticipate this race taking so long. She thought she would have this thing in the bag by super Tuesday. She obviously did not see Senator Obama coming.

    April 5, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. willis, Texas

    Every time Camp Hillary gets caught doing the nasty, the news media always down plays it by introducing some alleged issue with Obama.

    Case in point:

    The Chief Iraq strategist for Camp Obama wrote that the strategist was recommending that US troops remain in Iraq through 2010. Obama has always said that he plans to withdraw troops in "16 months".

    If you do the MATH, Obama becomes president on January 22, 2009 –16 months later it is 2010!!!!! Obama is consistent with his campaign promise!!!!!

    This whole Obama sting is a diversion from Hillary's mess!

    April 5, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Richard

    Once again, the Clinton's lie and lie and lie. They USED to be able to get away with it, but not anymore. They must be getting rusty.

    April 5, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. KarenM

    Putting aside the campaign issue for a moment, this seems like a huge wake up call for any of Penn's clients. Were I one of his clients, I'd be doing what the Columbian Gov. is doing and looking elsewhere for a firm that could do the work I need done - without the conflict of interest.

    Now, as for the Hillary campaign, Penn is just another one of the kind of people Hillary feels comfortable having around doing her work. Penn, Spitzer, et al. These are not the kind of folks I want running my country. I am voting on May 6 (in NC) for Barack Obama. I want a real leader.

    April 5, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. Carmela, Longwood, Florida

    Mrs. Clinton just lost my vote.

    April 5, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. brainless Clinton supporter

    Oh those Clintion's and their crazy pranks and shenanigans...I just love them! Bill is so cute when he gets in that red faced, slobbering pit-bull mode and Chelsea is a highly intelligent princess! Hillary is a genius according to Bil and they only speak the truth! Who is this Obama? Doesn't he know it is not his turn? It is Hillary's turn to be president and she has worked so hard for all of us...I know she has made such a difference in my life since she has been in office in New York because they said so! I just can't wait to see what they come up with next!!! I'm going to send more money...because they asked for it!
    Duhhhh...

    April 5, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. martha

    Billary is a phony.Why is Hillary still in this race? The media keeps trying to feed you the unrealistic fact that Hillary has a chance to win it.Keep the adds coming.

    April 5, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. andrew s. rostolder hillsdale nj

    hillary's whole life has been an error of judgement... need i go on???????

    April 5, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Carolh11

    In addition to this little ditty, let's open everyone's eyes to the fact that she told another whopper regarding a horrible health care story, in which a woman dies due to lack of insurance and care. Hospital is demanding her to cease and desist from this story.

    April 5, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. Wayne Braffman

    What did Hillary know and when did she know it?

    April 5, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. doc

    You can tell most of obama supporters are "Republicans", they spew so much "Hate", and of course they will vote Republican in nov.

    April 5, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. Jag, NC

    I agree Clinton is done, but what did we get? After misleading people for votes Obama is changing his tune now. He found that his nomination is secured and doesn't even attend MLK events but explains it's with typical Obama spin. Now Obama advisors tell that we'll be in Iraq for atleast 2010. We're fooled by his tall talk without substances. I can guarantee you he'll be a disaster for America if not a failure in November. At least Clinton could win and make things better for America, there is no need to prove that. Ah, 4 more years at least !!!!!!!

    April 5, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  16. Wayne

    hmmmm, lets see if she does fire him. . Or does she embrace his union busting . Enough of her lies and duplicity.
    The New York Times reported this morning she misspoke about the woman in Ohio who lost her baby and died because of some health care mixup. Well it turns out Hillary embellished the whole story. She didn't even bother to get it factchecked. She just went with hearsay.

    And we should trust her as our President. I dont think so.

    April 5, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  17. Venus

    I really want to see how she spin this! I hope it makes the HEAD-LINES in all the newspaper and major MEDIA! Now – I hope Rocky can help her on this one! And, maybe Bill Clinton will chill!

    April 5, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  18. Angela

    Mark Penn = Hillary's SENIOR ADVISER = LOBBYIST = OLD Washington Politics = Hillary LOVES Lobbyists

    Now we heard the truth that it was Hillary's camp that said take Hillary's words on NAFTA "with a grain of salt"

    OBAMA & EDWARDS = NO to lobbyists = NEW WAY OF POLITICS = CHANGE = YES WE CAN!!!

    April 5, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  19. B Dogg

    Hillary started this race at the top.There is only one way to go when you start at the very top and that is down. It"s exactly what is happening to her. Obama on the other hand started at the bottom and there is only one way to go when you are at the bottom and that is up.

    April 5, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. Matt

    Wait for it... Wait for it....this is where the Clintonites bring up Wright again!!!

    April 5, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  21. Santiago

    The Advisor knows better, Hillary need so endorse Obama now for president

    April 5, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. jerry Lawler

    Senator Clinton continues to make it very hard for us to believe she has any executive ability in running her campaign. Money problems, unpaid bills, internal schisms, poor planning and now a chief strategist acting 180 degrees off message. Add the release of tax returns showing she is a millionnaire on the same day she proposes a poverty czar in the cabinet. I shudder to think what she would do running the executive branch of the most powerful country on earth!!

    April 5, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Can anyone not see how this is wrong? If Obama did this, I would have no respect for him because I wouldn't see him as someone who sticks by his principles.
    Is Mark Penn the Moses for the Clinton Campaign? Is he the one to take them to the promised land, em, White House? How can a candidate be heavily against something, yet her chief guy is lobbying for it. It's clear that Mark Penn believes in making money and there's nothing wrong with that but come on Hillary... Can you not even see how this could have been taken. Can anyone name 5 people from Hillary's campaign. If anyone can name 3, Mark Penn will be on that list because he's one of the most popular figure from their camp, yet he was working for a trade agreement that Clinton opposed and she was fine with that. Or maybe she just imagined it wasn't happening, the same way she imagined the sniper fire and running inside the cars.

    Okay, enough Hillary bashing, but seriously. Obama said he's never been a CEO but we should judge him but how well he runs his campaign. If he was a business, I'd be buying Obama stock right now because despite all the challenges, he's kept a cool head and managed it well, beating his opponents in the delegates, states won, popular votes, and money raised.

    April 5, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  24. Steve

    If Hillary has any political savvy at all, she'll can this guy. No matter if he's doing a good job for her. The appearance of conflict of interests can easily crater a campaign, especially one in such a delicate state as Hillary's is right now.

    Hillary, there are better fish in the sea. Throw this one back.

    For those of you claiming that Obama has stated he doesn't like white people, please remember that he was raised by a white mother and a white grandmother, who both also said racist things that made him uncomfortable. As many of us do when we hear the idiotic spouting of hate against gender and race, he just looked the other way.

    For those of you claiming that Obama has stated he doesn't like white people, can you please direct me to the news article or video where this is captured? No? I didn't think so.

    I am closing my eyes and imagining a world without people like Jonsey. I smile.

    April 5, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  25. Nate

    Can anyone not see how this is wrong? If Obama did this, I would have no respect for him because I wouldn't see him as someone who sticks by his principles.
    Is Mark Penn the Moses for the Clinton Campaign? Is he the one to take them to the promised land, em, White House? How can a candidate be heavily against something, yet her chief guy is lobbying for it. It's clear that Mark Penn believes in making money and there's nothing wrong with that but come on Hillary... Can you not even see how this could have been taken. Can anyone name 5 people from Hillary's campaign. If anyone can name 3, Mark Penn will be on that list because he's one of the most popular figure from their camp, yet he was working for a trade agreement that Clinton opposed and she was fine with that. Or maybe she just imagined it wasn't happening, the same way she imagined the sniper fire and running inside the cars.

    Okay, enough Hillary bashing, but seriously. Obama said he's never been a CEO but we should judge him but how well he runs his campaign. If he was a business, I'd be buying Obama stock right now because despite all the challenges, he's kept a cool head and managed it well, beating his opponents in the delegates, states won, popular votes, and money raised.

    April 5, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
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