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. Jean

    Conflict of interest, at the least. Fire him, Hilldog!

    April 5, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  2. Bill in CA

    She cannot afford to fire Pen – her campaign owes his firm more than $2.4M – ouch!!

    April 5, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. Miss H

    I agree with the majority of the people in here. Mr. Penn should be fired seriously ... that's a major no-no when you are chief strategist of a campaign. We get that he is sorry – it happens- now he needs to be let go.

    Obama '08

    April 5, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. JJ in NY

    How you going to spin this one, hillary. What's the lie-du-jour ?

    April 5, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. Mark Webb

    The Colombian government has fired Mr Penn for conflict of interests. But Hillary Clinton cannot fire anybody for conflict of interests. She is herself a personified conflict of interests.

    April 5, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  6. North Carolina

    I do hope Clinton cans Penn. I am a Clinton supporter, but lobbyists of any stripe in prominent posiitons in one's campaign are bad news, and Penn certainly has a strong conflict of interest. In 2005, Clinton voted against CAFTA.

    April 5, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  7. Allan

    When will all these Clinton haters discover that Ken Starr was unable to prove all the lies, murder that you people keep bringing up. If you would have an idea of your own instead of getting all your knowlege from Rush Limbaugh. He is the biggest liar in town. Please quit showing your ignorance, and wake up and smell the coffee.
    You are why we are in the mess we are in now.
    Get a life.

    April 5, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  8. Yes, DM again Arlington, TX

    Jonsey, You are a bigot. no one need to fear any man.

    Obama is bi-racial.

    Obama is made up of the American Reciept.

    Let us just stop hating.. on one another.

    Let just ask Bill Clinton who do he owe now.

    Hillary Clinton needs to just try to be honest..... Where did Bill get all that money we need the truth.. I don't feel we got the truth yet..

    April 5, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  9. mike d.

    You see, if he was MY campaign strategist I would have walked away. You can pick who your campaign strategists are, but not your family.

    April 5, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. Susan from Reno

    There's nothing else to be done but for Clinton to fire Penn to show that she does not support his action in Colombia. I mean, really, she called for Obama's advisor to be fired for calling her a 'monster'. Compare that one word to this case where her own CHIEF CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST is caught actively lobbying and being paid for adovcating a position directly opposed to Hillary! Sheesh! She must fire Penn – There is just no way else around this for her to maintain her credibility.

    April 5, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  11. VJmem

    Request for "jonesy" who posted at 1:15pm ET

    Please provide a link or some proof where Obama stated that, according to your post, he does not like white people at all.

    If you cannot provide this proof with the next couple of hours, you should write an apology to the people for making such an accusation. If you do provide proof, this will be something we all need to look at.

    Thanks.

    April 5, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  12. Nana

    The problem with Hillary is she is not trustworthy!

    April 5, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. Kay, Columbus, Ohio

    Horrible. Clinton's advisor selling our country and Bill Clinton doing business with Dubai leaders and Hillary hipocritery opposing Dubai interests in US. What kind of people do we want in our White House??? I hope not Clintons. Corruption.

    April 5, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. Deb from Iowa

    Ah, yes. . . ready on day 1, huh? Poor, Hill - can't even pick her inner circle well. She's been undone, over and over and over, by people she has trusted. starting with Bill. I'm starting to feel sorry for the lady. But not sorry enough to ever vote for her. On the one hand, she says, "even as a kid, the boys have always expected me to go home early" (read, oh, poor me). On the other, she keeps choosing idiots (mostly boys) to run things.
    No thanks, Hill. Poor judgment. again.

    April 5, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  15. sam

    David,

    Well said, and I couldn't agree more. The thing that concerns me most about Clinton is her campaign management. Penn is a campaign strategist working on a deal that is in direct contravention to what Clinton has preached. How can this happen? Same thing with the Bosnia story. I simply don't understand how these errors occur and it simply comes down to a terribly mismanaged campaign. If you can't run a campaign, how will you run a country.

    April 5, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. marge

    (((HILLARY)))) PA is watching you!!!! We're not the robots Rendell believes us to be.....No double-digit win here!!!!!

    April 5, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  17. rajoro

    So Obama is sticking to his plan for Iraq, as always, just because one person has a recommendation to him it does not mean it is his position. Hillary has the same we accept her at her word. I think the article speaks to Mark Penn and to Hillary only in the sense that her campaign isn't about political change. The campaign is filled with lobbyists and corporate special interests that have far too much interest in currying favor with power. Obama represents the hope that 1.3 million people donating an average of $93. have that we the people can get our government back for all the people of the United States.

    April 5, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  18. Lisa in TN

    Eugene.....I agree 100%. If the situation were reversed, Hillary would be shrieking that Obama should fire this guy.

    The Clintons are up to their armpits in PAC, special interest, and lobbyist's dirty money and favors. They don't want the money, money is pretty irrelevant to them obviously judging from their income. What they want is power, for the sake of power itself. It's sad that two such intelligent, potentially world-changing people, have aspirations based in satisfying the least nobel characteristics of human nature.

    April 5, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  19. marge

    "I don't think people should come to Ohio (PA)and tell the people of Ohio (PA)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."

    Ok Hillary...you got your wish!!!!! And I couldn't be happier!!!!!
    "

    April 5, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  20. KCBob

    neither Clinton is an economic guru. Bill was lucky to be president during the IT boom in the 90's. If George Bush Sr won his second term he would of gotten credit.

    All in all the clintons damaged this country more than they helped it.

    April 5, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  21. moeen

    Mark Penn was caught red-handed making another NAFTA like deal for Hillary to send more jobs overseas....where Clintons' millions come from as payback...

    SO, DILLUSIONAL DEMS OF PA,
    .......rally behind Red?Neck/Big?ts like Rush Limbagh, Sean Hennety and
    Nominate Hillary to send the remaining jobs overseas...so that Clintos' can become reacher even faster.

    April 5, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  22. Buying the election.......

    Penn is just stupid!!!! Always thought he was anyway so this is no surprise. And for those who think that Clinton lies.........so does Obama so at least be fair when talking about who lies and about what.

    Let's face it folks...Clinton is ahead in PA and is gaining momentum in Indiana and North Carolina........this even when Obama is outspending her 5-1...now if that isn't buying the election – nothing is!

    Obama is not going to win in November if he gets the nomination. Absolutely, unequivocably NOT GOING TO WIN! So for all the states yet to vote – a vote for Obama is a vote for McCain – a vote for CLinton is a vote for the White House! Come together all democrats.....this process is for the White House and not an exercise as to see who can get more money and spend more money...it is about issues and who will be able to do the most for the American people as a whole once in office. That will be Senator Clinton!!!!!!

    April 5, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  23. grob

    Stick a fork in her butt and turn her over–she's done!!!

    April 5, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. E. C., Houston, Texas

    People who lack integrity do not belong in a Presidential Campaign, nor should such PR Firms be hired by Campaigns. It should cost him his Career in the PR Business. How dare he? Lots of Scum out there...just like Pastor Wright. Problem is that Obama will not denounce him, which means he likes what Wright has to say.

    April 5, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. jumpinjak

    A slug or a monkey? which on would beat billary, Both

    April 5, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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