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

Colombia cuts ties with Clinton strategist


[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/04/art.penn.gi.jpg caption="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. Doug, Florida

    Caught with your pants down. Clinton need to drop out.

    She is unelectable

    April 5, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Sue

    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!!

    April 5, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  3. sozzi

    Hillary and her campaign have been caught with another lie. CNN, please look into Hillary's other lie, an article in the NYT, with regards to Health Insurance promo.

    Regarding a patient who was denied health coverage at a OHIO hospital, and died becuase of it, has been a false story. The Hillary campaign has made up another lie. When will the media start to look into all of Hillary's claims?!!!!!

    April 5, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |

    THAT's not it ! Double play is double play !

    Get the Big Penn out ! Or can Clinton not campaign without him ?

    April 5, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. phillykat

    Barack Obama is really the ONLY candidate!!!
    Barack the Vote!!!

    April 5, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. Obama the other white meat

    Dumb. Now the the Obamatons will think that Hillary set this up.

    April 5, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  7. Jordan

    If it involves Hillary Clinton, it doesn't respect anyone else. Colombia just found that out, hopefully the Hillary fanatics will wake up and see the same.

    April 5, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  8. Sharon Minnesota

    Wow, the chickens come home to roost for Clinton here.

    Wait, there's a big difference with the two stories. The Clinton campaign and Senator Clinton was NOT involved with this event where the Obama campaign and Obama himself was directly involved in the Canadian debacle.

    Can't wait to see the twisted blogs on the CNN websight and /or the CNN bias on this one.

    April 5, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. Michael


    She's done.

    April 5, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Kaywood Hopkins

    I love Mark's wagging finger in the photo, why is it the Clinton's always wag the finger, when they are usually doing the same thing?

    It is why almost half of Americans (49% last poll) think Hillary is "phony".

    Maybe they should turn those high and mighty fingers at themselves, before wagging them at us. They remind me of hall monitors, always tell you what you are doing wrong.

    April 5, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Alex H

    Mark Penn has always represented Hillary Clinton's campaign 100%: a conflict of interests.

    April 5, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. Veterans For Obama

    This has gone on far too long.

    Buh-Bye Hillary....Thanks for playing.

    Go salvage your legacy before its too late, and quit sending Bill on the road, his heads about to explode.

    April 5, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  13. Matt

    At least the Colombian Government finally got something right...

    What's astounding to me is Hillary hired somebody who, for the past year, has been employed to get support for something she opposes. Really shows that her campaign is run by a bunch of opportunistic lobbyists.

    April 5, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  14. Charlotte

    I think Clintons' opposition to any deal, played a role in the Columbian govs. decision to severe ties with Burson Marsteller. Hillary is still the best choice for this country and its economic future. If there is one subject the Clintons know, it's the Economy, STUPID.

    April 5, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. Voice that matters.

    CNN why is this guy kept appearing on your head line.

    We know that the Clinton surrounded themselves with lobbyiest and they have no desire to change Washington style of business as usual.

    The mean thing I want to urge to put on the headline is Zimbabwe.
    The US Government kept quiet about that country general election.

    America need to take lead on foreign policy and pressure Moo man to get out of power. America can't wait until its turn violent in Zimbabwe before intervaning.

    The Zimbabwe government needs a strong message for its to step down NOW.

    America show your leadership right Now. thank you, but keet US politic clearn as well.

    April 5, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  16. Veterans For Obama

    Mr Penn.....Youre hairstyle is an error in judgement. Meeting with the Columbians is just status quo for the Clintons.

    April 5, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  17. Lance

    I respect the Columbia for this action. At least they showed some principal. Met them, paid by them, then turn around say "error of judgment" to get American votes.
    Clinton supporters, please wake up and open your eyes. I don't have enough space here to list all of her lies, misspoke, misjudgment, mis-attended, mis.....

    April 5, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  18. Nan

    Hillary Clinton deserves better than having people be so thoughtless about what could look like a conflict of interest. I think it was just as well that Columbia cut their ties with Mr. Penn. Thanks

    April 5, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  19. Gil - California

    For a PR firm, they don't seem to be doing a good job for their clients. I hope it was worth it to him

    April 5, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. Franky

    So, what else is new???? Ohh wait a minute, is O.K because the Clintons know a whole more than anyone else....

    April 5, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. SaintSteven

    Hopefully the good people of Pa. will see what the Clinton camp is realy about. It was Clintons aid who talked to Canada now her lead strategist got busted talking to the Colombians about NAFTA, kinda looks like a pattern don't you think.


    April 5, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. Chanda-Cincinnati Ohio

    I could care less about him meeting with the Colombians, but does it bother anyone besides me that her campaign manager is an executive for a lobbying firm? Who is she really going to represent in the White House???!!??? People better wake up and stop trying to recapture the Clinton days of old. This is a new day, and Hillary is going to "misspeak" this country into a world of hurt!!!

    April 5, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  23. Jack

    EXCELLENT!! Great news for Hillary!

    There goes the issue of conflict of interest along with the media's ability to bash Hillary to make Obama look good

    April 5, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  24. T12

    It is amazing, if Obama would have done this it would have been headline news, this shows how the media is Pro Clinton.

    It concerns me that this whole election process is supposed to be about the country, the people, our children (which is our future) and when the media does not make the public more aware of issues like this, it shows a more Bias media that cares more about HRC than this country.

    It makes me wonder if MSM fears the Clinton's.

    CNN I am glad you have it as a ticker but how about making some noise on this issue. Nafta is a measure issue.

    Are we supposed to accept Penn's apology and move on?

    This is a Conspiracy!!!

    April 5, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  25. VA


    April 5, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
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