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. mii

    when will America realise that Hillary Clinton's compaign is just a pack of lies. She will do anything and spin any story to win votes.She has no regard for the truth, deos not care about America. Everything she has done are all calculated towards getting the presidency and when it will done on us is if she ever gets to be president.

    April 5, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  2. melissa

    Pennsylvania, don't be fooled like Ohio was when they bought Hillary's lies about NAFTA. Hillary can not be trusted.

    We, the people have a candidate who will listen to us and act in our best interest. Barack Obama, the next President of the U.S.

    April 5, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  3. Michele

    Hey Sozzi–apparently you did not read the entire article in the NYT. Hillary DID NOT lie and make up the story about the pregnant woman and her baby. She was RETELLING a story told to her by a deputy sheriff in Meigs County, Ohio. The sheriff deputy had heard the story himself after being told by one of the woman's relatives. He told Hillary that he understood the woman died of complications from a stillbirth after she had been turned away for not putting $100 upfront.
    So, if you are going to come on here and post negative comments about Hillary Clinton, then I suggest you get your facts straight and tell the whole story.

    April 5, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. Bob

    Another loose cannon in the world of politics, politics is short on talent, but long on these guys!

    April 5, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. nader

    Hope Hillary's fanatics wake ups !!!!!!!! and safe us from another selfish adminstration.

    April 5, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  6. LifeLongDemocrat

    He's hired help for the campaign and you know he has his fingers in several pies...they ALL do.

    April 5, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. Jen B.

    Clinton also "owes" the health industry lobbyists, as one of the biggest recipients of funding from these people. She will protect their interests and fail to bring about the health care reforms she talks about. Another example of her "misspeaking" perhaps?

    April 5, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  8. Ito, Yokosuka Japan

    Look long and hard at her campaign folks. For a Clinton government will be full of the same kinds of people and mismanaged in the same way.

    April 5, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  9. LifeLongDemocrat

    Ex-Presidents make speeches for big money. They all do. If elected Obama will do the same. You can bet on that. I schedule speakers for events there are several big bucks speakers out there.

    April 5, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  10. James

    Hey "Blue collar" – correction...

    The New York Times just reported that President Clinton's speechs fetch in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars apiece. To put this in perspective, Senator Obama's recent speech, "A More Perfect Union", was under 5000 words in length. At the Clinton's price, this would be over $50 per word. I'd sure be happy if someone would give us $50 for every word we contribute to these blogs. 🙂

    April 5, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  11. clarence CC

    Sharon Minnesota April 5th, 2008 12:37 pm ET

    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

    You are so right, CNN is going to spin this story as usual. Don't forget CNN is Hillary second home. Give me a break.....!!!!

    April 5, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  12. Keith

    "Poetic Justice."

    April 5, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. Bob

    Columbia fires him before Hillary even makes a statement about it. Yeah, Hillary's ready.

    April 5, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Tony, Enterprise, Alabama

    Mark Penn has been a drag on the Clinton Capaign since the beginning.

    He should be fired for this obvious conflict of interest. Senator Clinton needs to win this race for the good of America.

    I don't think she can do it with staff like Mark Penn.

    April 5, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Bev

    Appears to be a lot of hate filled people on this site. Is this the type of people Obama is trying to unite? I hope not.

    April 5, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. brainless Clinton supporter

    Oh those Clinton's with their crazy pranks and antics. i just love them!
    I am poor and stupid, but I will send them money because they need it!

    April 5, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. Brenda


    The Colombians beat Hillary to the punch. Now if she let's Penn go, it will look like she is copying. How will she spin her way out of this one?

    April 5, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. Bayou Joe

    It is a sad day in our country when people are attacked for doing their job. Get your facts straignt Obama idiiots. He was not acting on behalf of Hillary. He was doing work for his firm and his client was Columbia. There are hundreds of firms like his. I am sure Obama has hired a few of them too. Now I remember, The Racist Church he goes to hired a PR firm to clean up their tarnished image. Wow what a concept. Say whatever you want No PR firm will clean up the mess
    Rev. Wright opened up. Until Obama denounces not only the message, but also the messenger, he will not get our votes.

    Hispanics run away from this Mulatto Muselman.

    April 5, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  19. Rendrag11

    The conflict of interest with Penn has been there all the time. Senator Clinton knew this when she selected Mark Penn as a top advisor KNOWING that his firm also represents Senator McCain.

    It is not a coincidence that Senator Clinton is always supporting and building up McCain...it is not a stretch to imagine that her and Senator McCain's advisors have been collaborating about how to campaign against Senator Obama since day one.

    Likewise, it's not a coincidence that you cannot distinquish the republican campaign style, strategy and attacks from those of Senator Clinton...they are very similar (e.g. the 3am call ad).

    Jonsey, accuracy is not your gift. Your obsession with race and fear tactics is showing.

    April 5, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  20. true democrat

    jonsey, I don't understand what you are spreading such vicious lies about obama. Seems like you are the one with the problem.

    April 5, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  21. Raum

    This guy is the reason Clinton lost the election. She can keep him all she wants, but hes really nothing but excess baggage.

    April 5, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  22. Mark Webb

    Does anybody imagine the kind of conflict of interest that would result from Bill Clinton returning to the White House a the "first gentleman"?
    Would he stop his suspicious connections with mining company bosses and corrupt Asian dictators??? (see millions earned through such connections in the Clintons' tax returns)

    April 5, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  23. Imran, Lawrence, USA

    Weird is it not?

    As Americans we seem to turn a blind eye to so much money floating around and lobbyists and lobbying firms being hand in glove with foreign powers and future US Presidential candidates.

    Can anyone explain why the lobbying firm was paid over 10 million $$ by the Clinton campaign?

    Does anyone really care?

    According to msnbc Colombia paid the firm $300K and Clinton nearly $11 million.

    He who pays the piper MORE, sets the tune!!!!!!!!

    And we want Hillary for President, hurrah!

    April 5, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  24. GT in CA

    What does Columbia have to trade with the US anyway? Not the illegal stuff...

    April 5, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  25. Whatever McCain

    More incompotence from the Hillary clan....what a suprise.

    April 5, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
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