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. Christian, Tampa FL

    This is a terrifying indication of the sorts of people that Hillary Clinton would put into power while President. As much as I hate to say this, she seems a lot like Bush in governing style.

    April 5, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |


    April 5, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  3. Jeff

    Hypocrites!!! You got caught. As senator Clinton said, I just substituted Obama name by hers, and I'm crying faults, technical fault, double technical, ejection!!!
    Obama/Clinton 08

    April 5, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. Tunde

    The whole Clinton campaign has been an error in judgement.

    April 5, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  5. mccoy230023

    OMG......! That's why Billary can't be trusted nor anyone in her party. I hope the media picks this one up and also the lie she told about the patient that was denied health coerage in OHIO, who had supposed to have died, which NY Times has reported. I can't believe this lady, she has show time and time again that she will do and say anything to become the Dem Nominee. I use to be for Billary until the lies started now it's all about Obama 08'.

    She really needs to give it up..........!

    April 5, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  6. Andrew Kenneth

    Mark Penn is a disgrace and this is the exact kind of Lobbyist meddling Obama talks of when he mentions turning the page.
    This is a serious issue and could result in the loss of American jobs if it goes through without the required standards.

    April 5, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. Jason

    Hillary is dubious. Period.

    April 5, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |


    April 5, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |


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

    Oh....wait until the unions gets a hold of this little incident!!!

    April 5, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. David, Silver Spring MD

    Sue, Obama has been consistent on his approach to ending the Iraq War. It was one of his advisors who expressed a different opinion on his own behalf, much as Mark Penn did in this Columbia deal.

    Except that Penn is actually working to defeat what his candidate wants. Obama's Iraq advisor has a different opinion about schedule, not about agenda.

    Bottom line is that the candidate is not the advisor, the pastor, or the campaign manager. Presumably you, as a Clinton supporter, would not be voting for Mark Penn. When I vote for Obama, my vote will be for him and not for everyone connected in some way with the campaign.

    April 5, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  12. FrankSmith to Sue

    No matter what you say or do, individuals like Sue will always support the Clintons, given the multiple sins and scandals that they have given to this great nation.

    As I consistently say, as a Catholic, I will always say the Rosary to our Lady of Perpetual Help for anyone who votes for the Clintons. This will be like bringing back the sins of "immorality, greed, adultry and so on" to the White House and this great nation!

    April 5, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  13. Roberto Reyes-Colon

    What is more evident than ever,,is that Senator Obama is the person that we need in the house at this time in our history. I'm always amazed at how oftentimes the media disregard his great style, charisma, and joyful personality as he campaigns, and how he has been able to choreograph gracefully, the american battet of presidential politics. Maybe is not a ballet, but cage fighting, but he is a winner!!!!!!

    April 5, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  14. Saska

    It's disappointing to me that the Colombian government was first to fire Penn, and not Hillary Clinton.

    Why was Alvaro Uribe so sharply critical of Obama and yet had nothing to say about Clinton, who claims to have exactly the same opinion of the proposed Colombian trade agreement?

    April 5, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  15. Venus

    Thanks Mark Penn! Hope this will be the end of Hillary!

    April 5, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  16. Shirley, Silicon Valley, CA

    It is hopeless for Hillary!

    Hillary is just too WEAK to FIGHT the people she cannot and does not control, like Bill Clinton and Mark Penn. Who else are on this list???

    This is only a preview of how her "cabinet" will be like.


    April 5, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  17. The light in the darkness

    If Hilllary supporters were on the Titanic, they would have been cursing the iceberg until the very end – convinced the shinking ship was done wrong and the iceberg had no right to be where it was. After all the Titanic was a great ship and who did the iceberg think it was to sink it? How dare the iceberg get hit by the ship and sink it! Shame on the iceberg!

    Well, the SS Hillary has a captain and crew that don't see too well, and have run into the iceberg Obama. The SS Hillary is sinking fast and her supporters are drowning with her. Bu bye...

    April 5, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  18. Eugene

    let's watch and see if Hillary demands Penn's resignation....

    April 5, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. jonsey

    penn's "error" should cost him a job. his relationship with clinto is NOTHING compared to the realtionship that Obama has with his unashamedly anti-white and anti-us government church. please remeber that obama stated himself that he does not like white people at all. IF he were to become president does this mean that his cabinet will be non-white? I ask that everybody close your eyes and imaging that obama is the president. Now imagine that we have a president who hates white people for several reasons. are you whites afraid now? i am.

    April 5, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  20. Bob Stephens

    Hillary isn't even in the White House, and already the seedy side of the Clintons and their friends is starting to surface. It's like back to the future....

    April 5, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. Ruby Sneed

    I look at CNN and I never see you guys discuss and debate on the lies that the Clinton's tell and her campaign tell on Obama. I am so happy that the Unions are backing OBAMA. Let me hear you guys run this OVER and OVER day and night on CNN.

    April 5, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  22. tom, Boston

    It's news because things like this, where PR firms and lobbiests will do anything and everything for the not-so-honorable interests of their clients (multi-national corporates and their political servants), rarely happens in washington???

    April 5, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  23. PA democrat

    Hillary has ran the most arrogant mismanaged campaign in this race!

    April 5, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  24. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    If the Columbian government severed tires with Penn based only on a statement of error in judgement, there is something seriously shady about this connection and it doesn't sound like they are going to lay down and take it. I'm sure this isn't the end of this story.

    April 5, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  25. Melanie, Texas

    "April 5th, 2008 12:45 pm ET

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

    T12: I agree completely! The Hillary supporters are always crying foul on her coverage, but the press has left so much alone that they should be covering like Peter F. Paul. Why isn't CNN on this story?

    They are definitely soft-peddling ALL the Clinton scandals of late and poor Barack is still getting fire for his involvement with his Reverend, who is an honorable man! Why doesn't CNN show what FOX didn't? The whole speech?

    Something is definitely fishy.

    April 5, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
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