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. Fabian

    Do you guys recall Clinton going off in Ohio on Obama's mailer that criticised her for supporting NAFTA? Obama got the heat from the media when his guy met Canadian government officials behind the scenes, and all over sudden Mark Pen is getting away with this. This shows how biased the media is. Obama lost Ohio as a result, and I don't think Clinton is going to suffer the same way as a result. I hope the Obama campaign keeps pushing the story. Clinton says one thing and does another.

    April 5, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  2. claris nelson

    Well, the Colombians did the right thing. Clinton did nothing, as usual. Is she hoping it will blow over (Oh THAT'll happen)? Maybe Penn WAS representing her re the Colombian trade deal. Maybe she kinda likes this trade deal after all. Or maybe Penn knows where all the metaphorical bodies are buried. Or, maybe Mark Penn doesn't know conflict of interest from a cream donut.

    And how about sozzi's comment that the Ohio lady who died from having no health insurance is another lie? At this point I'm betting on sozzi.

    April 5, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  3. Kate

    $109 million??? I'm for Hillary but I won't donate another dime. I think she was misleading when she put out that S.O.S. call for money when she donated to her own campaign.

    April 5, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  4. tom, Boston

    and people are crying foul because they have never known that their shallow and oh-so-wonderful "life styles" have been possible thanks for thses shady dealings??? like jack nicholson said well, "you can't handle the truth!"

    April 5, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  5. judyb

    It is truly amazing how many people think the Clinton's are honest folks. They con us about their role in their support of NAFTA, yet condone their chief strategist talking the walk with Colombia. They have the majority of their personal investments in offshore accounts, that offer big tax savings, offered by their big bucks contributers and then Hillary has the gall to tell the voters they are against these types of tax shelters. The Clintons are all about political corruption. I'll take Obama and his minister (who speaks the truth) anyday.

    April 5, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  6. Jack, LA

    109 million – 52 million for "Just Speeches"
    Why didn't the Clinton's do more personally to help Katrina victims??

    April 5, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. Rick


    April 5, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  8. Mae

    Why is her campaign strategist a white male who works for a lobbying firm?

    This is really making me wonder.

    And I don't understand why she was so in the dark about her right hand mans other job?

    Can we find an honest woman to run for President.

    I mean I've experienced great stress and sleep deprivation going to graduate school and raising a family but I never hallucinated about things that did not happen.

    April 5, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. Ex-Hillary supporter

    I can longer come up with one good reason why I should consider giving Clinton my vote.
    Her campaign has been abysmal, her only "success" so far is the damage she has done to the Democratic Party to achieve her own self-serving goals.

    April 5, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  10. John Smith to Sue

    No matter what you say or do, people like Sue will always vote for the Clintons, given the multiple "sins of infedility/adultry, greed, and so on that they have brought to this great nation.

    As I consistently say, as a Catholic, I will continue to say the Rosary to our Lady of Perpetual for anyone who votes for the sins of Clintons to be returned to the White House and this great nation. Great nations have fallne because of lack of moral values!!!

    April 5, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |


    April 5, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  12. Sable

    interesting that Columbia fired Penn first.. what does this say about Hillary..

    Obama '08

    April 5, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. Isaac

    As much as this is going to be made of because of 'evil, duplicitous and calculating' Hillary, this is not the same thing that happened with Obama and Canada. In that situation his campaign representative explicitly implied that what Obama was saying in his debates in the U.S. were NOT what he was going to be following as policy once elected. There is a big difference and Clinton has drawn clear distinctions on this matter.

    April 5, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  14. RuthieM

    Penn's sure becoming more and more awful looking. I think Clinton knew/knows exactly what was going on and she was just trying to have it both ways, as usual. Another twister in Clinton's liechest, her campaign is just plain rotten and untrustworthy. They all need to close down.

    April 5, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. mj

    I had huge personal respect for the Clintons, this campaign was not well done. They dont see it because they are in the middle and Bill maybe watching "Greg's anotomy". it is good that they made 100 plus millions in the past, they may need it to re build their imagen in the country.

    April 5, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    I agree with another poster if this had been someone in the Obama camp Hillary would be talking about it in campaign stops from Oregon to Pennsylvania. If is funny how the people who support Hillary always want to bury any stories about her and want to talk about the issues but a story like rev. Wright and they act like the Faux News and want to keep bringing it up again and again.

    April 5, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  17. Rubydorisjean

    Let me see if I have this right.

    Clinton's chief campaign strategist is a Colombian lobbyist, pushing a trade agreement that gives American jobs to Colombians.

    Umm, Clinton sure knows how to pick them!

    April 5, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  18. PA Old Man

    After I consider the lastest lies and decit in the Clinton camp, I see shes in her last throws and I have to get behnd Obama. I know Hillary will do well and become a big power player in the senate.

    April 5, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  19. Nikole

    SUE-Obama staying in his church WAS NOT an error in judgement. Please research his church and former pastor for yourself instead of taking the bits and pieces fed to you by the media.

    Critical thinking is severely lacking these days.

    April 5, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. TR

    I will vote for HILLARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 5, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. gary mitchell

    This is just the latest sign that the HRC candidacy is a symptom of a failed political system that allows access to foreign interests to our Congressmen and Senators. When will the interests of the American people take center stage in D.C.? When Barak Obama is our President.

    April 5, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  22. Spider

    I am not an Obamaite. I am a proud Clintonian.

    I think Hillary did set this up. Send one of your insiders over there and throw a monkey wrench in the whole thing. Way to go Hillary.

    Hillary '08/'12
    No Obomination

    April 5, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  23. Party First

    I am convinced Obama will win, so I say party first we have to get behind Obama. We must defeat McCain!

    April 5, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  24. Cali

    This latest development appears staged in order to help Penn and the Clinton campaign save face with voters. Move-on's call for Clinton to fire Penn is right on. This entire issue is another example of how the Clinton camp does or says one thing, then the "error" is revealed, and we find out the conflicting truth. What does this whole issue say to people who are struggling from job losses? The feeling of not trusting Senator Clinton is rising steadily....

    April 5, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  25. WINNER

    it is not hillary it's Penn. so who cares
    everyone needs to stop criticizing hillary because she is running a fierce campaign. the media needs to look at obama and all his lies and faults within his campaign to make it an even playing field for the two candidates. obama has a lot of faults that nobody seems to want to touch on.

    hillary for successful change in 2008

    April 5, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
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