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. 4REAL

    If Hillary was very concern about her campain and the lies she have said and how hard it is to back track herself she would clean house and get a new crew. The DNC should take action and put her before a auction block and drill her on the lies and what else is coming out soon. Remember she want to sway the supers to vote for her, how in the hlllllllll they would have the gusts to do this with all the garbage she has unleashed. Even her husband is partner with a company that is selling elderly people identity. When the tax records prove that Bill is dealing in illegal trade overseas, what will be her answer? Bill made a lot of money but I don't know where it come from except is foreign speeches. I don't think Hillary or her campaign is thinking with their brains right about now.

    April 5, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  2. S. Brown

    Hillary can't get rid of Penn. She spent 5 million for his sevices! In this economy, even if your making 109 million, that is too big a loss. Let me correct myself. That is too big a loss for Clinton backers who donated their money.

    Obama 08

    April 5, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. Chris

    Hilary and Penn should quit right now. Hilary has been lying to the American people so much that it is making a mockery of the election and the educated americans.

    Quit now Hillary. You are a disgrace to the country.

    April 5, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  4. Vivian

    I wonder why CNN has not posted any of my messages lately. I think I am going tohave toswitch to MSNBC. For some reason, my posts hardly ever make it on this site. I will say it again. Hillary was so quick to come out and tell everyone about Obama's advisor speaking to Canadians and looked like a nut yelling on National TV " meet me in ohio and we'll talk about your behavior" . Well, Hillary this is 2 days now and I have not yet heard Obama use the negative tactics you did , yelling at you and saying "meet me in Pennsylvania". Do you see the differnence? do you see why people wise enough would not vote for oyu? do you see why people who want "real" change in washington do not vote for you? Unfortunately, there are people who are stupid enough to believe whatever you dish out and people gullable enough to buy into what you say, even when they know you've lied and bahaved like an loony! Your story about Bosnia should be a great concern for people in PA, NC, MTand IN. People who know at this point that you ahve lied about NAFTA and the new Columbian trade, should be running the other way, the unions that support you in PA should be looking close and hard at your motives. Unfortunately fo rus and fortunately for you, they just know your name and vote for you because they are too ignorant to vote for someone new or someone real. They are choosing comfort. You are like an old shoe! Still, with Bill, Chelsea and you campaigning hard against one person we never heard of till December, and still you are behind. That speaks volume for Senator Obama. If this post does not go on, I will switch to MSNBC, once and for all.

    April 5, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. Ed

    The truth is that Obama sat under a hate minister for twenty years, and he is going to get blown away by the republican machine. on that Why did he not leave. And what does he mean by his white house in his commercials it is not his or any other presidents white house it is our white house. Sounds allot like Bush
    Got that reverent hate white attitude

    April 5, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. Puck

    If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out immediately.

    But if you put a frog into a pot of lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, it will stay in the pot until it dies.

    Seriously people, how long are you going to let Hillary turn up the heat on your pot before you jump out?

    PrObama '08

    April 5, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Liz

    It amazes me how Obama supporters need to make a mountain out of a mole hill and compare apples to oranges. I guess they'll do anything to make their candidate look good.

    April 5, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  8. Mo, San Jose, CA

    I'm a republican but one thing I like about Obama camp is that they don't spin as much as Clinton's. If Obama's chief strategist did this, I expect to see Hillary's camp spins and cried foul for three weeks. By the way, Wolfson, the attack dog, was so quiet about this incident LOLZ.

    As earlier poster said, this is just a preview of Clinton's cabinet members and how she would run the government if she ever wins at all. Just a few weeks, we've heard so many lies covered by the word " error, misjudgement, and mispoken."

    April 5, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. Chris Banner

    This matter should be solved asap
    Clinton needs to provide some relevant explanations
    Now I am not expecting some sort of lies

    April 5, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  10. Anne

    When the Canada NAFTA story broke, the Canadian government immediately apologized profusely to Obama and strongly refuted that anything was said in the meeting that was inconsistent with his spoken views on NAFTA.

    By contrast, the Colombian government, a client of Penn's firm apparently, is now incensed that he is trying to wash his hands of them, saying he has disrespected the Colombian people.

    Is this a demonstration of what we can expect in the way of foreign policy finesse from a Hillary administration? She is accountable because she hired Penn. So far her campaign has had terrible money and staffing problems. It gives me no confidence that she will make any wiser decisions if she gets into office.

    Obama 08

    April 5, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  11. Mo, San Jose, CA

    I think Penn knows this would cost him some trouble, but he calculated the cost and the gain already before the meeting. He knew the Clintons can't win, and he needs to find another source of income while the boat is sinking. Unfortunately, his " error" statement cost him another job with the columbian government.

    April 5, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  12. shane

    Shame on you, Mark Penn! lol!

    Why is it every time Hillary gets caught in a scandal her supporters bring up Rev wright! thts the only thing they can bring up against him!

    Hillary lies about sniper fire: REV WRIGHT!
    Mark penn gets caught lobbying; REV wright!
    Hillary tells Bill richardson "Obama cant win": REV wright!
    Hillary cant pay her campaigns bills on time: REV WRIGHT!

    LOl! Its going to take a lot more than Rev wright to derail Obama's campaign guys!

    April 5, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  13. bambi 11211

    Nice timing, Mark!

    April 5, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  14. carmen

    Penn's error is Hillary's error. This is her top strategist. They should both retire. Looks like they have enough money. By the way that was just income that was reported, not worth!

    April 5, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  15. Chuck in Oregon

    Yea, this was as much an error in judgement as Hillary's ducking for cover dodging sniper fire after landing in Bosnia comment. Someone thought they could make the contact and work out a deal with out anyone being smart enough to catch them. Hmm, guess it didnt work did it.

    April 5, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  16. sasha kando

    So typical of the campaign. A win at any cost, regardless. So what if Billaries supported NAFTA, then Hillary claims she's against NAFTA, wants only to fight for the working people, while behind the scene she's actively supporting NAFTA, her main strategist meeting with countries to advance NAFTA!! How can all you workers believe and support her? Billaries earned millions on the backs of these poor workers, in part through the efforts of NAFTA. All those Ohio and PA workers who think that Hillary is supporting them should now open their eyes and be wiser. No one has your cause in mind; Bill, Hillary and Mark Penn are ONLY interested in lining their own coffers. Send in your donation of 50-100 dollars to help the campaign, but let us keep our 109 million intact. Your dollars are going to help repay the 5 million she loaned the campaign. What kind of sense does that make?? She, who has hundreds of millions wants you to make a small donation to help repay her "loan" to herself. Stop sending in even a penny from now and never be fooled again by these multi-millionaire sharks!!

    April 5, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  17. Jeremy

    CNN needs to improve its reporting. The article concludes with Penn's spin. Why does he get the last word? (Clinton News Network???) Penn has been engaged in union-busting and represents mercenaries and sovereign wealth funds. This is not an error in judgment by any stretch. It's a pattern of behavior. Hillary says one thing but her closest adviser is doing another. It was guys like Penn that wrote labor policy in Bill Clinton's white house and were the reason Robert Reich quit. There's much, much more to this story and it's shockingly bad journalism to let Penn have the last word on it.

    April 5, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  18. J. Harrison

    Pathetic. Glad Colombia fired this two timing, bloviating fool.

    Clinton legacy is in ashes. Good riddance; go bilk some more folks for million dollar speeches.

    April 5, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  19. sharon walker

    Dear Friends:
    The severed ties is no accident, Chavez sees Hillary Clinton as a strong Senator and an integral part of the American congress as McCain. He also cannot stand that he would be met by one of the most powerfully strong woman in America and as a candidate for the Presidency of the USA, he has stated world wide that she is stronger than he and a woman that as a president should and would be feared. Thank you for the strong statement and powerful influenctial support for Hillary and McCain. Fear pushes people who are illegal and acting in a criminal way. Go Hillary and vote American Women and Men. Your vote counts in America, Speak out for Michigan and Floriday your state could be next.

    April 5, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  20. Mo, San Jose, CA


    You need to help us find where Obama said " I didn't like white at all." How you get the idea that all his cabinet will be black? Don't you see his campaign now are very diversed? If he didn't say exactly just what you said, YOu're just another liar.

    April 5, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  21. Mark F

    This is pretty outrageous. We all know which party should have fired Penn. Hillary Clinton has no shame, no scruples and no chance of winning.

    April 5, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  22. steven

    If Hillary is unable to control her own campaign, how can she have a hope in hell of running the country? All the Clinton bashing aside, really, it's time to get real. This campaign is rapidly spiraling downwards and the end is not going to be pretty. Nothing HRC can do would shock me anymore. Lets move on.

    Obama 08

    April 5, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  23. Venus

    jonsey – you are the one that sounds and act like you are full of hate!
    By the way – Obama is half white! You need to visit Obama's church and Rev. Wright. Let's see how your girl Hillary get out of this! Go Obama!

    April 5, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  24. Kristen, Luxembourg

    By reading this text, I notice that the writers are supporters of Obama, We see it in their text. I support the senator Clinton. Go Hillary!!!

    April 5, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  25. Denise in CA

    People of Pennsylvania, PLEASE PUT US OUT OF OUR MISERY! Vote for someone we can be proud of! Vote OBAMA!

    April 5, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
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