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. Cynthia

    Hillary must learn that when you dig one ditch for Obama you might as well dig two. You fell in the one you dug for Obama and just may have to stay there. If the best thing that your siupportersl can through at Obama is his former minister – then Obama has already won the election.

    April 5, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  2. Neutral

    Obama has THREE LOBBYISTS working in his campaign and IN HIS PAYROLL. Why CNN is not talking about it?

    April 5, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. MizuInOz

    Oh come on folks, Penn just mis-spoke with the Columbian trade delegation. It was an honest 6 month mistake.

    I find it interesting that Hillary is so deep into the pockets of lobbyists that they are helping run her campaign. Obviously, we know they are completely detached from any agenda they may have off the campaign trail.

    If you believe that, I have some swampland in the Sahara Desert to sell you.

    Mark Penn needs to fall on his sword!

    And the poor little rich kid, Hillary, needs to act like the millionaire she is, not tell people who are without homes and jobs and food, that she feels their pain. Oh, wait, she can get Bill to do that!

    April 5, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. William - North Carolina

    Toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo late!
    I wonder how Hillary will spin this. She was so LOUD about Obama's surrogates after their alledged remarks about NAFTA and Iraq withdrawal; I wonder if she will be so denouncing of her own.

    April 5, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  5. William - North Carolina

    Clinton on Obama... "That's the kind of difference between talk and action and that I've been pointing out in this campaign."

    No one knows the difference between "talk and action" better than Hillary Spin....

    April 5, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  6. Charles

    What so many of the Clinton supporters posting on here aren't realizing is that this campaigning is a flash of what running the country will look like. You continue to say she is strongest for the economy and health care and such. Her campaign does not reflect her superiority on this subject. This situation is an example of her surrounding herself with the wrong people. Whether she knew anything about this situation is irrelevant. She should have known about it and acted accordingly. That she didn't know her campaign manager was deeply tied to deals she is very opposed to shows her lack of readiness to create the cabinet and fill the Supreme Court with the people needed to make the decisions that will effect this country. Wake up folks. With her as the president, we will be led down a long path of mistakes and only human errors in judgement and discussion. For everything you want to say against Obama, Hillary is worse. You say she's more scrutinized than Obama. That's because she does more to call scrutiny upon herself. If all you really have in your arsenal to throw accusations against Obama is having a pastor that in his 30 plus years of ministering, he had roughly 40 seconds of anger towards what he and many others in America were seeing happen. And please don't say anything about listening to 20 years of hate because if that were the case, there'd be more film footage on such sermons out and posted by now. Poor judgment has been the entire Clinton campaign so far. Mistakes and mis-speech is her calling card.

    April 5, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  7. Obama supporter


    It is a shame you believe that Obama, someone who was raised by a white mother and white grandparents is anti-white. It just reminds me that some people (like u) in this country still lack 21th century brain cells.

    April 5, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. Michael

    This is just another example of a Hillary "misspeak". She is a pathological liar. Today, on CNN, they are reporting of her latest story about a women who died because she was denied health care, another lie. Her whole campaign is based on lies, from NAFTA, to FMLA, to her great contributions to "charity" that was released in her Tax returns.....her greatest donations go to a charity that has listed her, Bill, and Chelsea as running the organization, and another Clinton being paid hundreds of thousands for working for them............completely disgusting, she is a predator, posing as a candidate......

    April 5, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  9. Tom

    It's so crystal clear why she's not going to fire Penn–because then he'll spill all the dirt he knows about her campaign, including that she knew about his meeting with the Colombians. He'll sing to the whole world about her shading dealings and then right the book about it.

    And by the way, I can't believe there are some people who haven't learned that there NEVER was any involvement by the Obama campaign with the Canadian government–but that was in fact the Clinton campaign that was doing wink wink.

    And finally, to you Clinton crazies, did you not get the memo that Clinton DID NOT win Texas. Texas was 100% Obama's state as of last weekend's results. Get a clue...

    April 5, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. D.W.; Miami, FL

    And now we find that her story of a young woman dying without insurance is a lie. WOW Hillary. Just stop!

    April 5, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. letti

    poor Mark Penn, he just lost a source of income – millions of dollars for nothing. From the looks of HRC's campaign – he isn't worth a wooden nickel for his 'strategic' moves

    April 5, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  12. Karen Arndt

    The Clintons will never fire Penn or his firm, Burson-Marsteller, because they have ties with B-M that go back to the 90's. Look at the wiki entry for Burson-Marsteller. Its a huge PR firm that is more Rovian than Carl Rove. Clients include the Bushes, Blackwater, Dubai, cigarette companies. Its services include "crisis" management for its clients and "fake news." George Orwell is rolling over in his grave.

    April 5, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  13. henrie alabama


    April 5, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  14. Fight HIllary Fight

    I think Mark Penn has to be the fall-guy in HIllarys campaign..He had poor strategy and in large part because he is looking out for his own companies well-being...He is not focused..

    He needs to resign and move on..

    Hillary 08!

    April 5, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  15. California Independent

    What a bunch of whiners. Clinton has Penn, Obama has Axelrove (my deepest apologies for insulting Rove), and McCain has Black.

    Obama supporters whining as usual. Get a life.

    If it isn't Clinton, McCain '08

    April 5, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  16. Veterans For Obama

    Remember Hillary going ballistic about Obama's guy talking to the Canadians....well lets see how she handles this...she'll probably try to distract us by releasing tax returns or something like that.

    April 5, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  17. Lynn D

    You know I can't wait till Senator Obama loses the nomination. Senator Clinton had nothing to do with this. Nothing. Someone who works for her campaign did a foolish thing. Senator Clinton did not have poor judgment because she didn't know about this. Mr. Penn made the mistake and now his company lost a client. Mr. Penn should probably consider resigning from Senator Clinton's campaign. Senator Clinton is being accused of lying. She did not lie because she didn't know this inept guy was going to go to the meeting. I would like to challenge CNN to please let your viewers know that you support Senator Obama instead of reporting bias crap to all of the world. Senator Obama has an ad in PA that states he doesn't take money from lobbyists when in a round about way he does. He has also taken money from Oil Companies when he claims he didn't. Which is the greater sin? Remembering something wrong that happened 12 years ago or just blatantly not telling the truth? Senator Obama lied about being present when Rev. Wright spoke hate against whites, Jews, and Italians. This was an outright lie. Please all I ask is that you report the facts accurately without exaggerating. By the way, Senator Clinton repeated the sad story about the pregnant woman exactly as it was told to her. Maybe the deputy sheriff exaggerated. Finally, Senator Clinton is wealthy but her and Pres. Clinton have stated many times that they wish Pres. Bush would not give them tax cuts. When Senator Clinton rolls back the Bush tax cuts it will hurt her and Pres. Clinton but she is willing to roll them back anyway. Just be fair. I have sat here so many days with lots to say, and except for a few of my blogs, they never get in for people to read. Please accept this blog. I would like to have your readings listen to the other side sometimes and then make up their minds themselves. Please give me that opportunity.

    April 5, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  18. Alice

    Just a hint of what Clinton diplomacy would be like.....now imagine Bill Clinton running his big mouth at the same time. No thanks!

    April 5, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  19. Observer

    If this were Obama, the Clinton campaign and media would ALL OVER THIS! There needs to be more exposure regarding Canada-gate and NAFTA. The Canadians papers reported that Clinton was the candidate that intiated a meeting and stated "political posturing".

    I personally would fire Penn. But it's her choice to keep him. Campaign contributions are now a concern since she is paying him soooo much money to make her look bad.

    April 5, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  20. Nando

    Mark Penn got the pointing finger out like SLICK WILLY so you know he's lying !!!!

    April 5, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. mary cleveland, ohio

    Obama's minister doesn't have anywhere near the negative weight that Penn has for Hillary. Bill Clinton has more negative weight than Penn. Hillary is complicit in what her "husband" and what her "business partner/campaign mgr." do. This is serious business, it is called sleeping with the enemy.

    Hillary Clinton is so cunning, she lies about NAFTA, she and Bill absolutely worked to get NAFTA in our business, and now her campaign manager (or whatever Penn is in her campaign) is making deals with the COLUMBIANS. THE COLUMBIANS OF ALL PEOPLE.

    I have always said, this country wouldn't have drugs on the streets killing people, destroying families and costing taxpayers uncountable funds, if the U. S., Government didn't want drugs here because it could be stopped by the government. OK, now we see the major participant in the campaign of Hillary Clinton for President of the United States holding hands with the GOVERNMENT OF COLUMBIA.


    April 5, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  22. Doc

    Did Mrs Clinton "misspeak" again about the story that she tells concerning the lady that died in Ohio? She has repeated it many times. The hospital where this happened doesn't recall it happening the way she told it. It appears that someone in this camp has serious problems with embellishment.

    April 5, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  23. April in Texas

    How many errors are WE THE PEOPLE suppost to accept? To begin with, the Canada incident was brought on by the Clintons and not Obama as it had been reported. The Canadian government people made it clear and attempted to straighten the matter. The Clintons set up that meeting and now we have Mark Penn going even further.

    This conflict of interest comes after the LIE about Bosnia, the miss speaking, miss hearing, miss understanding, and miss managing of funds. Hillary this isnt a miss america contest so drop the miss haps and miss takes.

    Trying to drop your 109 million fortune through your tax returns on a friday afternoon isnt going to help you relate to me and my troubles in this economic disaster nor make this Mark Penn issue fall to the wasteside. You were for NAFTA while your husband was president and now you say your against NAFTA when your own advisor goes and does this trade deal is so contradictory it makes my head hurt.

    I should write a book and make millions based on how poorly a campaign can be run. How can I vote for a canidate that lies so easily, has poor management skills and plays a sympathy card just as much as a race card? Simply I cant!

    You couldnt relate to me even if you tried. Your health plan wants to force me to get insurance when I cant afford it now or fine me if I dont.. You live on 30k a year with no job security and no benefits through your employment for a family of 3 – 4 if you count my child who moved out and then relate to me. You cant and wont period.. This shouldnt be a country in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    I could go on but I need to see if I can beg for some aspirin from my poor neighbors like me..

    Obama 08

    April 5, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  24. Jazz

    Kick him to the curb Hill. He'll do it again. There's no such thing as a sure thing Obama fans. He can't win without Hillary supporters.
    Hillary's TOO LEGIT to QUIT!!

    April 5, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  25. Ivee

    Penn's firm not only has ties to Colombia; it also has ties to Blackwater (see top CNN story) and a major sub-prime mortgage lender. It's an incredible lapse of judgment on Hillary's part to hire a corporate lobbyist (as her campaign manager, no less!) whose interests are (supposedly) diametrically opposed to her own. This should give people a very good (and scary) idea of what a Hillary presidency would look like. We can't afford four more years of these kinds of corporate ties and the scandals they cause. Hopefully, this'll finish her off for good.

    April 5, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
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