Hillary’s chief strategist a lobbyist for Colombia

posted at 11:10 am on April 4, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama has a big problem with his adviser on Iraq wandering off the reservation, but Hillary Clinton also has the same problem — and it’s no easily-dismissed staffer. Mark Penn, Hillary’s chief political strategist, has quietly supported a free-trade agreement with Colombia that Hillary herself has publicly opposed. In fact, Penn’s company works as a lobbyist for the government of Columbia on this very issue:

Hillary Clinton’s chief campaign strategist met on Monday with Colombia’s ambassador to the U.S. to discuss a bilateral free-trade agreement — a pact that the presidential candidate opposes.

The attendance by the adviser, Mark Penn, was confirmed by two Colombian government officials. It isn’t clear if he was there in his campaign role or in his job as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, an international communications and lobbying firm.

The firm has a contract with the South American nation to, among other things, help promote congressional approval of the trade deal, according to filings with the Justice Department.

Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates — Mr. Penn’s campaign-consulting firm — received more than $10 million in payments from the Clinton presidential campaign as of the end of February, according to federal election filings.

Well, this certainly puts a new twist on lobbyist influence. Even apart from the specific policy question at hand, why would a presidential candidate have a lobbyist for a foreign government as his or her chief political strategist? The appearance of conflicts of interest boggle the mind. What other countries have lobbyists as high-ranking members of Hillary’s campaign?

In my opinion, the Colombian trade deal should pass in Congress. We have asked for a lot of cooperation from Colombia and pressed them for improvements in human rights, and they have delivered on both counts. We also need friends in South America, with Hugo Chavez becoming more and more of a belligerent. Strategically and economically, the deal makes sense for both nations and would encourage others to make the Western hemisphere a free-trade zone.

However, that’s not Hillary’s position at all. Lately, she has taken to attacking free-trade agreements, especially NAFTA, which she claimed she always opposed. Allahpundit noted that the evidence goes against this supposed life-long protectionist position. Like NAFTA, it looks like Hillary wants it both ways on free trade, and Penn’s efforts on the Colombia trade pact shows the hypocrisy.


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The vast left-wing conspiracy has tentacles in south America.

jgapinoy on April 4, 2008 at 11:15 AM

What kind of “leaders” are Obama and Clinton if they can’t speak “truth to power”, with regards to their own party base?

Trade is yet another issue in which Democrat Presidential candidates realize the best course of action, yet cower from explaining it to their own party base.

They don’t have the guts to deal with their own base. How are they supposed to be Chief Executive then?

NoDonkey on April 4, 2008 at 11:16 AM

it looks like Hillary wants it both ways on free trade, and Penn’s efforts on the Colombia trade pact shows the hypocrisy.

I’m shocked. And stunned.

This is actually why hillary is the best candidate from that party. While she talks protectionist to get votes; she knows that free trade works and would vote that way. That she has to be two-faced about it says a lot about the party as a whole, but at least (some of) its leaders have some grasp of reality.

lorien1973 on April 4, 2008 at 11:17 AM

Hillary’s chief strategist a lobbyist for Columbia China.

amkun on April 4, 2008 at 11:27 AM

However, that’s not Hillary’s position at all. Lately, she has taken to attacking free-trade agreements, especially NAFTA, which she claimed she always opposed. Allahpundit noted that the evidence goes against this supposed life-long protectionist position.

In the olden days there was a perfect term for such a stance.

Hillary is xenophobic.

Niko on April 4, 2008 at 11:30 AM

However, that’s not Hillary’s position at all

Do we really know what her actual position on anything really is? (With the exception of her wanting to be President) Hussein is the same. Neither of these cretins stand for anything really.

dogsoldier on April 4, 2008 at 11:31 AM

The other way of looking at is that maybe Colombia’s losing its money…after all, Penn seems to be having no effect whatever on Hillary’s position on trade with Colombia.

Blaise on April 4, 2008 at 11:31 AM

One thing about Columbia:

They have a lot of nice girls down there. Half the men that travel there go for the girls. The lobby thing may just be a roose. From the looks of this guy, he qualifies as a perfect 10…(providing he has a c-note stuck to his forehead).

saiga on April 4, 2008 at 11:42 AM

Even apart from the specific policy question at hand, why would a presidential candidate have a lobbyist for a foreign government as his or her chief political strategist? The appearance of conflicts of interest boggle the mind.

Psssst, Ed.

see-dubya on April 4, 2008 at 11:46 AM

McCain needs to dump Juan Hernandez ASAP. He can’t burn Hillary or Obama when someone as odious as Hernandez is volunteering for his campaign. Blue Dogs could easily throw cold water on McCains conservative support/fundraising. I have to say I do not donate because I do not trust him to be solidly conservative. Juan Hernandez’ presence keeps my apprehension in place.

Theworldisnotenough on April 4, 2008 at 11:50 AM

Thank God for the Second Amendment!

bluestater on April 4, 2008 at 11:54 AM

Hillary’s chief strategist a lobbyist for Columbia China.

amkun on April 4, 2008 at 11:27 AM

Took the words right out of my mouth.

Swinehound on April 4, 2008 at 11:57 AM

This guy looks like a real slimeball.

THE CHOSEN ONE on April 4, 2008 at 12:01 PM

“We also need friends in South America, with Hugo Chavez becoming more and more of a belligerent.”

Someone should ask Hillary and Obama the question……

“Do you support Hugo Chavez?”

Seven Percent Solution on April 4, 2008 at 12:05 PM

Well, since Herself’s campaign is stiffing one and all of its creditors, perhaps Mr. P is just making sure the moolah doesn’t stop. RRrrrriiiiighhhttt… He’s pushing for a policy that she’s adamantly against but only when he’s not speaking from Herself’s pulpit. Can you say “hypocrite”? Sure you can…

GeneSmith on April 4, 2008 at 12:09 PM

In fact, Penn’s company works as a lobbyist for the government of ColumbiaColombia on this very issue:

OK, so sue me. I’m pedantic. :P

irishspy on April 4, 2008 at 12:14 PM

What a wise move by Penn. He cannot be this stupid. How much sense does it make to risk sacrificing a political windfall that could occur if you can get Hillary the Democratic nomination by meeting with officials from the Columbian government in regards to a trade pact?

gabriel sutherland on April 4, 2008 at 12:24 PM

Aye, what a winnin’ lad! Not.

CynicalOptimist on April 4, 2008 at 12:33 PM

I’m OK with this. Uribe is our strongest ally in South America and is standing up to the commies in Venezuela and Ecuador (Bolivia and Brazil too, probably). Having someone with positive feelings about Colombia close to Hillary is, well, good.

funky chicken on April 4, 2008 at 1:18 PM

“pressed them for improvements in human rights, and they have delivered”

“the [Columbian] army has in recent years also increasingly been killing poor farmers and passing them off as rebels slain in combat…. army killings of civilians have grown markedly since 2004… between mid-2002 and mid-2007, 955 civilians were killed and classified as guerrillas fallen in combat” (1)

Yep, they sure have delivered.

Penn, Schoen & Berland has been used for years to put out false polling numbers to help get the “US preferred” candidate elected. (One of the ways the US “promotes democracy.”) In the 2004 recall referendum in Venezuela, every polling firm had Chavez way ahead, except for P,S&B. Chavez won by a 59-41, which agrees with nearly all pollsters. P,S&B, however, had Chavez losing by the same margin. Their results were then used by extremists (the Venezuelan opposition and the right wing in the US) to claim fraud. They used the same tactic in the recent Venezuelan presidential election, but were not quite as obvious about it that time. In that election, “two Venezuelan firms predicted 27-point spreads, Zogby weighed in at 29, and the Associated Press at 32. Evans McDonough came in a bit low at 22.” (2) P,B&S had the Chavez lead at 6 points. When Chavez won by 26, in line with every pollster except P,B&S, Mark Penn commented that “it appears that Chávez consolidated the undecided voters.”
As the Post commented, “Ah, yes. That must be it.”
P, B&S was involved in removing Milosevic from power and in the Ukraine election as well. The US sure loves democracy!
Schoen now works for Bloomberg. I bet P,B&S has Hillary ahead of McCain by 23 points.

1) washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/29/AR2008032901118.html?hpid=sec-world
2) washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/05/AR2006120501174.html

dave742 on April 4, 2008 at 1:25 PM

P,B&S was involved in the Italian election as well. Silvio Berlusconi was behind in the polls, so he hired P,B&S and immediately made a miraculous comeback! Berlusconi’s support grew by 10 points, and the opposition’s dropped by 7 points. See what hiring the right pollster can do for your campaign?

Associated Press Worldstream
February 17, 2006 Friday 9:29 AM GMT
“Poll shows Berlusconi leading slightly ahead of April vote, spurring controversy”
BYLINE: By ALESSANDRA RIZZO, Associated Press Writer

dave742 on April 4, 2008 at 1:51 PM

I’m a McCain supporter, but to add to see-dub’s post, Tom Loeffler, one of McCain’s guys, has lobbied for the Saudis to get into the WTO.

It’s vile that the Dems want to screw over our best ally in that region of S America–the only island of democracy and capitalism in the area. Just one of thousands of reasons why a Dem presidency is unacceptable.

juliesa on April 4, 2008 at 1:58 PM

That picture looked like Peter Pettigrew from the Harry Potter movies.

Capitana on April 4, 2008 at 2:37 PM

What other countries have lobbyists as high-ranking members of Hillary’s campaign?

Probably several others that assume (probably correctly) that they can buy her vote as a Senator, or support as a President. And what better way to get the money to her than through “fees” paid to someone in her campaign?

I have said it before: there are active members of congress who are or have been on the payroll of foreign powers. Right Jim and Teddy?

drunyan8315 on April 4, 2008 at 2:38 PM

Having someone with positive feelings about Colombia close to Hillary is, well, good.

funky chicken on April 4, 2008 at 1:18 PM

If one day Chavez writes a bigger check to Penn than Colombia, then Hillary will all of a sudden have someone close to her with positive feelings about Marxism.

pedestrian on April 4, 2008 at 3:32 PM

Who cares? Hillary’s dead meat anyway.

Cicero43 on April 4, 2008 at 3:36 PM

“Yep, they sure have delivered.”

Dave742,

Yeah, there has been an uptick of so-called “extra judicial killings” but they have been more than offset by a 70% decline in kidnappings, 2/3 decine in unionist assasinations, and around the same percentage decline in the overall homicide rate. Meanwhile, the economy has grown, and unemployment declined and the FARC are being destroyed. Uribe is much loved by the Colombian people, around 85% approval rate, and the latest Gallup poll found 77% approve of his humanitarian record.

Uribe is a staunch ally, and a bulwark against Chavistas. We should support him and his policies to the last ditch.

Golden Boy on April 4, 2008 at 3:47 PM

Golden Boy:

2/3 decine in unionist assasinations

When you start out at catostrophic rates, it’s easy to post reductions. In 2006, according to government figures, 58 trade unionists were murdered. (1) Non-Columbian government sources give higher figures: “An estimated 4,000 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia in recent years by paramilitary groups.” (2)
Maybe the rates have declined, but they are still the highest in the world. I am not impressed.
But they are captalists, so who cares!

As for the 1,000 poor farmers (aka FARC members) killed, relative to population, this would be the same as 7,000 dead in the US. Twice as many as died on 9/11. For you, this is termed an “uptick.”

If what happens in Columbia daily happened in Venezuela, would your assessment be the same?

1) It’s an AP story, couldn’t find a more “respectable” copy:
truthout.org/issues_06/030707LB.shtml
2)The Western Mail
March 15, 2008, Saturday
First Edition
Howells ‘read the Riot Act’ to Colombia but Wales TUC still deeply concerned
BYLINE: Martin Shipton Chief Reporter
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 12

dave742 on April 4, 2008 at 4:38 PM

GoldenBoy:
If Saddam Hussein killed 3,000 people in 1995, and 1,500 in 1996, would you be proud of the significant reduction in his murder rate?

dave742 on April 4, 2008 at 4:41 PM

Part of Hillary’s effort to “pass the global test”?

eeyore on April 4, 2008 at 4:43 PM

Wasn’t this the same guy who kept bringing up Obama’s
cocaine episode!

And this guy has ties to Colombia,Hillarys strategist
oh this is juicy!

canopfor on April 4, 2008 at 10:31 PM

I have to say that I am always skeptical of Dick Morris’ credibility. This is especially the case when his subject is the Clintons; however, thought I would point out an October 2007 column by Morris where he described some troubling facts of Mark Penn.

While Morris is not sufficiently prescient enough to mention Colombia, he lays out a good number of Penn’s substantial conflicts of interest. Now I fall on the side of Colombia in this matter, but it would appear to be only a matter of time before Senator Clinton would get stung by one of Penn’s many associations, or worse yet, the American people would get screwed by one or more of them.

Girder on April 4, 2008 at 11:00 PM

Dave

Golden Boy on April 5, 2008 at 10:42 AM

“When you start out at catostrophic rates, it’s easy to post reductions.”

And yet Uribe is the one who took those “easy” steps that led to massive reductions in violence. Even the Colombian union statistics demonstrate the decline coinciding with his administration. I guess previous administrations were just too lazy to make those “easy” adjustments that led to such a huge drop in violence.

Golden Boy on April 5, 2008 at 10:45 AM