Mark Penn is a longtime Clinton insider. He helped defend Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky story broke and later went to work for Hillary Clinton as a chief strategist for her 2008 campaign for president. Today, Penn has written a piece for the Hill asking a simple question: Who is paying the bills for Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti?

From the beginning, this has been fishy. Daniels’s previous lawyer advised her to stick to her agreements. In contrast, Avenatti okayed her violating with impunity her non-disclosure agreement on “60 Minutes” despite a binding arbitration judgment against her. She acknowledged on Twitter that she is not paying for her lawyer. So who is? And did he indemnify her against all multimillion-dollar penalties?…

Avenatti has been given a free, unfettered media perch on TV to spread his stuff without the networks forcing him to meet any disclosure requirements, saying that he is Daniels’s attorney when someone else entirely is paying for this operation is not true disclosure that allows the viewer to evaluate the source and potential conflicts. He is now being given deference as though he is a journalist interested in protecting unverified sources while he makes headline-grabbing pronouncements. Lawyers need to disclose the source of their evidence…

The more you peel back the onion, the more Cohen and Avenatti seem alike. Both are fixers who bend every rule they can get away with. Fairly or unfairly, Cohen is being put under the microscope and we can rest assured that every payment in or out will be fully scrutinized by law enforcement. But Avenatti can’t be given a pass on these issues. Americans are entitled to know just who this guy is, who is writing his checks and whether he legally obtained his information.

As Jazz pointed out yesterday, Avenatti’s latest big splash, releasing financial records belonging to Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, raises questions about where he got the information. The Washington Post reports the Treasury Department’s Inspector General is now looking into exactly that question.

The Treasury Department’s inspector general is investigating whether confidential banking information involving a company controlled by President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen was leaked, a spokesman said.

Detailed claims about the company’s banking history were made public Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, an attorney for Stormy Daniels, the adult-film star who was paid $130,000 by Cohen’s company shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

Inspector General Eric Thorson, who operates independently of the agency’s political leadership, launched the probe in response to media reports, said counsel Rich Delmar. It might — or might not — answer a question that was the source of much speculation Wednesday: How did Avenatti come into hard-to-get information touching on some of the most sensitive issues before the White House, including the probe led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III?…

In an interview, Avenatti declined to reveal the source of his information.

“The source or sources of our information is our work product and nobody’s business,” Avenatti said. “They can investigate all they want, but what they should be doing is releasing to the American public the three Suspicious Activity Reports filed on Michael Cohen’s account. Why are they hiding this information?”

As Penn points out, Avenatti is acting less like an attorney and more like a journalist or someone doing oppo-research for the Democratic Party (but I repeat myself). CNN and other outlets that have him on the air day-after-day should require him to disclose who is actually paying the bills for all of this.

As for Mark Penn, this isn’t the first time in recent weeks that he has surprised both the left and right with his views. Penn appeared on Fox News last month and suggested the Mueller probe was hopelessly tainted by politics. “This whole thing was corrupt,” Penn said, sounding a lot like one of President Trump’s defenders. More generally, Penn’s rejection of socialism and encouragement to Democrats to move back to the center seems out of step in the current climate where Bernie Sanders is a rock star.