It’s been interesting to watch Clinton senior strategist Mark Penn advance the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, while retaining his lucrative job as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide.
You may recall former Sen. John Edwards, D-NC, once likened Penn to Karl Rove noting that Penn’s firm once represented the private contractor Blackwater, adding, "we don’t want to replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats."
Burson’s lobbying subsidiary BKSH helped Blackwater’s top executive, Erik Prince, prepare for his congressional testimony.
Since then, Penn’s firm has also represented the company that made Aquadots, the toy beads coated with a chemical that when ingested metabolizes into gamma hydroxy butyrate, better known as the "date rape" drug. (Two kids in the US who swallowed Aqua Dots went into non-responsive comas, though both have since emerged. Aqua Dots have been pulled from the shelves.)
A Burson official told me at the time that "Mark has never had any contact with this client. We have thousands of clients around the world and this is one of them."
But today we learn from the Wall Street Journal’s Susan Davis that on Monday Penn met with Colombia’s ambassador to the U.S., Ambassador Carolina Barco Isakson, to discuss how to promote the U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement pending before Congress which Penn’s candidate, Clinton, says she opposes.
"We’ve got to have new trade policies before we have new trade deals," Clinton said on Tuesday to the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. "That includes no trade deal with Colombia while violence against trade unionists continues in that country."
The Clinton campaign said Penn’s meeting was under the auspices of his work at Burson Marsteller Worldwide, and that Clinton opposes the trade deal.
Awkward, to say the least.