View Full Version : Clinton's lead advisor working on Free Trade deal

04-04-2008, 07:44 AM
with Colombian government:

April 4, 2008

Clinton Aide Met on Trade Deal

Penn Held Talks On Colombia Pact Opposed by Senator
April 4, 2008; Page A3
Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist met with Colombia's ambassador to the U.S. on Monday to discuss a bilateral free-trade agreement, a pact the presidential candidate opposes.

Attendance by the adviser, Mark Penn, was confirmed by two Colombian officials. He wasn't there in his campaign role, but in his separate 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 promote congressional approval of the trade deal, among other things, according to filings with the Justice Department.

Clinton strategist and public-relations specialist Mark Penn, pictured here after a Democratic debate in New Hampshire in January, met this week with Colombia's ambassador to discuss a bilateral trade deal.

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

Mr. Penn declined to comment. Howard Wolfson, communications director for Sen. Clinton's campaign, said in an email that "Mark was not there on behalf of the campaign" and referred further questions to Burson-Marsteller. "Sen. Clinton's opposition to the trade deal with Colombia is clear," Mr. Wolfson added.

A Burson-Marsteller spokesman didn't return calls or emails seeking comment.

A spokesman for Colombia's President Álvaro Uribe said the ambassador met with Mr. Penn to discuss the bilateral agenda. "There have also been meetings with the advisers to the campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain," he said. "It's the embassy's job to explain Colombia's reality."

The spokesman said he didn't know if Mr. Penn was representing Sen. Clinton or Burson-Marsteller, which signed a $300,000, one-year contract with the Colombian Embassy in March 2007 to work on behalf of the trade deal and anti-drug-trafficking initiatives, according to the Justice Department filings.

A spokesman for Sen. McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, said a team of policy advisers met recently with 20 Latin American ambassadors, including Colombia's. An Obama spokesman and the Colombian Embassy spokeswoman both said the Colombian ambassador had never met with an Obama representative.

Both Democratic presidential candidates have taken criticism for positions and private statements of their advisers on trade and other matters.

Sen. Clinton's victory last month in Ohio was credited in part to reports that Sen. Obama's economic adviser had raised doubts with Canadian officials over Sen. Obama's opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

As the fight turns to the April 22 Pennsylvania primary, both Democrats continue to campaign against trade agreements.

"We've got to have new trade policies before we have new trade deals," Sen. Clinton told the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO on Tuesday. "That includes no trade deal with Colombia while violence against trade unionists continues in that country."

Sen. Obama also opposes that deal.

The spokeswoman for the Colombian Embassy, Sandra Ocampo Kohn, confirmed Thursday that Mr. Penn met Monday with Ambassador Carolina Barco Isakson, as talks have intensified over passage of the trade deal. Ms. Kohn said she wasn't authorized to provide details.

President Bush has signaled that he could send the trade deal to Congress next week despite opposition from congressional Democrats and labor unions.

It is unclear how involved Mr. Penn has been in promoting the trade deal. Ms. Kohn said another Burson-Marsteller employee, Jano Cabrera, has been the primary contact with the firm on the communications strategy to promote the trade agreement.

Burson-Marsteller is part of an outside effort working on behalf of the Colombian government that includes Glover Park Group and Johnson, Madigan Peck, Boland & Stewart, both of which are contracted to lobby for Colombia on behalf of the deal, Ms. Kohn said.

Mr. Penn has been scrutinized over the dual roles he holds with his firm and the Clinton campaign. Burson-Marsteller's contract advising the Colombian government is one of several examples of the firm advising clients on causes Sen. Clinton has opposed.

--José de Córdoba contributed to this article.

Write to Susan Davis at susan.davis@wsj.com2

URL for this article:

Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit www.djreprints.com.