Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mark Penn being Mark Penn

In a move that shock people only for his brazenness, this morning Hillary Clinton's chief strategist Mark Penn met with leaders of the Columbian government to advocate for a free trade deal she claims to oppose.

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.

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.

Her position on the deal is clear? Well, somebody better tell the Columbian government:
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.
And this is the point where I lose my mind. Mark Penn is a despicable human being who should be expected to do things like this. What bothers me is not him, but the fact that for over a year of Hillary Clinton being declared the sure thing nominee of the democratic party, almost all of organized labor refused to take a stand against him and Hillary Clinton's campaign. Too little too late I'm afraid, but I'm still glad to see that changed this morning:
Change to Win, the labor federation that includes SEIU, just sent out a statement demanding Penn's head:

The statement, from executive director Greg Tarpinian:

"It's time for Sen. Hillary Clinton to send her vaunted 'chief strategist' Mark Penn packing — back to his job consulting for union busting corporations and anti-labor governments for good."

"We have questioned Penn's role in the Clinton campaign in the past for his representation of union busting employers like Cintas. At that time, Penn said there was a wall between him and his firm's representation of union busters. The latest revelation that Penn -- whose firm represents the Colombian government in its effort to secure passage of a so-called free trade agreement -- is actively involved in securing its passage in the middle of Senator Clinton's presidential campaign is outrageous. It also suggests that he has been playing a double role - advising the Senator on what to say to curry Democratic voters and advising the Colombian government on what to say to curry a majority of votes in Congress.

"The vast majority of Americans do not believe that we should be granting preferential trade status to a government that coddles death squads that target union organizers. Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for union members, where more than 2,200 workers have been murdered since the 1980s by Colombian death squads for trying to form unions while the government has done nothing to effectively stop the murders. It is time for Penn to go."
Well done, Change to Win, and it's about damn time. Oh yeah, and remember those union leaders who stupid enough to actually endorse Hillary Clinton despite all this? Well, I hope they feel as dumb as the should this morning, and as far as I'm concerned, they can go fuck themselves. The sooner they're through weakening the labor movement and can get forced out of their jobs, the better.