Hillary Clinton strategist quits amid Colombia trade flap
Hillary Clinton strategist quits amid Colombia trade
By Ellen Wulfhorst 2 hours, 32 minutes ago
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) - A top campaign
aide to Sen. Hillary Clinton, under fire for meeting
with a Colombian diplomat to discuss a free trade deal
that the presidential candidate opposes, quit his post
on Sunday, the campaign said.
"After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has
asked to give up his role as chief strategist of the
Clinton campaign," Clinton's campaign manager Maggie
Williams said in a statement.
She said Penn would continue to provide polling and
advice to the campaign.
News of Penn's March 31 meeting with Colombian
Ambassador Carolina Barco Isakson, in which they
discussed a free trade deal, first surfaced on Friday.
Penn apologized for the meeting, which he held in his
separate role as chief executive officer of
Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, a lobbying firm hired by
the South American country to help win the approval by
the U.S. Congress of a free trade agreement with the
But the issue plagued the campaign of the New York
senator, who is vying with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama
to become the Democratic nominee to run against
Republican John McCain in the November election.
Skepticism about free trade runs deep among the
working-class voters Clinton and Obama are courting,
and both Democratic candidates oppose the deal with
The president of the politically powerful Teamsters
union, James Hoffa, said on Saturday that Penn's
meeting with the Colombian officials undermined
Clinton's stance on labor and trade issues.
"How can we trust that a President Hillary Clinton
would stand strong against this trade deal when her
top advisor is being paid by Colombia to promote it?"
he asked in a statement.
Obama also has criticized Clinton saying she has close
ties to lobbyists who might undue influence shaping
policies, should she become president.
The controversy prompted an angry reaction from
Colombia, which took offense at Penn's statement in
which he called the meeting "an error in judgment."
The Colombian Embassy in Washington announced it was
ending its contract with Burson-Marsteller, which had
been hired a year ago.
The Clinton campaign has asserted that Penn's meeting
was "independent of the campaign."
The two Democratic candidates have been sparring over
the issue of trade, with each questioning the other's
credibility in their pledges to renegotiate the North
American Free Trade Agreement.
(Editing by Chris Wilson)