Described by The Washington Post as "the most powerful man in Washington you've never heard of," Mark J. Penn is the worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller. He was pollster to President Clinton and is adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, numerous corporations, and 25 foreign heads of state, including Colombia.
Hillary Rodham Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, apologized for meeting with Colombian officials pushing a free trade agreement that the presidential candidate opposes.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the strategist, Mark Penn, met Monday with Colombia's ambassador to the United States. Clinton advisers said Penn's meetings were not connected to the campaign, but part of his job as chief executive of the lobbying and public relations firm Burson-Marsteller Worldwide.
But a Clinton adviser said the candidate was not happy to learn about the meeting, and Penn issued a statement expressing regrets.
"The meeting was an error in judgment that will not be repeated and I am sorry for it," Penn said in a written statement. "The senator's well-known opposition to this trade deal is clear and was not discussed."
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said the candidate has not discussed the Colombian deal with Penn.
"Senator Clinton's opposition to the Colombian Trade Deal is clear and she will be voting against it," Singer said.
The Colombian government is trying to secure congressional passage of the agreement signed in 2006 by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the Bush administration.
According to Justice Department filings, Colombia agreed last year to pay Burson-Marsteller $300,000 to help "educate members of the U.S. Congress and other audiences" about the trade deal and secure continued U.S. funding for the $5 billion anti-narcotics program Plan Colombia.
Clinton told the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO that the United States needs new trade policies before it has new trade deals. "That includes no trade deal with Colombia" she said.
Penn's political consulting firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland, has been paid $10.8 million so far by Clinton's campaign.