“Running a presidential campaign is good for business.”
Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist and the Worldwide CEO of international public relations/ lobbying firm Burson-Marsteller, wrote those telling words in his confidential internal corporate blog.
Given the breadth of his company’s representation of special interests, Penn’s assertion may be the understatement of the year. The number of Burson-Marsteller clients — both corporations and foreign governments — that will likely try to influence the next administration is staggering.
And so is the potential for a serious conflict of interest. As a campaign strategist, Penn meets and speaks constantly with both Clintons and with other key policy advisors. He is in a unique position to influence what the candidate supports or opposes — not only during the campaign but also later on in a future Clinton administration. And he has ample opportunity to weigh in on issues that are vital to Burson-Marsteller’s clients.
But neither Penn nor Hillary Clinton seems to see any problem there — even though Penn has already showed poor judgment in this area.
During Bill Clinton’s second term, while Penn was the president’s chief political strategist — with unfettered access to the President and First Lady, his polling firm, Penn & Schoen, contracted to lobby the Clinton administration on behalf of a bank operated by several Central American countries — for a half million dollar fee. (The firm had never registered as either a lobbyist or foreign agent before.)
Burson-Marsteller ultimately bought Penn & Schoen and Penn became its head honcho.
The firm’s publicly known clients are a veritable "Who’s Who" of corporations in crisis, as well as companies and foreign governments looking for favors from Congress and the White House.
Just look at recent Burson-Marsteller clients that have been in the news in the past two weeks.
BLACKWATER — the hired guns in Iraq.
Blackwater’s CEO, Eric Prince, hired Burson’s lobbying subsidiary, BKSH, to prep him for his Congressional testimony — helping him to glibly explain why the civilian cowboys who work for him have been involved in 195 shooting incidents. After news reports about the controversial representation, Burson-Marsteller ran screaming from Blackwater, describing it as only a “temporary” engagement with no involvement by Penn. And the Clinton campaign affirmed its support for Penn.