Robert Novak

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WASHINGTON -- Sen. Hillary Clinton is facing increasing Democratic criticism for using Mark Penn as her presidential campaign's chief strategist while he also serves as CEO of Burson-Marsteller, the public relations giant with corporate clients whose policies run opposite to Clinton's.

Clients include Royal Dutch Shell (attacked by Clinton for "windfall profits"), as well as tobacco and pharmaceutical firms with records she has deplored. Penn was a key operative in President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign and continued as a second-term adviser.

A footnote: Penn criticized Bloomberg News, which has reported on conflicts between Burson-Marsteller and the Clinton campaign, for obtaining "several months" of Penn's internal blogs. On June 29, a former employee who started a rival firm filed suit in New York City against Penn for monitoring his personal e-mails.

Obama Aloof

Newcomers among some 30 reporters who followed Sen. Barack Obama's campaign to Iowa this past week were surprised how little contact they had with the Democratic presidential candidate over two days.

Obama traveled in an SUV, at first alone and later with his family. No reporter ever entered the SUV, and Obama never visited the bus containing the reporters. One scheduled press availability was trimmed to 10 minutes.

A footnote: Obama's aloofness contrasted with Bill Clinton, accompanying Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in Iowa the same week. At the Dairy Treat in Nashua, Iowa, the former president whipped out $60 and bought malts for reporters following his wife.

McCain's Decline

Just before Sen. John McCain drastically reduced his presidential campaign staff, he finished fifth in the straw vote conducted at Hershey, Pa., June 30 during the summer conference of Pennsylvania's Republican State Committee.

Rudy Giuliani was first with 87 votes, ahead of unannounced candidate Fred Thompson's 40. McCain was favored by only seven straw voters, also finishing behind Mitt Romney and non-candidate Newt Gingrich.

McCain had been scheduled to attend the Hershey meeting but cancelled because the Senate was debating the immigration bill.

Investigating Cheney

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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