Ten months ago, I posed a very simple question right on this site: Can the Clinton machine deliver another NAFTA? I noted at the time that an army of former Clinton administration officials had been put on the Colombian government payroll to push a NAFTA-style free trade deal. These people -- many waiting to get back into government should Hillary Clinton win -- are making up to $100,000 a month from a murderous right-wing regime that is one of the worst human rights violators in the Western Hemisphere. Now, today, we see how high up the Clinton machine this corruption really goes.
Here's the Wall Street Journal's report today:
"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...A spokesman for Colombia's President Álvaro Uribe said the ambassador met with Mr. Penn to discuss the bilateral agenda. ..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." (emphasis added)
So there you have it -- the person running a major American presidential campaign is simultaneously on the payroll of a foreign government pushing a bill that the next president would have to confront. And what's truly telling about this is the part about the Colombian government not knowing whether Penn was representing the Clinton campaign or his business clients. Put another way, the two interests are apparently so similar, there's almost no discernible difference -- even to the foreign government lining Penn's pocket. Clinton for President is the same thing as Burson-Marsteller for President, with Mark Penn as the Secretary of State-in-waiting.
There was a whole media storm over Barack Obama's economic adviser meeting with the Canadian government. That storm erupted even though the story was leaked by a right-wing, pro-NAFTA government, and even though we have no idea what was said in that meeting. We will see if a bigger media storm erupts over the Clinton-Colombia connection, considering money is changing hands, and also considering Colombia is a far cry from Canada when it comes to human rights. It's one thing to meet with Canadian officials, it's another thing to be on the payroll of a government that is one of the murderous in the entire hemisphere.
The fact that this disgusting Clinton-Colombia pay-to-play relationship is happening, and nobody -- not the media, not rival campaigns, nobody -- has said a thing about it for almost a year shows just how rampant the culture of corruption is in Washington.
For more on Colombia's record, see this post I did yesterday refuting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which, of course, is trying to ram the Colombia agreement through Congress).
UPDATE: I forgot about this self-righteous nugget from Clinton during the Obama-Canada flap as reported by the Tribune:
Peering at the 50 or so reporters packed into a small hotel conference room here, [Clinton] added: "I would ask you to look at this story and substitute my name for Sen. Obama's name and see what you would do with this story... Just ask yourself [what you would do] if some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments."
I guess we will see what the media will do...