The Mark Penn Factor

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Just up on is this story I have written on Hillary Clinton’s not-quite-fired former chief strategist, the complications that come with all of his outside work and some questions that have been raised about his research methods.

As I was writing the story, I happened to come across another story that Michael Duffy and I had written for dead-tree TIME the week before Penn was (actually) fired from Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 1999. It included this tidbit, which I had forgotten:

While a bloated, imperial operation could hardly be expected to pick up on warning signs, Gore insiders particularly fault Mark Penn, the lead among Gore’s half a dozen pollsters. Penn shares his energies with the President, Hillary Clinton and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. Over and over, Penn told the Vice President that Bradley posed little or no threat, that Bush was not as far ahead as public polls suggested and that most voters were confusing the Texas Governor with his father. At one point, when Penn was insisting that Gore was no farther than 10 points behind Bush, a campaign official quietly asked another pollster to check Penn’s work. The number came back: Gore down by 18. Penn declined to be interviewed but let it be known through an intermediary that his position is secure.

UPDATE: As commenter Superterrificdelegate (love that handle!) notes, Hillary Clinton has another Colombia trade problem: Her husband. Especially this part:

Mr. Clinton also has participated in meetings with Mr. Uribe and Canadian financier Frank Giustra, who has been a major backer of Mr. Clinton’s philanthropic efforts. Mr. Giustra first met Mr. Uribe at a 2005 event hosted by Mr. Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter. Last year, a Giustra-connected company acquired interests in Colombian oil fields. And in October, Mr. Giustra met with Mr. Uribe in Bogotá to discuss a project to export coal from Colombia.