Remember, just a few weeks ago, one day before the Ohio primary, on March 3, when Senator Clinton - with an assist from Canadian officials - made a mountain out of Canadian press reports that an unpaid economic advisor to Senator Obama had reportedly met with a low-level Canadian diplomat?
Here is what she said:
"If you come to Ohio and you go give speeches that are very critical of NAFTA... and then we find out that your chief economic adviser has gone to a foreign government and basically done the old wink-wink - `Don't pay any attention, this is just political rhetoric' -- I think that raises serious questions...
"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."
Now we get to find out.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Clinton Aide Met on Trade Deal
Penn Held Talks On Colombia Pact Opposed by Senator
By SUSAN DAVIS
April 4, 2008; Page A3
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...
Wait. The plot thickens!
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...
Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Mr. Penn's campaign-consulting firm, received more than $10 million in payments from the Clinton campaign as of the end of February, according to federal election filings...
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.
Mark Penn is not - as in the case that Senator Clinton cited on March 3 - an unpaid issues advisor, but, rather, the commander-in-chief of the Clinton campaign: the chief strategist, pollster, message czar, and the highest paid member of her campaign staff.
I can't remember a presidential campaign in my lifetime in which the top strategist moonlighted for corporate accounts during the heat of the primaries. The conflict of interest is staggering. Add to that press reports about how former campaign manager Patty Solis Doyle went to Senator Clinton and begged her to fire Penn, but it was Solis Doyle, not the man in charge, that was cut loose as scapegoat for the campaign's ailments.
Somewhere in Pennsylvania there is a factory that employs Americans at union wages. Somewhere in North Carolina and Indiana, too... The "free trade" agreement that Penn was paid $300,000 to shepherd to passage would open the door for the company that owns the factory to move it to a country where if a worker tries to start a union, chances are he or she will be assassinated. The company will be able to get the same work done, in that case, for slave wages, and without any of those pesky environmental, safety and health regulations that protect the worker in Pennsylvania.
Clinton's March 3 challenge to the press corps - ""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" - is eerily reminiscent of when a certain Colorado senator running for president in 1988 denied reports about his private life and urged reporters: ""Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored."
Of course, this scandal doesn't involve sex... just the wellbeing of workers and their families across the United States, with the sword of another dangerous "free trade" agreement dangling over their heads.