Mark Penn’s tangled corporate web: Clinton is a client; McCain is a client.

As has been widely reported, Hillary Clinton’s top guru, Mark Penn, is leading the charge within the Clinton campaign to go aggressively negative against Obama. Besides the fact that Penn is the architect responsible for Hillary’s presidential aspirations going from “inevitable” to being on life support, he is reportedly obsessed with destroying Obama. While it is understandable that Clinton’s top adviser wants his client to win at all costs, going massively negative against Obama (or Hillary for that matter) risks damaging our candidate in the fall election against McCain. Unfortunately, this is something another “client” would welcome. That client is named John McCain.

Penn is the CEO of Burson-Marsteller, a DC public relations (PR) firm. Burson-Marsteller owns a subsidiary, BKSH. BKSH is run by Charlie Black. Black is a longtime Republican politico, and a top adviser for John McCain for President. And, as Think Progress notes, while Black is a volunteer on the McCain campaign, he views Mcain as his client and continues to take a paycheck from BKSH. JedReport dissected these relationships in a diary on DailyKos last night.

Much more after the jump…

And, Ari Berman wrote about this last spring:

A host of prominent Republicans fall under Penn’s purview. B-M’s Washington lobbying arm, BKSH & Associates, is run by Charlie Black, a leading GOP operative who maintains close ties to the White House, including Karl Rove, and was a partner with Lee Atwater, the consultant who crafted the Willie Horton smear campaign for George H.W. Bush in 1988. In recent years Black’s clients have included the likes of Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, the darling of the neocon right in the run-up to the war; Lockheed Martin; and Occidental Petroleum. In 2005 he landed a contract with the Lincoln Group, the disgraced PR firm that covertly placed US military propaganda in Iraqi news outlets.

Black is only one cannon in B-M’s Republican arsenal.

Penn works for Clinton.

Black works for McCain.

And Black works for Penn.

Keep this in mind as you read some of the guiding principles for Penn’s and Black’s firm, courtesy of the Burson-Marsteller website:

# We, the directors and employees of all companies in WPP recognize our obligations to all who have a stake in our success including shareowners, clients, employees, and suppliers;…

# We will not for personal or family gain directly or indirectly engage in any activity which competes with companies within WPP or with our obligations to any such company;

# We will not have any personal or family conflicts of interest within our businesses or with our suppliers or other third parties with whom we do business;

So, again, we have to ask: Why is Mark Penn on a mission to destroy Obama? It’s clear that Penn benefits if Hillary wins — she’s his client, his firm’s client. His company benefits if McCain wins — he’s the client of one of Penn’s top employees. Penn has an obligation to his shareholders and clients. And his firm seems to have clients on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of this fight. If Obama wins the presidency, Penn gets nothing. He was helping the other guy, or gal. But if McCain wins, Penn’s firm has one hell of a contact with the new president – heck, one of his top employees had the new president as a client and didn’t even charge him! Is it a conflict of interest? Not with his clients. But how about with the Democratic party and our interests?


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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