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The heady cocktail of money and politics

  • Story Highlights
  • Hillary Clinton demotes Mark Penn, mastermind of her presidential campaign
  • Claims that Penn's business support for free trade conflicted with Clinton's stance
  • Clinton's campaign needs convincing win in upcoming primary in Pennsylvania
  • Working-class voters are among Clinton's most dependable supporters
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By Jonathan Mann
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(CNN) -- The mix of money and politics is a familiar cocktail in American life but you don't want to get caught in public drinking too much of it.

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Clinton strategist Mark Penn, seen here in January, was demoted after revelations about his business affairs

This week, Hillary Clinton demoted the mastermind of her presidential campaign, after his combination of public life and private profit turned into a problem.

Mark Penn was her campaign's chief strategist and pollster, a man with a trusted place in Bill and Hillary Clinton's inner circle. But his other career is as chief executive at a public relations and lobbying giant called Burson-Marsteller -- a job he refused to give up or even leave temporarily while running her campaign.

Lobbyists are already unpopular here; they're easy scapegoats for complaints about politics, hypocrisy and corruption -- and Penn didn't help their reputation. He reportedly made more than $10 million working for Hillary Clinton's campaign, according to the New York Times

Under his guidance, Clinton campaigned as a skeptic about free trade, and opposed a pending trade deal with Colombia. At the same time, Burson-Marsteller has been paid $300,000, reported the Boston Globe, to help convince US leaders to sign the accord.

To put it plainly: Penn and his candidate are against the agreement; Penn and his company are for it. Penn even met personally with the Colombian ambassador, a session he kept secret until it emerged in the US press, at a particularly sensitive time.

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Clinton's campaign needs a convincing win in the upcoming primary in the state of Pennsylvania, where her poll numbers are slipping. Working-class voters are among her most dependable supporters but they blame free trade for taking their jobs.

Penn publicly apologized and called meeting with the ambassador "an error in judgment." But then Colombia got mad too and fired Penn's firm in the furor.

Clinton did not really fire Penn. He lost his title as campaign strategist, but he will still be doing Clinton's public opinion polling and keep working for Burson-Marsteller too.

Maybe he's just too valuable for Clinton to lose.

Maybe the Clinton campaign, like every political organization in the US, just knows that money and politics have been distilled together so potently for so long, you can't really separate them.

You can only hope your people aren't spotted drinking the hard stuff. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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