Why Penn Didn’t Tell Her

Talk about nerves of steel.  Talk about getting off with a slap on the wrist.  
Look, I won’t even pretend to understand what was going on between Hillary Clinton’s camp and its chief strategist Mark Penn. Did Hillary know that Penn was meeting with the Columbian Ambassador? Was the Change to Win group really concerned about Penn? Did Penn really make an error in judgment?   Blah blah blah.
How about this instead:  They (Penn and Burson-Marsteller) billed her (Clinton) $13 million… and apparently she paid it! WTF?!
And better still, he was so greedy that he met with the Columbian Ambassador so he could bill them too.  Perfect.
Gee, I wonder why the PR industry has such a horrible reputation.  And speaking of which, where is all the indignation?  Does anyone even care?
Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I would love the opportunity to manage a $13 million account.  Fact is, most of the thousands of agencies in the U.S. don’t bill that much to all their accounts combined.  But Penn was so bold that he did work with another account (presumably worth millions in billings) at the risk of losing the first account.  What can I say? I am blown away.

And did he get fired by Hillary for his actions? NO HE DID NOT. According to Clinton’s campaign manager, Maggie WIlliams, “After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up  his role as Chief Strategist…”. WHAT!?  He asked to step down.
But here is the best part.  In addition to being the worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller, he is also the President of a research firm (Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates), and THEY WILL CONTINUE TO PROVIDE POLLING AND ADVICE TO THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN.
Yeah, I know the first thing I want to do when I catch one of my employees stealing from the agency is to keep him or her on board as a key advisor. Someone please pinch me.  Or better still, kick me in the ass and tell me to wake up.  Because apparently I am asleep or as naive as the day is long.
But here is my favorite thing:  Penn (according to reports) is considered one of the most influential political advisors of his generation (please, God, let him be from a different generation).  
Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I am too human for my own good.  But then – if that were true – we all know how Penn would reply: “Being human is overrated.”  
Give the man another million dollars… apparently he earned it.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.