Hillary Clinton’s strategist ends ties with Zardari’s party: Report

December 30th, 2008 - 11:30 am ICT by IANS  

Benazir BhuttoWashington, Dec 30 (IANS) The global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, headed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategist Mark Penn, has quietly ended a two-year relationship with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), according to a US media report.This would rob opposition researchers dredging up tough questions for Clinton’s secretary of state confirmation hearings of a key piece of ammunition, said the publication that focuses on Congressional politics on the Capitol Hill, lobbying and advocacy.

The questions about her strategist’s relationship with Pakistan’s ruling party headed by president Asif Ali Zardari could have been awkward for Clinton, both politically and substantively, since she will have to manage relationships both with the “Pakistanis and their cross-border rivals in India”, the Politico said.

Burson-Marsteller’s work for PPP appears to have ended well before last month’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai that has been blamed on the Pakistan-based terrorist group Laskhar-e-Taiba.

Still, the details of the Pakistan contract provide a rare and revealing look at the techniques Penn’s firm promised a foreign government to use to legally influence American public opinion and official policy, the publication said.

According to the terms of a contract on file with the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agent Registration Office, Burson-Marsteller planned to interview “100 American political journalists and business elites in Washington DC and New York as well as elites in the UK, the European Union and Pakistani expatriates living in the United States”.

The contract made clear that Mark Penn’s market research consultancy Penn, Schoen, Berland & Associates would also contribute to the project, the publication said.

Other efforts Burson-Marsteller would conduct on behalf of the PPP included conducting “an internal brainstorming session”, authoring “white papers” by experts and academics, and drafting and seeking placement of op-ed pieces in newspapers.

“Burson-Marsteller will work with the (PPP) to draft and seek placement of op-ed pieces on the issue and will identify appropriate ‘authors’ depending on tone and subject,” the contract noted.

What’s more, Burson-Marsteller promised it would promote credible “third-party” supporters of Pakistan, recruiting such backers from the ranks of “former US government officials involved with Pakistan during their tenure”; “Academics and think tank experts”; and “Pakistani Americans in influential positions”.

In the lobbying section of the contract, the companies committed to launching a broad public affairs campaign within the Bush administration and the US Congress, coordinating meetings for the late Benazir Bhutto in Washington as well as working to “identify House and Senate champions”.

The public relations firm also promised an aggressive reach out to American journalists, such as New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman and Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria. Burson-Marsteller planned to compose articles about the need to hold free elections in Pakistan and “place these articles in top publications”.

The most recent version of the contract on file with the Department of Justice was signed in January 2007 by Rob Tappan of Burson-Marsteller and Zardari.

The Politico cited a spokesman for Burson-Marsteller as saying that it has not done any work on the Pakistani account since March and is in the process of filing government paperwork to disclose the end of the relationship.

Burson-Marsteller is still listed as an active foreign agent for Pakistan in documents on file with the Department of Justice.

Clinton owes more than $5 million to Penn’s market research company. The firm is no longer working for Clinton but the state of the personal relationship between Penn and Clinton is harder to pin down. It is not clear if they are still in contact, the Politico said.

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