Mark Penn, Unions, And Hillary Clinton

The New York Times today becomes the first mainstream press outlet to pick up the Nation's reporting that Hillary Clinton's senior strategist, Mark Penn, is president of a company that has helped corporations crush union organizing drives.

Since The Nation published its article, the Clinton campaign has been content to let the story die a natural death; Penn's activities are separate from Hillary Clinton's.

In Detroit on Saturday, Clinton holds a town hall meeting sponsored by the AFL-CIO. She's bound to be asked specific questions about the degrees of separation between Penn's company and her campaign.

Over the past few weeks, union officials tell me that Penn has made a concerted effort, through e-mails and telephone calls, to calm the storm before it did any damage to Clinton. In these communications, Penn repeatedly stressed his political background, his father's participation in the union movement, and pointed these labor big-whigs to Hillary Clinton's own record on labor issues. Indeed, blue-collar, non-professional Democrats are the largest part of Clinton's political base.

Bruce Raynor, the president of UniteHere, and James Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters, are not fans of the Clintons, generally. Billa dn HIllary Clinton supported Teamster dissident Ron Carey's presidential bid against Hoffa; Raynor is one of John Edwards's biggest fans. UniteHere's chief of staff, Chris Chafe, now works as Edwards's chief liaison to organized labor.