Mr. Penn, pot and kettle called

It seems the highest-ranking strategic advisor on Hillary Clinton's campaign team has a little explaining to do.

Published February 15, 2008 7:17PM (EST)

It seems Mark Penn, the highest-ranking strategic advisor on Hillary Clinton's campaign team, has a little explaining to do.

After an article appeared in the New York Times on Feb. 3 that suggested Barack Obama had shied away from punishing Exelon Corp. for failing to acknowledge radioactive leaks at one of its nuclear power plants because of Obama's close financial ties with the company, Penn denounced the Illinois senator in a memo released to the press. In the memo, Penn declared that Obama's claims of strong leadership are frequently disproved by the media "when they dig into the facts." Obama originally supported mandatory regulations for nuclear power companies to prevent future leaks. However, according to the original New York Times story, Obama softened his position over time, incorporating "changes sought by Senate Republicans, Exelon and nuclear regulators. The new bill removed language mandating prompt reporting and simply offered guidance to regulators, whom it charged with addressing the issue of unreported leaks."

Well yesterday, in a story first reported on Huffington Post, Sam Stein revealed that Penn's huge consulting agency, Burson Marsteller, had received more than $230,000 from Exelon to facilitate the renewal of a nuclear energy license in New Jersey. According to Craig Nesbit, vice president of communications for Exelon Generation, a subsidiary of Exelon Corp., Burson Marsteller's work with Exelon had occurred between June and November. However, as a result of Exelon's billing process, Burson Marsteller received payment for the contract only nine days after the New York Times story on Obama's Exelon connections and Penn's subsequent memo.

One more twist to the whole situation that Penn's memo failed to cover: the legislation Obama wrote that pertained to Exelon's leaks was cosponsored by Clinton.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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