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Mark Penn distances himself from Blackwater

By Laurie Bennett

October 6, 2007 at 7:24am

The Clinton campaign took a defensive crouch yesterday after reports that a company headed by one its top advisers had counseled Blackwater CEO Erik Prince.

A subsidiary of Burson-Marsteller, a PR firm headed by Clinton strategist Mark Penn, helped prepare Prince for his congressional testimony Tuesday.

However, Penn told Politico that he was not involved in the account, and said the firm’s work for Blackwater was “a temporary assignment based on a relationship that has concluded.”

Clinton and other Democrats have sharply criticized Blackwater in the wake of a Sept. 16 confrontation in which Blackwater employees killed at least 11 Iraqis. Testifying Tuesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Prince defended the company as a team of professionals providing needed security to State Department officials in Iraq.

News of the connection between Blackwater and the Clinton campaign brought harsh words from Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who called Clinton a “corporate Democrat” and compared Penn to Karl Rove.

When asked to respond, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson simply said Penn was a valued member of the campaign.

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