On Moonlighting Mistakes

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination goes on and on…and on. Yawn. But there are occasional blips on the radar screen that make you sit up and take notice: like some recent news out of campaign Hillary, that chief political strategist, Mark Penn, has stepped down. It seems Penn’s other business life has clashed with the business of getting Hillary elected president.

Penn is worldwide president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations firm. In this role, he met with officials in Colombia to help secure passage of a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S.

The problem? Hillary opposes the agreement.

But the issue is actually larger than one conflict. The New York Times reports that Burson-Marsteller has also represented Countrywide Financial, the largest U.S. mortgage lender (now embroiled in the subprime mess), and that, through a subsidiary, Burson-Marsteller represented Blackwater Worldwide, the military contractor blamed for numerous civilian deaths in Iraq.

So, what’s going on? As far as Burson-Marsteller, there’s not really any news. It is a respected firm, and, this being America, it is free to choose its clients.

The real problem lies with the fact that Penn kept his day job while moonlighting as an adviser to the Clinton campaign.

Why didn’t anybody see this potential conflict of interest from the onset? If not Penn, why not the people running Hillary’s campaign? Oh yeah, right: Penn was the chief strategist.

This installment from the comic book that is American politics serves as a reminder: When making work-related decisions, good judgment should be the first order of business.

It certainly applies to moonlighting. In fact, SingleMindedWomen.com has a career article about moonlighting slated to appear within the next few weeks. The article advises SMW readers, “Because the potential exists for conflict of interest, be sure to check your employer’s policy with regard to moonlighting.”

We’re happy to pass along advice on moonlighting. If only political leaders were SMW readers…

Paula Santonocito

Career Editor, SingleMindedWomen.com