Washington, Dec.30 (ANI): Incoming US Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton may have just been left off the hook ahead of her confirmation hearings, with the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, headed by her campaign strategist Mark Penn, quietly ending a two-year relationship with the Pakistan People's Party, the ruling party of Pakistan.
According to the Politico website, opposition researchers have just lost a key piece of ammunition in terms of coming up with awkward questions to nail Clinton during her confirmation hearings.
The questions could have been awkward for Clinton both politically and substantively, since she will have to manage relationships both with the Pakistanis and the Indians.
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 United Kingdom, 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 and Associates would also contribute to the project.
Burson-Marsteller was also contracted to conduct on behalf of the Pakistan People's Party "an internal brainstorming session," authoring "white papers" by experts and academics, and drafting and seeking placement of op-ed pieces in newspapers.
Burson-Marsteller also promised that it would promote credible "third-party" supporters of Pakistan, recruiting such backers from the ranks of "former U.S. 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 U.S. Congress, coordinating meetings for the late Prime Minister 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." And finally, it said it would find Pakistani families living in the United States whose plight might make good raw material for journalists writing human-interest feature stories.
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 Asif Ali Zardari, who is now the president of Pakistan.
But a spokesman for Burson-Marsteller said 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. (ANI)