Political consultant and PR flack Mark Penn has long been campaign consigliere to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, most recently in Hillary’s disastrous 2008 Democratic presidential primary run, which was a flameout of historic proportions.
And Penn’s penalty for concocting the worst political campaign strategy, well, ever?
A biweekly column in the Wall Street Journal.
(Hey, Journal editors: I haven’t mowed my yard all summer – doesn’t that at least get me a monthly spot?)
Anyway, Penn’s WSJ column this week touted what he’s dubbed “glamping:”
[W]elcome to the early stages of the era of “glamping” — glamorous camping. It’s a visit to the outdoors, but updated and upscale. While it’s just starting to take off, it’s likely to grow significantly based on emerging travel and vacation trends.
Penn proceeded to promote the potential of this microtrend:
[T]he big hospitality chains are missing out on an opportunity to go mass market. Demand is growing for this kind of vacation . . . A company like Embassy Suites, which caters to family crowds, would be an ideal candidate to extend glamping to the middle class. But all of the major chains could get involved.
And Penn’s employer, PR giant Burston-Marsteller, tried to make that happen by distributing Penn’s WSJ column to potential clients. Snarky-but-sometimes-reliable website Gawker outed Penn and the Journal and called their defense of the promotional play “pathetic.”
Cut to the New York Times, in which Journal deputy managing editor Alan Murray said:
“[I]f anyone is touting their business interests in our columns, that is a problem, and that’s what the conflict-of-interest agreement deals with.”
Actually, Mr. Murray, it’s someone touting their business interests with your columns.
Maybe you need a policy about that.