Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A reasonable question asked about Mark Penn and Senator Clinton's debt

Recently I provided an analysis of the current state of Senator Clinton's debt based on public reports. An anonymous reader sent me a reasonable question about my analysis. I claimed that I interpret Mark Penn's silence on his willingness to forgive some or all of his outstanding bills to Senator Clinton as an indication that he is indeed willing to forgive the some or all of what he claims he is owed. The anonymous questioner wanted to know why I draw that inference.

Answer: If somebody or some company is owed a lot of money by an organization, a campaign, or an individual of course that creditor would, other things equal, like to be paid in full. So it would not be in the creditor's interest to announce publicly that she or he would be willing to accept less. But if the creditor is friendly and wealthy, often that creditor will end up accepting less to make it possible for all involved to move ahead.

I have no reason to think that Mark Penn is hostile to Senator Clinton or her campaign; and I know that his firm can afford to absorb some losses related to expenditures it made and services for which it billed the campaign. From a business perspective, it is understandable that Mr. Penn is not now stating what he and his company might be willing to absorb, because he would presumably like to see as much money as possible raised to pay him as much as possible. That's a perfectly legitimate business position.

Yes, it would be helpful to rank and file Democrats who want to contribute specifically to retiring Senator Clinton's debt to know exactly how much Mr. Penn and his company can and will forgive, if anything, but Mr. Penn is not a politician or DNC official and he is under no obligation to rank and file Democrats.

But, if he were entirely opposed to forgiving some or all of the amount he and his company have claimed from Senator Clinton's primary campaign, I assume that Mr. Penn would have made a public statement to that effect. This is because quite often creditors unwilling to compromise want to make that perfectly clear; in this case that would be sensible of Mr. Penn if he wanted rank and file Democrats to figure out how much to donate to retire Senator Clinton's debt using his full claim as a target figure.

In this context, then, Mr. Penn's silence speaks volumes. It indicates that he would probably like to be paid as much as can be raised to pay him but it also indicates that he would accept less than the amount billed to date. How much less, I have no idea. Nor do I know that my interpretation of Mr. Penn's silence on the point is correct. I do know that my interpretation is charitable toward Mr. Penn, because it assumes that he is indeed willing make a financial sacrifice as a matter of, if nothing else, professional courtesy toward Senator Clinton and her campaign. That would be a usual business practice and I have no reason to think that Mr. Penn departs from usual business practices.

Dr. Dean, Senator Obama, Senator Clinton and many other Democrats will be thrilled when resources from donors related to retiring the debt are freed up for other purposes. If Mr. Penn decides to make public any willingness about forgiving some or all of that debt, he would make all these folks very happy. But as I said before Mr. Penn is under no obligation, in my opinion, to make Dr. Dean, Senator Obama, Senator Clinton or any other Democrat happy.

If he decides to make folks happy by explicitly specifying how much, if any debt, he is willing to forgive, then Mr. Penn will be going above and beyond the standards of normal business practice. I have no reason to think that Mr. Penn is not willing to exceed these standards.


Anonymous mm said...

Heidi, I would like to think that we can use the same anology for what is happening with Sen. Clinton right now. In other words, no public comment from her regarding our fight to have her name in nomination, could mean that she is willing. However, a public statement saying that she is would actually undermine the possibility in that the media and the DNC would give her so much grief that her name being put into nomination would be far less likely to happen. Hope this makes sense.

July 22, 2008 at 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree- mm. I think Hillary and Bill are trying to stay out of the limelight and let us take on the fight with the DNC- which is appropriate. As PUMA PAC bloggers have said, "Hillary you've done everything you can, leave the rest to us!" On to Denver!

Kris in NM

July 22, 2008 at 8:26 PM  

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