'I Think the Country Will Learn Who She Is': Billionaire, Banker, Bundler Pritzker Likely Commerce Pick

[Update (May 2, 2013): President Barack Obama will indeed nominate Pritzker as Secretary of Commerce.]

Penny Pritzker, the Hyatt heir and former subprime mortgage lender who was deemed too controversial to lead the Department of Commerce four years ago, is now apparently President Barack Obama's pick for the post. On Thursday, Pritzker resigned from the Chicago Board of Education, a likely sign that she is clearing her schedule for the confirmation process and preparing to move to Washington, according to Chicago political observers.

Pritzker, who helped lead Obama's fundraising efforts in 2008 and was a major bundler in 2012, is personally worth $1.8 billion, according to National Journal--rich enough to buy Mitt Romney many times over. Pritzker and her family control the Hyatt hotel chain and many other businesses. In 2001, Pritzker's Superior Bank collapsed, with huge losses due to what National Review's John Fund calls "aggressive subprime-lending."

Though there are a few Republicans in the Pritzker family, most are Democrats. That has not spared them the wrath of labor unions. In recent years, unions have targeted Hyatt hotels, especially Hyatt's highly visible Chicago lakefront property. Penny Pritzker herself has had an often contentious relationship with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), according to Chicago magazine's Carol Felsenthal

In an interview with Felsenthal, CTU president Karen Lewis bitterly sized up Pritzker's upcoming political prospects: "...[T]he President no matter who he or she is, should have who they want in the cabinet. But I think the country will learn who she is."

Pritzker joins Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, who keeps money offshore in the Cayman Islands and made a fortune at a Wall Street bank during the subprime crisis, as the latest member of the president's Cabinet whose list of economic sins matches or exceeds those of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. 


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