Obama Nominates Top Bundler Pritzker as Commerce Secretary

Today, President Barack Obama plans to nominate one of his top campaign donors to become secretary of the Commerce Department.

Billionaire Hyatt hotel heiress Penny Pritzker, whom Forbes ranks as the 277th richest person in America, bundled at least $904,957 for Obama's campaigns and served as the national co-chair of Obama for America in 2012, Obama's finance co-chair in 2008, and recently stroked a check for $250,000 for Obama's second inauguration.

As Breitbart News has reported, The Pritzkers' crony connections helped bag millions in taxpayer-funded stimulus money. A former board member of the Marmon Group, the Pritzker family owns as much as 40% of Marmon while Berkshire Hathaway owns the rest. Marmon and Berkshire own IMPulse, a transit-manufacturing firm, located in Mount Olive, North Carolina. IMPulse received or directed numerous construction projects that received millions in taxpayer-funded stimulus money. Among others, those projects include:

  • A $485.8 million contract that was awarded for the extension of the Metro Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa
  • A San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) infrastructure project worth $67 million in ARRA funds
  • The Portland streetcar eastside loop which received $75 million in funds 
The value of the projects that IMPulse Manufacturing received total nearly $1 billion in American Recovery Reinvestment Act funding.

In 2010 testimony before the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure on the “Recovery Act: Progress Report for Highway, Transit, and Wastewater Infrastructure Formula Investments," Jeffery Wharton, president of IMPulse Manufacturing, LLC explained:

IMPulse is a Marmon Group / Berkshire Hathaway Company. We are a member of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and I serve on the APTA Board of Directors, but my testimony today is on behalf of my company.   

I am pleased to report that IMPulse’s new project business has grown 35% in 2009 and expected to grow at least another 10% to 15% in 2010. I do not believe my business would have survived without the investment in public transportation by way of the ARRA stimulus funding. In 2009, ARRA partially funded projects accounted for 46% of my total sales. In 2010, I anticipate the ARRA type funded projects will account for 62% of my total sales.

The Pritzker clan is also known for their stealth tax avoidance schemes. According to the New York Times, when patriarch A. N. Pritzker died, the IRS sought $150 million in taxes. But the Pritzkers' reliance on master Chicago tax lawyer Burton Kanter resulted in the Pritzkers paying just $9 million.

The Pritzker nomination may create political headaches for Obama, reports the Chicago Tribune:

Pritzker's nomination could prove controversial. She is on the board of Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her wealthy family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and she could face questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family.

Still, Penny Pritzker's closeness to the president is undeniable. Visitor logs reveal Pritzker has visited the Obama White House at least 66 times.


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