Commerce Nominee Penny Pritzker Sails Through Senate Confirmation Hearing

Commerce Nominee Penny Pritzker Sails Through Senate Confirmation Hearing

Secretary of Commerce nominee Penny Pritzker coasted through her Senate Commerce Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C. Thursday. 

Members of both parties on the committee largely ignored Pritzker’s questionable business practices, offshore investments, and tax problems, as well as the problematic history of her family’s failed subprime-lending Superior Bank, which has left hundreds senior citizens and veterans without their life savings.

Pritzker also has a history of opposition from labor unions that have been outspoken against hiring practices and treatment of employees by her family’s Hyatt Hotel chain. That history was also glossed over in the hearing.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was initially “uncertain” about supporting Pritzker up until three days before the hearing. However, Pritzker’s confirmation was likely guaranteed after Kirk joined his fellow Senator from Illinois, Democrat Dick Durbin, in both supporting and introducing Pritzker.

Kirk, who suffered a severe stroke last year, struggled through a very brief introduction of Pritzker he delivered at this morning’s hearings and warned fellow Republicans, “I will be whipping each one of you on behalf of Penny Pritzker’s nomination.”

While the baggage Pritzker carries arose in the news early on in during President Obama’s first term, forcing Pritzker to remove herself from consideration for the position at that time, it was business as usual in Washington today, as she underwent what mostly amounted to lay-up questions from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) did ask Pritzker about her family’s failed venture into the subprime lending market and the tremendous losses that depositors incurred. Pritzker delivered a vague response, and ultimately failed to demonstrate that she or her family bear any responsibility in making sure the everyday Americans who entrusted their life savings with the bank will be made whole:

Thune: What do you have to say to those depositors who lost significant sums of money because of this venture and what lessons did you learn from your experience at Superior Bank that will inform your role if you are confirmed?

Pritzker: Well, Senator, I regret the failure of Superior Bank, it’s not an outcome or a situation, that I’m, you know, I feel very badly about that. The lessons that I learned are really about good management, good governance structure, the importance of diversification and risk management, transparency and good governance.

Despite today’s testimony, in 2008, Pritzker told the Wall Street Journal she was “proud” of how she and her family dealt with the matter of the bank’s failure.

Not only are more than 1400 depositors in Pritzker’s Superior Bank out $10 million, but federal taxpayers lost, too. The FDIC fund is still out $296 million after Pritzker negotiated a “sweetheart” settlement, ultimately leaving the burden of her family bank’s failed subprime lending practices on the shoulders of the American taxpayer.

Pritzker has also come under fire for massive offshore deposits of wealth, excluding her from the same tax obligations as regular Americans. It is a point President Obama raises regarding political adversaries. However, in the case of his good family friend and campaign bundler, the same rules do not seem to apply.

In addition Bloomberg reports that Pritzker “understated her income by at least $80 million in a disclosure form required for her nomination.” The Senate Commerce committee failed to raise any questions or concerns regarding those tax issues.

From Bloomberg:

Documents released last week show Pritzker received $32.2 million for a decade’s worth of consulting on the restructuring of domestic trusts. The filings released yesterday show she earned at least $80 million for that work, according to Bloomberg’s compilation of the data. The revised total is in addition to the amount reported last week, according to Anderson.

Pritzker, whose family founded Hyatt Hotels Corp (H) (H)., is scheduled to testify on her nomination before the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow. She disclosed last week that she earned $54 million in consulting fees last year for a similar restructuring of trusts based in the Bahamas, also over 10 years. The Bahamas’ income wasn’t changed in the amended disclosure document.

Prior to the hearing, Breitbart News contacted committee member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) regarding the line of questioning he would bring to the table. Yet apparently, the issues that trouble Americans on both the right and left regarding Pritzker’s nomination were not the most pressing to the Senator:

Senator Rubio won’t prejudge the nominee. As a member of the Commerce Committee he has a great interest in several issues, including how Penny Pritzker plans to manage the nation’s fisheries, specifically red snapper in the Gulf and South Atlantic region, and how she’ll oversee data collection vital to proper fisheries management. Sen. Rubio also wants more wireless spectrum available for commercial use and broadband deployment, and therefore is interested in Ms. Pritzker’s plans for overseeing NTIA and ensuring that government spectrum is being used efficiently.

The hearing, which amounted to nothing more than a speedy, required formality, leaves little doubt that the Senate will confirm Pritzker, as well as prove there is plenty of room in President Obama’s cabinet for more members of the “one percent.”

View the full hearing here.

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