Penny Pritzker: Obama's Worst Insult to His Left-Wing Base

Penny Pritzker: Obama's Worst Insult to His Left-Wing Base

In a crowded field, Chicago billionaire, bundler, sub-prime banker and union buster Penny Pritzker is clearly the worst nominee that President Barack Obama has chosen for his second term cabinet. 

Though the position for which she has been nominated, Secretary of Commerce, often goes to a presidential crony or political insider, Pritzker would exceed all her predecessors and peers with her shocking record of cronyism and failure.

Pritzker ran Superior Bank into the ground by dealing in sub-prime mortgages. As Breitbart News noted recently, the bank’s depositors lost $6000, on average, and the taxpayers got fleeced–but the investors got paid out first. Pritzker recently served on the board of the Chicago Public Schools during a period of abject educational failure, and earned a bad reputation with labor unions both there and at her family’s Hyatt hotel chain.

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold Pritzker’s confirmation hearing on Thursday. Janet Novack of Forbes suggests that Senators ask Pritzker about her extensive offshore accounts and her $250,000-plus debt to American Express. The Senators, Novack writes, could expose broader evasion by the wealthy: “Congress could finally make public one of the grandest and most successful family tax-avoidance schemes ever.” 

But will they?

There could hardly be a worse representative of the American business community. Pritzker’s only notable success, aside from being born into wealth, is helping to get Barack Obama elected to the U.S. Senate and then the White House, using her connections and cash to propel his unlikely career. Her nomination is nothing more than Chicago-style payback. 

This time, “the president gets to choose his team” doesn’t cut it.

How bad is Pritzker? So bad that she withdrew her nomination the first time around, in 2008, just as the New York Times began asking questions. 

So bad that the president of the Chicago Teachers Union recently warned: “I think the country will learn who she is.”

So bad that while a few conservatives have weighed in, Obama’s left-wing supporters are the ones leading the charge against her. 

Here is a sampling of what they are saying.

D. S. Wright of the Firedoglake blog wrote in February:

Not surprisingly the idea of Obama stacking his economic team with yet more 1%ers is leading to opposition. Ms. Pritzker’s case being exceptionally problematic given her massive and diverse fortune inevitably leading to conflicts of interest as Commerce Secretary.The rich are already well represented in Obama’s administration.

And now a petition has been launched claiming Prtizker engaged in anti-worker practices as a Hyatt Board member and member of the Chicago School’s Board of Education

Will President Obama listen to the workers or pay a big fundraiser back?

Susie Madrak of the “Crooks and Liars” blog, reacting to Pritzker’s nomination in a piece entitled, “Obama Nominates Sleazy Subprime Banker As Commerce Secretary,” wrote:

Time for a little stroll down memory lane. This is what I wrote about Penny Pritzer, Obama’s just-announced appointee as Commerce Secretary, back in February:

Penny Pritzker, union buster.

Penny Pritzker, sub-prime lender who drove Superior Bank into the ground.

Penny Pritzker, Chicago Board of Ed members who thinks your children only deserve enough education to make them a member of the workforce.

Penny Pritzker, billionaire tax dodger.

Penny Pritzker, potential Secretary of Commerce nominee? Is this a joke?

No, it was not. Okay, just kidding. Yes, it was. The joke’s on us. Ha, ha!

Here’s David Moberg of In These Times, in a post, “3 Troubling Things To Know About Billionaire Penny Pritzker, that was circulated on the left-wing Democratic Underground message board:

Despite her business-friendly history, billionaire heir Penny Pritzker, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce, will likely face standard Republican flak in her Senate confirmation hearings.

But progressive Democrats are the ones with real reasons to be upset with her record and that of her family, which is among the wealthiest in America. Here are just a few:

1) Union-busting. Pritzker’s family businesses have often engaged in anti-union practices. She is a director of the Hyatt Hotels, which fired and then replaced long-time room cleaners in its Boston hotels with non-union subcontracted workers. Hyatt has refused to settle several contract disputes with UNITE HERE, some lasting nearly four years, on terms similar to those accepted by other big hoteliers.

2) Conflicts of interest. The family’s $20 billion empire was built on a diverse base of businesses, including Hyatt, Marmon (an industrial conglomerate), the TransUnion credit rating agency, and many others in industries such as container leasing, insurance and travel.

The family has long had a reputation for not only accumulating its wealth through elaborate schemes of tax evasion, including offshore accounts, but also for using its political clout to win favored treatment….

3) Shady business dealings. The Pritzkers have a long history of business malfeasance at the expense of people of modest means. In one notable case, Congress passed legislation in 2003 to address issues raised by widespread charges that the Pritzker’s credit rating agency, TransUnion, had made serious flaws in its credit reports on individuals–and then failed to correct them upon discovery.

But perhaps the most infamous and pernicious Pritzker abuse of power was the Superior Bank scandal, a predatory subprime mortgage securitization racket that led to the failure of Superior Bank in 2001 and prefigured the 2008 crash.

Robert Scheer, writing at the Huffington Post, says that Democrats are prepared to abandon their principles to support her, while Republicans dare not tackle her Wall Street woes:

It is deeply revealing that in the midst of the continuing cycle of misery brought on by the chicanery of the financial community two key Cabinet positions dealing with business practices will likely be occupied by people who specialized in those financial rip-offs.

For Pritzker, as with the confirmation of [Treasury Secretary Jack] Lew, the fix is in. The Republicans don’t dare push back too hard on shady business practices that their deregulation legislation endorsed, and Democrats will go along with anything the president wants.

The same restraint will be exhibited in exploring the offshore tax havens that have protected the Pritzker family’s immense wealth….

Scheer may be correct. Even the venerable Mother Jones seems willing to give Pritzker the benefit of the doubt, on the argument that the “debacle is in the rear-view mirror in Washington.”

But the debacle is hardly in the “rear-view mirror” for most Americans. The Pritzker nomination forces the left and the left-wing media to choose between politics and principle. It is as much a test of their credibility as of a president who once ran to oppose everything that his appointment of Pritzker represents.


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