Billionaire Penny Pritzker Is Our New Commerce Secretary

June 26, 2013  |  

The 277th richest person in America, Penny Pritzker has been confirmed by the Senate and is our new Commerce Secretary. The latest member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet  is probably also his wealthiest adviser, reports Forbes. She was confirmed nearly unanimously, with only Vermont’s Independent Senator Bernie Sanders dissenting.

Printzker’s fortune comes from the family business, the Hyatt chain of hotels. She’s now director of that company. She currently serves as chairman and CEO of PSP Capital Partners, an investment firm, among other titles she holds and companies she’s founded.

“She knows what it takes to build companies from the ground up, and she shares my belief in doing everything we can to help businesses and workers succeed and make America a magnet for good jobs,” said President Obama in a statement. The Commerce Department “promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved standards of living for all Americans by working in partnership with businesses, universities, communities and our nation’s workers,” according to its website.

Pritzker, who has a net worth estimate of $1.85 billion, is a long-serving supporter of Obama. She helped him raise money during the president’s fundraising campaign in 2008. For Obama’s second inauguration, she donated $250,000. She also frequently visits the White House; she’s served as a member of Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness as well as his Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

In aiding Obama so diligently through his campaign efforts, one might wonder why she was not nominated during the president’s first term. She was considered for the position, but certain burdens impeded that nomination.

With the Senate suspicious about Pritzker’s family interests and criticisms of her investments that many say helped trigger the 2008 financial crisis, her nomination was thwarted. Despite her past setbacks, Obama only speaks highly of Pritzker and emphasized her experience in management in real estate, financial, and hospitality industries.

Obama also disclosed his nomination for U.S. Trade Representative: “longtime aide” Michael Froman.

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