The Washington Post

Obama donor Pritzker for Commerce Secretary?

Pritzker Realty Group Chairman and CEO Penny Pritzker (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Pritzker, who ranks #255 in 2012 on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans was reportedly in the hunt for that job back in 2008. But she withdrew her name apparently because of toxic subprime loans involving a failed bank partially owned by her family. There were also concerns that her $1.8 billion net worth included offshore accounts.

Her re-emergence as a contender, first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, would indicate the White House doesn’t feel those matters would affect her confirmation chances this time. (After all, at least 47 percent of the electorate didn’t hold offshore accounts against Mitt Romney.)

Pritzker, who bundled a minimum of $500,000 for Obama this election, was the 2008 Obama campaign’s national finance chair and national co-chairman of the 2012 campaign.

Pritzker would be the third woman secretary of the department, which includes a hodgepodge of a dozen agencies, from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to the Census Bureau to the Patent and Trademark Office.

Commerce, often seen as a prime target for elimination, also may be a curiously unlucky job. Former secretary Malcolm Baldridge died in a rodeo accident in 1987 when his horse in a calf-roping competition fell on him.

Nine years later, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was on an official trade mission when his plane crashed in Croatia. And last June, Secretary John Bryson resigned after suffering a seizure and getting into two hit-and-run crashes while driving in California.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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