Penny Pritzker: Is she Up to the Challenge?

President Barack Obama wants Penny Pritzker to become the second female Commerce Secretary.


Obama Pinches Penny for Commerce Secretary

Penny Pritzker to become second female Commerce Betty

-Megan Southwick

Penny Pritzker

Barack Obama has continued his trend of bucking the trend with his Cabinet picks – picking people he seems to feel have a certain skill set for a job, rather than those he owes favors to, or those with whom he might have especially friendly personal ties.

I’m also loving his fearlessness in appointing women to his Cabinet – with Hillary Clinton sure to nab Secretary of State, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano being eyed for Homeland Security Chief, and now the tapping of Penny Pritzker for Secretary of Commerce. (This is good for Bettys everywhere, I think!)

Penny Pritzker, heir of the family that founded the Hyatt hotel chain, is listed among the 150 richest Americans – and is the woman responsible for the record-breaking fundraising efforts of the Obama presidential campaign. As national finance chair of the campaign, she brought in around $640 million. You heard me. $640 million. (Say that in your best Dr. Evil voice … )

She will have to go through a lengthy vetting process first – and you can bet that among the first of the queries will be what exactly her role was as chairwoman of Superior Bank in Chicago – which has failed in recent months due to the same kind of subprime loans that Obama himself has so often denounced. In all fairness to Pritzker, she was not in charge of the bank at the time of its failure.

The vetting process will be tough for other reasons as well – she’s never held public office, and is an active businesswoman, which means she has significant financial holdings, and thus, ties. She is one of just three Pritzker cousins who manage the family’s financial empire, which includes much more than just hotels at this point.

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