President Obama has nominated Penny Pritzker, the Chicago billionaire who headed up his fabulously successful 2008 finance committee, to be the next commerce secretary. Appropriately enough, today is her 54th birthday – what a sweet gift Obama has given his old friend. He clearly is in her debt. As the New York Times wrote last year, “Without Penny Pritzker, it is unlikely that Barack Obama ever would have been elected to the United States Senate or the presidency.”
But Pritzker has had to wait to join Obama in Washington. She was on the short list for a cabinet appointment back in 2009, but as I reported in February, back then she was still cleaning things up from the collapse of Chicago-based Superior Bank. I explained:
After its aggressive subprime-lending strategy collapsed, Pritzker wrote a letter in May 2001 reassuring bank employees. “Our commitment to subprime lending has never been stronger,” she said. She promised that the family would put more cash in to save the bank, but other family members failed to carry out this plan. Two months later, the bank was closed.
The recent timing of the bank failure would have given Republicans political leverage to use her confirmation hearings to question her on the matter. Four years later, the issue has faded from public consciousness.
Expect Pritzker to be an especially aggressive spin artist for the president’s economic policies. Her only problem is that the latest economic news (unemployment numbers are due out tomorrow) leaves her little with which to spin.