Reminder: President Everyman’s billionaire besty with offshore trusts confirmed as Commerce Secretary
posted at 6:41 pm on June 27, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham
The president calls her an entrepreneur and a businesswoman because she’s a Democrat who raises gobs of money for him. If she were a Republican male, she’d be corporate devil out of touch with Main St. heading an investment firm for the obscenely rich with the money in her trust funds, which are by the way in offshore accounts to avoid paying her fair share.
In a nearly unanimous vote, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed billionaire hotel and real-estate magnate Penny Pritzker to become the next commerce secretary.
Pritzker, an heiress to the Hyatt hotel fortune, served as national finance chair of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, as co-chair for his 2012 reelection bid, and as a former member of his Council for Jobs and Competitiveness and his Economic Recovery Advisory Board. The Senate voted 97-1 to confirm her, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as the lone dissenting vote.
Obama applauded the Senate’s backing in a statement on Tuesday. “Penny is a proven leader, a successful entrepreneur, and one of the most accomplished and highly-respected women in business today,” he said. “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.”
Pritzker made $53 million from her family’s offshore trusts last year, is one of the Forbes’ richest 400 Americans, and has more than $250,000 in debt on an American Express card, according to her financial disclosures. Did I mention her family was deeply involved in pioneering subprime lending that sunk a Chicago area bank in 2001 and she understated her income by $80 million on those disclosure forms? To be fair, who among us? We’re spared an all-out class war over these stats, or even anything more than passing curiosity about them during her confirmation hearing, because Obama thinks she’s keen.
John Thune did ask her about her offshore fortune, and Democrats declared the line of questioning a “double standard,” having apparently missed their nominee’s entire reelection campaign and the fact that Pritzker forgot to disclose the equivalent of more than one third of Mitt Romney’s entire net worth.
JOHN THUNE: All right, Mr. Chairman, I think it’s just you and me. We’re about to wrap this up and the unpleasantness is about over for Ms. Pritzker. I wanted to ask one other question. and for a minute here I’m going to channel Sen. Grassley, but some have criticized the fact that you’re a beneficiary of some offshore tax avoidance schemes and that it’s hypocritical. How do you respond to that criticism?
PENNY PRITZKER: Senator, I am the beneficiary of offshore family trusts that were set up when I was a little girl. I didn’t create them, I don’t direct them, I don’t control them. I have asked the trustee to appoint and — remove themselves and appoint a U.S. trustee. but I have complied with all the disclosure investigations, etc., that have been required of me during this process.
Well, that’s that. Moving on.
“It isn’t just about her or the offshore stuff, it’s about the fact that the president made a big deal out of Romney’s offshore accounts,” Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in an interview. “You’d think if that’s a big deal for his opponent, then the president of the United States wouldn’t be appointing people who make use of that in his own cabinet. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.”
That’s a good one, Senator. The Caymans are totes cool now.