Obama’s Commerce Secretary Pick Failed to Disclose $80 Million in Earnings

The Secretary of Commerce overseas virtually all of the business and industry that takes place in the US and with other countries.  He/she is responsible for trillions of dollars of business and sales.  That requires someone who not only has an extensive business background, but also someone who is trustworthy and beyond reproach.

Recently, President Barack Obama appointed Penny Pritzker to be the next Secretary of Commerce.  According to their website, the Mission Statement for the Department of Commerce states:

“The U.S. Department of Commerce 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. The department touches the daily lives of the American people in many ways, with a wide range of responsibilities in the areas of trade, economic development, technology, entrepreneurship and business development, environmental stewardship, and statistical research and analysis.”

“To drive U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace, the Commerce Department works to strengthen the international economic position of the United States and facilitates global trade by opening up new markets for U.S. goods and services. Here at home, the Commerce Department promotes progressive business policies that help America’s businesses and entrepreneurs and their communities grow and succeed. Cutting-edge science and technology at the department fosters innovation, and a focus on research and development that moves quickly from the lab to the marketplace generates progress and new 21st century opportunities. No matter where businesses are in their life cycle, whether just getting off the ground or looking to expand into overseas markets, the Commerce Department is singularly focused on making U.S. companies more innovative at home and more competitive abroad, so they can create jobs.”

“The Commerce Department also provides effective management and monitoring of our nation’s resources and assets to support both environmental and economic health. Through critical weather monitoring, weather forecasts and resource preservation, the department protects not only public safety and security but also our oceans, coasts and marine life while assisting their economic development. Other essential operations conducted by the Commerce Department include the constitutionally mandated decennial census, which serves as the basis of America’s representative democracy, as well as the system by which businesses and innovators secure intellectual property rights.”

The Secretary of Commerce oversees an annual budget of $7.5 billion and 47,000 employees located in the US and abroad.  Does Pritzker meet the qualifications needed to head the Commerce Department?

Pritzker is the founder, chairman and CEO of PSP Capital Partners along with the Pritzker Realty Group.  She is known as an entrepreneur and business executive.  In 2011, she was listed by Forbes 400 to be the 263rd wealthiest person in the United States with a net worth of $1.7 billion.  Pritzker also served as finance chairman for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

From that, it would seem that she is a successful and highly qualified business person who may just be a decent Secretary of Commerce.  However, there are other factors that need to weighed before she receives an approval.

To start with, it has been discovered that she failed to report $80 million in earnings on her disclosure report.  According to reports, the $80 million was earned from consulting on more than 400 domestic trusts involving an intergenerational family feud.  The restructuring involved the Hyatt Hotels, Hyatt Center, Conwood Company, Marmon Corp and Union Tank Car and evidently a number of people were not pleased with Pritzker’s advice and counsel.  She claims it was an oversight that is being corrected.  Gee, I wish I was able to consider $80 million worth of earnings as just an oversight, don’t you?

The national hotel and workers union has expressed opposition to Pritzker’s nomination citing her dealing with the Hyatt Hotel chain.  In a phone interview, Donald Taylor, president of UNITE HERE, the hotel and restaurant workers’ union with 270,000 members said:

“We are opposed to the nomination of Penny Pritzker based on what has taken place at Hyatt.”

Taylor said he has not yet been in contact with AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka concerning their support or opposition to the Pritzker appointment.  The AFL-CIO, one of the largest and most powerful unions in the country has been boycotting the Hyatt Hotel chain ever since the Pritzker assisted restructuring.

It’s interesting that I haven’t heard of any Republicans coming out against the appointment, while strongly Democratic unions are.  Perhaps that should be taken as a positive sign that she may do well if confirmed.  At the moment, I’m not sure which way to vote on her appointment.