June 13, 2013. Chicago. The nomination and guaranteed confirmation of our next Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker shows a few things about Barack Obama and our nation’s two establishment parties. Pritzker has repeatedly bought government favor at all levels, for personal as well as financial gain. She is the epitome of the elite one percent and has flouted the law every step of her enriching career.
Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker was one of Barack Obama's earliest financial backers. Image courtesy of Bloomberg.com.
Penny Pritzker’s nomination for Commerce Secretary is considered a ‘sure thing’, especially after a bi-partisan committee of Democrats and Republicans joyously united to move her appointment out of the Commerce Committee and onto the full Senate. But there are things about Penny Pritzker that the American people should know, things that may shed more light on the President that nominated her than on the woman herself.
Buying Influence: For years, Penny Pritzker has used her financial donations to Chicago Democrats to secure a position of influence in the local, county and state government. She’s used those donations to become intimate friends with former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and secure positions of authority within the Mayor’s wife’s charities. She also used her monetary contributions to secure a position in the Chicago Board of Education.
Tax Evasion: Consider this quote from US News & World Report, ‘Obama's nominee to be the next head of the Commerce Department, Penny Pritzker, faced her Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday. Surprisingly, the members of the Senate Commerce Committee did not grill her on an area that seems ideal for criticism: her family's storied history of tax dodging.’
The New York Times summed it up this way, ‘Pritzker's family is renowned for finding ways to avoid paying taxes on its wealth. The Pritzkers were pioneers in using tax loopholes to shelter their holdings from the Internal Revenue Service.’
Citizens for Tax Justice explains further, ‘One of the primary ways the Pritzker family uses offshore trusts to avoid taxes is by having income from their businesses funneled into offshore trusts. Those trusts then pay debt service to a bank, owned by the family trust, that loans that money right back to the business. The upshot is that all the taxable profits disappear and the family wealth accumulates unabated.’
Providing False Information: Upon being nominated by President Obama for Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker turned over copies of her tax forms to the Commerce Committee. One item was $32.2 million in earnings, paid to her by her own family trust for consulting the family’s US-based trusts. That obvious tax evading tactic isn’t even the main issue. The problem is, Bloomberg News double-checked Pritzker’s numbers and she was forced to change the amount of that income stream from $32.2 million to over $80 million. Penny Pritzker apologized for the mistake and insisted it was a clerical error.
Owning Obama: Dozens of green energy companies donated tens of thousands of dollars to Barack Obama during his campaign and they were immediately awarded with billion-dollar give-aways by the government as soon as he took office. What would one get in return for donating $800 million to the same man? Apparently, a Cabinet position as Secretary of Commerce. According to The Guardian, Penny Pritzker is America’s all-time #1 ‘bundler’, having collected a staggering $800 million for Barack Obama over the course of two Presidential campaigns.
Housing Collapse: The Pritzker-owned Superior Bank was one of the first users and abusers of subprime mortgages. Through her connections with the world’s other billionaires, Pritzker and her bank profited handsomely as average, working class Americans were defrauded out of their life savings by the very same billionaires and their mega-banks.
The Pritzker’s purchased Superior Bank in the 1980’s and Penny was Chairwoman and sat on its Board of Directors. To show just how early in the subprime scandal they were, the bank collapsed under the weight of its own worthless subprime mortgage investments in 2001, a full seven years before the same secret scandal blew up on a national level. As detailed by Breitbart.com, when the bank collapsed, their account holders’ money was used to pay off the bank’s bad bets. Depositors were reimbursed everything under $100,000 as the law demanded. But they were reimbursed by the taxpayers, not the bank, at a cost of $296 million. And 1,400 customers lost an estimated $10 million in deposits over $100,000 which were taken by the bank to pay off gambling debts.
Offshore Accounts: In addition to working all the loopholes of the tax system, Penny Pritzker also has an unknown amount of money hidden in offshore accounts, away from the tax-collecting hands of Uncle Sam. While the total amount isn’t known, what is known is that Pritzker claimed $53 million in income on those accounts alone and in just 2012. While the President criticized Mitt Romney for the same tax-avoiding practice, the White House is giving Pritzker a pass because they say the family has been avoiding taxes with those accounts for three generations, with Penny’s grandfather opening them decades ago.
Schmooze ‘em and Use ‘em: Penny and the Pritzker family are best known for their Hyatt Hotels. It is that multi-generational ownership that created much of her estimated $1.85 billion net worth. If confirmed, she would be the wealthiest Cabinet member in American history. And both Democrats and Republicans alike are falling over themselves to endorse her confirmation.
As detailed by wsws.org, ‘Pritzker was treated with kid gloves by senators at the hearing. When Illinois senators Dick Durbin (D) and Mark Kirk (R ) introduced her to the committee before the hearing, Kirk called her “a vibrant part of the Jewish world,” and Durbin noted admiringly that not only had she “inherited a few dollars,” but also she had “made a few dollars in her life.”’
The website went on to detail, ‘Other senators who praised Pritzker during and after the hearing include Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who called her an “enthusiastic and unapologetic advocate of free trade,” and Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) who told the hotel heiress, “You know more about [foreign tourism] than most anyone else in this room.”’
The powers that be
The above bi-partisan list of Senators raises some eyebrows on its own. For starters, Dick Durbin is Chicago’s most influential Democrat and until Barack Obama came along, was for decades the puppet to Pritzker’s hand. But his junior Senator from Illinois, Republican Mark Kirk, recently had a crippling stroke and had refused to confirm his support for Pritzker up until three days before the Commerce Committee hearing at which he praised her.
Senator Ted Cruz is demonstrating that the Tea Party has little loyalty to the hard working taxpayers who symbolize today’s Tea Party movement. Cruz, a Tea Party favorite, is showing signs of being co-opted by the billionaire wing of the GOP. His reference to “free trade” and “Penny Pritzker” in the same sentence is very revealing. Unfortunately for the American worker, there was no mention of ‘fair trade’.
Senator Roy Blunt is perhaps the most hated man in Congress right now. He is the man who single-handedly, secretly, and anonymously, slipped the universally-despised ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ into an emergency spending Bill that was rushed through Congress and signed by the President in the middle of the night. The law now exempts Monsanto and all of its genetically modified foods (GMO’s) from responsibility or liability from side effects, illnesses or deaths. Most outrageously, it also forces the FDA to approve any and all GMO foods in the future even if federal and state courts forbid it.
That’s the assortment of Senators who fell over themselves rushing to be the first to kneel before Princess Penny Pritzker and proclaim her the country’s next Commerce Secretary. But as the Cabinet member in charge of America’s businesses, economy and jobs, make no mistake where President Obama and the Democrats’ choice stands on the issues.
While she’s never released a position paper or run for political office, Penny Pritzker’s policies have been well documented as a Director of Hyatt Hotels and a member of President Obama’s Economic Council. It’s safe to say that as Commerce Secretary, Pritzker will fight to abolish the minimum wage, privatize Social Security, replace Medicare with Medicaid, raise taxes on the lower and middle classes, lower taxes on the upper class, deregulate the banks, ignore white collar crime, break the unions, and do whatever her lifelong friends in the Chicago Democratic Machine want her to do, just like prior Commerce Secretary Bill Daley.
Sound crazy? Richard Daley, William Daley, Rahm Emanuel, Dick Durbin, David Axelrod, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, Penny Pritzker – they’re all members of the close-knit, very secretive, extremely notorious, Chicago Democratic Machine. And former Mayor Daley, close personal friend and partner of Barack Obama and Penny Pritzker, has been sitting in China since leaving office. It makes for one very curious setting and an ominous reason to watch the Commerce Department very carefully going forward.
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