On Tuesday June 25, Penny Pritzker became the 38th Secretary of Commerce after the Senate voted to confirm her 97-1. Oddly enough, Pritzker has a Romney-esque business background. The well-connected friend of Obama is worth millions, has previously understated her income, and is not well liked by Big Labor. She also benefited from offshore tax havens. Despite all that, in the end, her confirmation process was a love fest and the media have been completely AWOL, failing to hit the president on the nomination.
Where was the outrage? That’s what, to it's credit, Politico has asked concerning this nomination. After all,the $80 million which Pritzker didn’t declare in income is much less than the $34,000 that Tom Daschle forgot to declare back in 2009 when he was nominated by the president to be HHS secretary.
Alex Burns and Burgess Everett reported on June 25 that it was simply "astonishing" that Pritzker (emphasis mine):
[W]ho withdrew from consideration for the same job four years ago — would have such an easy path through the Senate. Republicans have proven more than willing to fight over Obama’s Cabinet nominations, even for lower-profile departments like Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency. Earlier this year, the Senate GOP waged an all-out war — in the Armed Services Committee and on the national airwaves — against their former colleague Chuck Hagel’s nomination to lead the Pentagon.
At a glance, Pritzker seems to be a more inviting target than Hagel — or Labor nominee Tom Perez, EPA nominee Gina McCarthy or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nominee Richard Cordray, all Obama picks who face uncertain prospects in the Senate. Pritzker is not a decorated military veteran like Hagel or a career public servant such as Perez or McCarthy. She doesn’t represent a core wing of the Democratic coalition beyond the ultra-wealthy donor class.
The rap sheet on Pritzker includes familiar and easy-to-understand financial infractions: her family’s corporate empire reportedly channeled investments through Caribbean entities to minimize its U.S. tax burden and presided over the collapse of Superior Bank of Chicago. While facing Senate confirmation, Pritzker acknowledged having under-reported her income on disclosure forms by some $80 million.
That’s a rather bigger figure than the $34,000 in back taxes Tim Geithner had to pay after he was selected as Treasury secretary — an error Republicans only reluctantly allowed him to live down.
While the rest of the piece focused on the GOP avoiding a fight on Pritzker to keep their powder dry for more important fights, Politico should be commended for at least writing about how Democrats view people who avoid paying taxes as anathema, unless it’s one of their own.