In Commerce Pick’s ’08 Answers on Finances, Possible Hints at Road Ahead

Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

President Obama on Thursday nominated Penny Pritzker, a billionaire heiress and businesswoman, as commerce secretary. Michael Froman, left, was nominated as trade representative.

By Published: May 5, 2013

WASHINGTON — In November 2008, as President-elect Barack Obama began putting together his cabinet, reports emerged that he was considering nominating Penny Pritzker, the billionaire Hyatt Hotels heiress and businesswoman who had served as his chief campaign fund-raiser, as commerce secretary. But faced with awkward questions about her financial dealings, she declared that she did not want the nomination.

Last week, however, on Ms. Pritzker’s 54th birthday, she stood beside Mr. Obama as he announced her nomination for that same position, investing his administration’s political capital in trying to get her confirmed amid a far more toxic political atmosphere than he faced at the start of his first term.

“For your birthday present, you get to go through confirmation,” Mr. Obama joked. “It’s going to be great.”

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