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EDITORIAL: Another crony for the Cabinet

President Obama won’t get the plain talk he needs to hear

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President Obama's choice of Hyatt hotel heiress Penny Pritzker as secretary of commerce, to be taken up Thursday by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, puts Democrats on the panel between that famous rock and a hard place.

Like the loyal soldiers they are, the panel's 13 Democrats will fall in line behind the nomination but a senator with acute olfactory perception will have to hold his nose to do it. The most vociferous opposition is coming from the Democrats' left-most base, which faults her as billionaire fat cat who doesn't like unions.

"Penny is one of our country's most distinguished business leaders," President Obama gushed in announcing the nomination earlier this month. Her most distinguishing accomplishment was her early bankrolling of Mr. Obama's meteoric rise from obscure Illinois state senator to the U.S. Senate and from there to the presidency. Ms. Pritzker raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaigns and served as his 2008 campaign-finance chairman.

Ms. Pritzker's nomination puts the lie to Mr. Obama's pledge to clean up Washington's corrupt patronage and cronyism. Ms. Pritzker, who has a net worth more than $1.8 billion (not that there's anything wrong with that), will face tough questions from the committee's Republican minority about her taking advantage of offshore tax havens — the same practice for which Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats vilified Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign. We'll have fun watching the panel's Democrats tying themselves in pretzels in defense of Ms. Pritzker.

She will be asked to explain her role in the 2001 collapse of Superior Bank, which was co-owned by her family. The Hinsdale, Ill.-based bank was heavily involved in subprime mortgage lending. When the Superior failure was brought up during the 2008 campaign, the Obama team "explained" that she had "stepped down as chairwoman of the bank's board in 1994," seven years before its collapse. But as observed this week, "a letter sent by [Ms.] Pritzker to the bank's employees in 2001 indicates she was still playing a major leadership role, right up to the bank's failure ." The Pritzkers subsequently were favored with a sweetheart settlement deal from the FDIC. The depositors got the short end of the bargain. About 1,400 customers lost part of their savings, an average of $6,000. One veteran is out $60,000 that he will likely never see again.

Ms. Pritzker won't have much to do at Commerce as the department is an unnecessary extravagance America can no longer afford. If we must have a secretary of commerce, he or she should be the voice of business reason. On Monday the Chicago Federal Reserve announced that its National Activity Index had fallen to negative 0.53, signaling major weakness in the manufacturing sector.

The economy will stumble as long as the administration continues to reward, Chicago-style, favored companies with subsidies and punish others with heavy taxes and regulation. A campaign crony isn't likely to walk into the Oval Office and tell the president some things he doesn't want to hear.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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