fresh voices from the front lines of change







Rick Perlstein, a former writer for the Campaign for America's Future who now writes for The Nation, has a detailed and deeply troubling two-part examination (Part I and Part II) of President Obama's nominee to be Commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker. We interviewed Perlstein earlier this week to get his views on the kinds of questions that members should be asking Pritzker during the confirmation process.

For several reasons, Perlstein writes, Pritzker's nomination "should make for some interesting confirmation hearings." She is a billionaire who runs her own private equity company; sits on the board of Hyatt Hotels, of which her father was a co-founder; was the past chairman of the credit reporting agency TransUnion, and was a part-owner of Superior Bank of Chicago.

In each of those roles there is much for senators to question, including the allegations of horrible working conditions imposed on low-wage workers at Hyatt hotels, TransUnion's dismissive reaction to serious errors in its credit reports that resulted in credit denials and lost job opportunities, and the circumstances that led to the government seizure of Superior Bank in 2001 under Pritzker's watch.

Perlstein corrects an assertion in my first question that Pritzker is "too close to Wall Street." If she were close to Wall Street, Perlstein notes, "her companies, of which there are hundreds, would be publicly traded," and thus open to at least some public scrutiny. "She's worse that close to Wall Street," he says,

To those who expected President Obama in his second term to be the robustly progressive leader that he felt he could not be in his first term, Perlstein says that "this seems to be" the real Obama. The nomination, he concludes, is "going to be a real black mark on his legacy" because it brings into his cabinet someone whose business dealings symbolize the factors that have furthered the decline of the middle class. "And it is going to make it real tough for him to call out his chips on something like immigration reform when all of us on the left are mad at him for rolling out the red carpet for a bottom-feeder like Penny Pritzker".

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