WASHINGTON (JTA) — Penny Pritzker, the billionaire real estate developer and major giver to the Jewish Federation of Chicago, was confirmed as U.S. secretary of commerce.
Despite questions concerning the reporting of her income and her relations with labor unions, Pritzker won Senate confirmation on Tuesday by a 97-1 vote. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the dissenter.
Following the confirmation, President Obama called the Chicago civic and business leader “a proven leader, a successful entrepreneur and one of the most accomplished and highly respected women in business today.” She was a major donor to Obama.
Pritzker, 54, is founder, chairman and CEO of PSP Capital Partners and its affiliate, Pritzker Reality Group. Her grandfather founded the Hyatt Hotel chain.
Pritzker backed Obama in 2008 and 2012, and he considered her for the Department of Commerce post in 2009. But she withdrew her name from contention, reportedly because she was perceived as problematic at a time of financial and real estate failures and scandals.
She fundraised for Obama last year, but held back in her public profile for the campaign. A New York Times profile said her relationship with the president had become “complicated” because of persistent labor clashes with the Hyatt chain and Obama’s attacks on financiers and strained ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Also confirmed last week was Michael Froman as U.S. trade representative, a Cabinet-level position. Froman, who was the deputy national security adviser for international economics, is a graduate of the BBYO youth organization. In 1980-81, he led the movement as its Grand Aleph Gadol.