By Devin Dwyer and Jon Garcia
President Obama today nominated his former campaign finance chief, long-time donor and close friend Penny Pritzker to be his next Secretary of Commerce.
"Penny is one of our country's most distinguished business leaders. She's got more than 25 years of management experience in industries including real estate, finance, and hospitality. She's built companies from the ground up. She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur," Obama said at a White House Rose Garden ceremony.
Pritzker, a billionaire who is largely credited with orchestrating the record-smashing $750 million fundraising haul in 2008, was rumored to be interested in the Commerce Department post after the first presidential campaign, but later withdrew her name. She ultimately settled for a seat on Obama's Jobs Council,
During the 2012 campaign, Pritzker took a slightly less prominent role, but ranked among Obama's top bundlers - raking in millions of dollars and hosting fundraisers at her Chicago home. She consistently ranks among the wealthiest and most powerful women in America, according to Forbes Magazine. Her business credentials include founding and operating PSP Capital Partners and Prtizker Realty Group. She also sits on the board of Hyatt Hotels.
Obama promised Pritzker, who turns 54 years old today, a very special birthday present.
"Happy Birthday, Penny. For your birthday present, you get to go through [Senate] confirmation. It's going to be great," Obama said as audience members laughed.
Obama also nominated his Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, Mike Froman, to be the next United States trade representative.
"He's been my point person at global forums like the G8 and the G20 - and, by the way, when I say point person, he's really been the driving force, oftentimes, in organizing these incredible international summits in which huge amounts of business gets done," Obama said of Froman. "He has won the respect of our trading partners around the world. He has also won a reputation as being an extraordinarily tough negotiator while doing it. He does not rest until he's delivered the best possible deal for American businesses and American workers," Obama continued. "And I'm not surprised, by the way, because we went to law school together - he was much smarter than me then, he continues to be smarter than me now."
If confirmed, Froman would replace Ron Kirk, who left in March to work for a private law firm. And Pritzker would take over the Commerce position which has been filled since last year by acting secretary Rebecca Blank.