Penny Pritzker, Not Just an Obama Donor
Bloomberg broke the story last night that Penny Pritzker, part of the Hyatt Hotel dynasty and a successful businesswoman in Chicago, was close to being nominated by President Obama to be secretary of commerce. Her pick reflects the desire of the president to add more private sector experience to his cabinet and might also be a response to complaints that his cabinet was too male-dominated.
Many news reports focus on Pritzker’s relationship with Obama, as she ran fundraising operations for his campaign in 2008 and bundled over $500,000 in 2012. She does have a long history with the president, having contributed since his very first campaign, with a $1,000 donation in 1999 during his unsuccessful first run for Congress.
But the full picture of her more than $870,000 in campaign contributions since 1990 is much larger and more interesting than that. In her past, Pritzker gave to Republicans as well as Democrats, giving $25,500 to Republican candidates over the years, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2000, she gave the same amount ($1,000) to the campaigns of Republicans John McCain and George W. Bush and Democrats Bill Bradley and Al Gore. Similarly, 2004 saw her give $2,000 directly to both Bush and John Kerry.
Donors often have contribution patterns like this either to pay the price of admission at fundraisers or to “cover their bases.” It should be noted that she donated tens of thousands to the Democratic National Committee in both election cycles. Her contributions to Republicans tailed off, though, when she came to prominence as a Democratic fundraiser, with her last GOP contribution going to Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) final House campaign in 2006. Here are her contributions from the most recent election cycle:
Few expect Pritzker’s confirmation process to be as contentious as fights like the one over Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary, but it will be interesting to see if the breadth of Pritzker’s campaign giving helps ease her through the review process. Pritzker has contributed to no fewer than 73 Senate candidates since 1990, including nine out of the 13 majority members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.