WASHINGTON — Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., Thursday sharply criticized President Barack Obama's pick to be the next commerce secretary, Chicago businesswoman and philanthropist Penny Pritzker.
“The track record of Secretary-designee Pritzker is alarming, and I'm underwhelmed by this nomination that puts the bank robber in charge of the bank,” Terry said. “It's unfathomable to me the president can't come up with a better nomination for this key jobs-creation post than someone whose qualifications include bundling millions of dollars for his campaign and chairing a failed bank.”
Pritzker would fill a Cabinet post that has been vacant since former Secretary John Bryson resigned last summer.
A lifelong Chicagoan, Pritzker has known Obama since the 1990s and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his presidential campaigns.
Sure to come up in her confirmation hearings before the Senate is the Pritzker family's co-ownership of Superior Bank, a Chicago-area thrift that failed in July 2001.
The institution lost millions on risky, high-rate mortgage loans to borrowers with bad credit. With about $1.7 billion in assets, it was at the time the largest insured U.S.
financial institution to fail since 1992 and cost the deposit insurance fund $286.3 million.
Federal regulators blamed risky business strategies by Superior's management for the collapse, but they also cited failures on the part of its auditor, Ernst & Young.
In announcing the pick Thursday, Obama described Pritzker as “one of our country's most distinguished business leaders.”
He cited her 25 years of management experience in real estate, finance and hospitality.
“She's built companies from the ground up,” Obama said. “She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur.”
As a member of the House, Terry won't get a vote on her confirmation.
But if her nomination is confirmed, he will be working with her in his role as chairman of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, indicated Thursday that GOP senators will take a close look at how Pritzker has handled her tax liabilities.
Grassley said she has been associated with “the kind of tax avoidance” that has been criticized by Obama.
“It's hypocritical to overlook tax avoidance when it's convenient,” Grassley said.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.
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