By Zac Corrigan
27 May 2013
On the eve of her confirmation hearing, President Obama’s nominee for commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker, admitted that she had underreported her 2012 income to the tune of $80 million, blaming a clerical error. Pritzker is worth an estimated $1.85 billion and would become the wealthiest US cabinet member in history. Her nomination underscores the increasingly plutocratic character of the Obama administration and the US government at large.
The $80 million in earnings that had been omitted were related to Pritzker’s role managing trust funds—financial instruments used by wealthy families to control vast sums of money across generations—and $54 million of it was related to an offshore fund based in the Bahamas. This admission comes in the wake of a recent study showing that as of 2012, wealthy Americans are hoarding up to $32 trillion in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.
Pritzker has played an important role in the Democratic Party’s own finances for years. She was the chair of Obama’s 2008 campaign finance team, which raised over $778 million, a record at the time. She went on to co-chair—along with Chicago Mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel—the president’s 2012 re-election campaign, which raised over $1 billion. She contributed $250,000 to Obama’s 2013 inauguration festivities. She is also a member of Obama’s Jobs Council, which advises the president on economic matters. MORE