Penny Pritzker Commerce Secretary: Did Obama's Nominee Leave $80 Million Off Tax Receipts


In today's version of irony that cannot be made up, Penny Pritzker, President Obama's nominee to head the Commerce Department, revised her financial records to include $80 million in income that was "inadvertently" not reported. To us mortals that may seem like a lot of money to forget but Pritzker is a billionaire because of her family's fortunes from the Hyatt hotel chain. While this may have been a genuinely innocent mistake, Pritzker's family is also (in)famous for tax evasion

The error was found by Pritzker's financial advisers after the submission of the 184-page records. According to Bloomberg News, the original documents showed that Pritzker earned $32.2 million over a ten-year period for consulting on the restructuring of domestic trusts. William Bigelow details this income for Breitbart as coming from the restructuring of intergenerational family trusts because of a feud that split the Hyatt empire. 

The revised number is $80 million higher and was corrected apparently as soon as it was discovered. 

Pritzker is not outright opposed by Republicans, but things might change now. Her failed attempts to revive Superior Bank were the only cause of concern before this incident. U.S. News and Opinion's Pat Garfolo pointed out that Pritzker even faced a Senate hearing last week where Republicans did not drudge up her family's troubled past with tax evasion.

Garfolo clarifies that the tax evasion strategies that Pritzker's family is known for (see this great summary of it and brilliant examples of cognitive dissonance from Pritzker in theNew York Times) is similar to the strategies used by Mitt Romney and other wealthy Republicans.

Tax evasion costs each American taxpayer $1,026 a year and if Republicans were to highlight this aspect of Prtizker's history they would be walking into a hypocritical grey area. Not that they're new to that

That said, it is fair to be skeptical of Pritzker's error and personal financial record in the context of her job performance. If we give Pritzker the benefit of the doubt in this case, she could still be an effective Commerce Department leader if President Obama and the White House can effectively shape the tax evasion debate in their favor. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) even said that her performance at the Senate hearing last week went "well," according to Politico's Tarini Parti.

Republicans have blocked President Obama's nominees every chance they've got to the point that President Obama has threatened changing the laws. It remains to be seen whether Republicans will jump on this chance to block Pritzker or let her through and use their leverage for other cases.

Somewhere, a Republican strategist is crunching the numbers right now.