Obama Nominates Penny Pritzker for Commerce Secretary

Hyatt heiress raised more than $1.3 million for Obama's two campaigns

President Obama and Penny Pritzker Thursday. (AP)

President Barack Obama rewarded one of his most prolific fundraisers Thursday, announcing his nomination of Hyatt heiress Penny Pritzker to become the secretary of commerce.

"Penny understands that just as great companies strengthen the communities around them, strong communities of skilled workers also help companies thrive," Obama said Thursday.

Pritzker is the chairman and chief executive officer of PSP Capital Partners, an investment firm, and its affiliate, Pritzker Reality Group. She has an estimated personal wealth of $1.85 billion.

Pritzker chaired the president's 2008 finance team and delivered a haul of more than $1.3 million for Obama's two campaigns, according to Open Secrets. A long-time Obama champion, Pritzker donated $13,000 to Obama's campaigns prior to his presidential efforts. Pritzker also personally wrote a $250,000 check for the president's inauguration this year.

The nomination is not a surprise. Pritzker was considered for the position in 2008, and resigned her position on the Chicago Board of Education last month, fueling increased speculation she would be Obama's commerce pick.

Notably, Pritzker has had a number of flare-ups with unions last year, and in the past, told Obama in 2009 that she opposed legislation for union-backed card check.

Despite a less prominent campaign role in 2012, Pritzker served as a co-chair of the president's campaign and flew on Air Force One last summer--the same day the largest national hospitality workers union announced a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels.

As a Chicago school board member, Pritzker was also a target last year of striking teachers. Thousands of teachers protested outside a Hyatt hotel during last year's strike.

"We know Penny Pritzker has a long and storied history as an anti-labor and anti-worker kind of boss," Chicago Teachers Union financial secretary Kristine Mayle told the Chicago Tribune last month. "Her policies adversely affect working families. She has worked to close schools and destabilize neighborhoods, and we hope she does a better job in her new position, if she gets it."

The commerce position has been vacant since former Secretary John Bryson resigned last year, following a car accident.