Penny Pritzker, the billionaire heiress whose family owns the Hyatt hotel chain, took a ride on Air Force One this afternoon from San Francisco to Portland, Ore., where President Obama was making a series of fundraising stops.
The ride came hours after the announcement of a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels by Unite Here, the nation’s largest hospitality workers union. That boycott has been joined by the National Organization for Women, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Black Justice Center, and the National Football League Players Association.
Pritzker was the national finance chair of Obama’s 2008 campaign. However, in 2012, despite raising a million dollars for Obama, Pritzker has stepped into a "backstage" role according to a recent front-page profile in the New York Times.
The New York Times reported:
For Ms. Pritzker, her high-profile backing of Mr. Obama came at an unexpectedly bitter cost. Their relationship made her a punching bag for the labor movement, which targeted her for what union officials call exploitative practices toward housekeepers by the Hyatt hotels.
She had drawn business and Jewish leaders to support Mr. Obama, but when many of them turned hostile toward the president because of his policies, some directed their ire toward her, even though she had her own criticisms, too.
The anger amounted to a "triple assault" on Ms. Pritzker, said William M. Daley, who succeeded Mr. Emanuel as chief of staff. "She’s borne the brunt of a lot of the attacks," he said.
Pritzker’s taxpayer-financed journey is not the first instance in which Obama has used the perks of presidential travel to reward donors.
Earlier today, Eva Longoria told "Fox and Friends" that she received a ride in the presidential motorcade during a recent Obama fundraising swing through Texas. And in early June, hedge fund billionaire Marc Lasry boasted to friends that participants in his $35,000 per person New York City event for Obama would get a chance to ride in the presidential motorcade.
The New York Times also published a glowing profile of Lasry this week. His son was the recipient of a White House job, according to the paper.
The rock star Jon Bon Jovi also received a ride on Air Force One from Washington D.C. to New York City for the same June fundraising swing.