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Penny Pritzker could join Obama Cabinet as commerce secretary

President Barack Obamstands with Penny Pritzker chairman founder Pritzker Realty Group before start President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board Oct. 4

President Barack Obama stands with Penny Pritzker, chairman and founder of Pritzker Realty Group, before the start of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board on Oct. 4, 2010, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. | Susan Walsh~AP file photo

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Updated: March 2, 2013 6:26AM

Pritzker power . . .


Sneed hears the name of hotel heiress/Obama fund-raiser Penny Pritzker is surfacing again as the woman President Barack Obama would like to become his commerce secretary.

◆ Backstory: The powerful Pritzker, who served as the national finance chair for Obama’s first presidential campaign, withdrew her name from consideration for the position just a few weeks after Obama won in 2008.

◆ Backchat: Pritzker and her family own major portions of the Hyatt hotel empire, which in 2008, along with a failed Illinois bank, was viewed as an obstacle for her confirmation. However, in 2012 Pritzker removed herself from one portion of Hyatt: She stepped down as chairwoman of Vi, the Hyatt retirement community chain.

◆ Backshot: At the end of 2011, the Pritzkers divided their $19 billion in assets among 11 members of the family, and Penny sold stakes in a number of her businesses. She still sits on the Hyatt board of trustees.

◆ Potshot: Pritzker, who was introduced to the Obamas by presidential best friend Marty Nesbitt, scaled back her role in the 2012 Obama campaign, serving as national co-chair. The New York Times reported in 2012 Pritzker dealt with animosity from major donors she recruited when they were unhappy with Obama’s decisions as president, in addition to personal attacks from union leaders based on how Hyatt treated their workers.

◆ Final shot: But all is happy now, and Pritzker checked into the Hyatt in Washington, D.C., the hotel of choice for Obama’s closest pals, to celebrate the presidential inauguration at the White House.

Hillaryville . . .

Yowser, it was Bowser: Yep, that was ole Bill and Hill walking their dog down Massachusetts Avenue in the nation’s capital earlier this week. Latest Clinton chat is the famous couple are looking for a new home in the tony Hamptons, where they rent each summer and Hillary can rest up.

Alphabet soup . . .

Pfffft! Give him a “P”. . . give him a “P”. . . and give him a double “F”!

◆ Translation: It appears President Obama, who has been described as an insular man who prefers the company of a small circle of advisers, apparently likes his senior White House advisers to have either the first name David (as in Axelrod and Plouffe) or last names that start with “P” and contain two “F”s, as in Plouffe and his new senior adviser, former White House Communications Director Daniel Pfeiffer.

The Daley file . . .

Former U.S. Commerce Secretary/White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, who is in Hong Kong promoting business development for the city along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brilliant best business buddy, Michael Sacks, is not only an expert on international business in China — but nixed an opportunity to become U.S. ambassador to China during President Obama’s early years in office.

Oh oh Oprah . . .

Emanuel power: In case you missed it, now comes word Oprah Winfrey switched talent agencies the week after her interview with Lance Armstrong aired. Formerly represented by CAA, Oprah (whose birthday is Tuesday) has now signed with William Morris Endeavor’s Ari Emanuel — brother to Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

Chump change . . .

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis’ charge Monday that the Chicago Public Schools used bookkeeping sleight of hand to show a $1 billion deficit for 2014 — which Lewis claims doesn’t exist — was a lot “tougher” while addressing a Sunday brunch for the Men’s Club at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook.

◆ Sneed is told she calls the CPS bookkeeping “phony.”

◆ CPS denies it, saying an unexpected $344 million that showed up on last year’s books is no surplus but money already earmarked for this year’s budget.

I spy . . .

White Sox player Paul Konerko spotted dining at The Local Chicago for lunch on Saturday and shaking every customer and employee’s hand before leaving . . . After last night’s big Blackhawks win, pucksters Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell, Corey Crawford and Andrew Shaw hit Chicago Cut for dinner after their record-setting win.

Sneedlings . . .

Tuesday’s birthdays: Oprah Winfrey, 59; Tom Selleck, 68, and Heather Graham, 43.

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