Obama To Name Two Jewish Activists To Economic Posts

President Obama is close to filling out his second term cabinet with appointments to top economic posts of two longtime friends who also have a background of Jewish community activism.

He is expected to name Michael Froman to be the next U.S. Trade Representative and Penny Pritzker as secretary of commerce.

Froman, 50, is a former Harvard Law School classmate of the president, where they were editors of the Harvard Law Review, and he is currently the deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs. 

He grew up in San Francisco and was active in the B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) and in 1980 was elected the 56th Grand Aleph Godol (international president). 

In addition to his Harvard law degree he holds Ph.D. in international Relations from Oxford University.

Pritzker, a prominent Chicago businesswoman and longtime Jewish activist and philanthropist, is being vetted for appointment as secretary of commerce. She has been a leading Obama fundraiser, particularly prominent among Jewish supporters going back to his Senate race. 

“Without Penny Pritzker, it is unlikely that Barack Obama ever would have been elected to the United States Senate or the presidency,” according to the New York Times.

She turned down the Commerce job four years ago, but is reportedly ready to take it this time. Pritzker has law and business degrees from Sanford University and has played a prominent role in running her family’s Hyatt hotel, real estate and financial businesses. Forbes magazine says she is the 271st richest American and says her personal fortune is estimated at $1.85 billion.

If nominated, she can expect tough questioning in Senate confirmation hearings about Hyatt’s labor relations and the Pritzker family’s reputation for sheltering incomes to avoid taxes, according to Yahoo.com.

She chaired Obama’s fundraising operation during the 2008 campaign but played a less visible role in 2012. Some reports say she turned down the Commerce post four years ago, others contend that she wanted it but was passed over because of possible problems in the Senate.  In any event, it seems that after extensive vetting she is likely to get it this time.

The post has been open since former Commerce Sec. John Bryson resigned last year for health reasons.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.