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President Barack Obama's pick for commerce secretary, Chicago's Penny Pritzker, is leaving the world she has dominated for decades - as a business tycoon, civic leader, and philanthropist - to become, if confirmed, the storied clan's first major public official.
"She has always been active on not-for-profit boards, and more recently the Chicago Board of Education," White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told me Thursday, a little after Obama announced her appointment in a Rose Garden ceremony.
"She cares deeply about giving back. If not for a president that she respects and knows so well, then when? This felt both the right time and the perfect position."
Pritzker now is the most public face of a private family, one of the nation's wealthiest - and most charitable - who vaulted from the business sections to the political pages as Obama's 2008 national finance chair. Before that, the Pritzker in the political news had mainly been her younger brother, J.B., who in 1998 lost a Democratic primary House bid.
After the 2008 election, Pritzker was in the running to be commerce secretary, but withdrew her name. The Obama team was concerned about the optics; Obama was going to change how business was done in Washington and installing his billionaire finance chair would be sending the wrong message. Also, Pritzker's own financial picture was complicated and would have been difficult to untangle.
With Pritzker's finances streamlined in the past four years - and with her lower profile in the Obama 2012 reelection campaign, with Obama not worried about re-election and with a sense of carving out a unique Pritzker public service role - the time was right.
"She's charged up," said David Axelrod, Obama's former top strategist who was in the Rose Garden for the announcement. "And I don't think whatever comes in the way of static is on her mind."
The commerce appointment comes at a price the billionaire Pritzker is willing to pay: extensive financial disclosure and scrutiny by the Senate Commerce, Transportation and Science Committee. No date has been set for her confirmation hearings, though a spokesman for Committee Chair Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W-Va.) said Thursday the aim is for "as quick a confirmation process as possible."
I thought Pritzker would have had to reveal at least a little something about her financial empire in the statement of economic interests she filed with the Cook County clerk last May 1 in connection with her Chicago Board of Education appointment. Turned out, she disclosed nothing.
Instead of listing the identity of any capital asset from which a gain of $5,000 or mroe was realized - as requested - Pritzker's reply on the form was that if anyone wanted more information about the family's "numerous capital assets" they should contact the Pritzker family office.
Can't get away with that again.
Pritzker will have two main confirmation issues: the failure of Superior Bank, a Hindsdale savings and loan the Pritzker family controlled, short-changing 1,406 depositors, and tax avoidance tactics employed by her various holdings.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement: "Every nominee's offshore tax avoidance activities should be examined as part of the nomination process. If the commerce Committee doesn't explore those questions with the nominee, I plan to do so, but I hope the committee will at least give the tax history a serious look."
As soon as Obama made the announcement, the Republican National Committee went after her for her role in the 2001 bank failure with an email headlined, "The new addition to Obama's economic team is another policial ally with a history of controversial business practices."
A 2008 Sun-Times story revealed a May 2001 letter that Pritzker wrote where she "appeared to be taking a leadership role in trying to revive the bank with an expanded push into subprime loans." The bank failed a few months later.
Chicago attorney Clint Krislov represented the depositors who lost money and I asked him Thursday about the Pritzker appointment. Krislov - a Democratic donor - told me, "the signal we're sending is if you are very wealthy you get a special deal and you get a Cabinet spot."
GOP Senate reaction was luke-warm and Sen. Mark Kirk did not bother putting out a statement for his home-state pick.
Sen. Dick Durbin, other Democrats and - most telling - a variety of influential GOP oriented business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all welcomed the Pritzker appointment.
Bottom line: Unless there is some surprise, Pritzker - who has been the support of the business community - will be confirmed.
Pritzker turned 54 on Thursday and Obama took note of her birthday in his remarks.
"So happy birthday, Penny. For your birthday present, you get to go through confirmation. It's going to be great."
(Sun Times, Pages 2-3) Source: Chicago Sun Times
A stay at the house of a Hollywood entertainment mogul, transportation on the tabs of millionaire venture capitalists and, for the second straight year, sports tickets, meals and more from his close adviser Michael Sacks.
These perks and others are listed on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's annual economic interest statement, and once again illustrate how Chicago's chief executive moves in some of the country's elite entertainment and financial circles.
Emanuel's 2012 statement filed this week with the Cook Country Clerk's office requires disclosure of any gifts valued at more than $500 and any capital asset from which he earned at least $5,000 during the year.
The list of gifts was full of top executives covering transportation costs for Emanuel, but state law does not require the mayor to provide any additional detail. Althought the mayor frequently touts his administration's transperency, a spokesman did not provide requested details about the transportation gifts, including the purpose and whether the rides were on private jets, commercial airliners or some other form of transit.
"The mayor disclosed everything he had to," said Tom Alexander, a spokesman for Emanuel.
One of the marquee names on the mayor's gift list was music executive and film producer David Geffen. Emanuel listed Geffen's name with the notation "house guest" to describe the gift.
The mayor was also a house-guest of Chicago law firm partner Sidney "Skip" Herman and of Chicago medical products company CEP Jim Abrams, according to the report.
For the second year, Emanuel reported taking sports tickets, meals and transportation from Sacks, who leads the World Business Chicago economic development board for the mayor. Sacks is CEO of the Chicago hedge fund firm Grosvenor Capital Management.
Not surprisingly, most of the gift-givers who dot Emanuel's economic interest statement also have been major campaign donors, including Herman and Abrams, who is chief operating officer of Medline Industries Inc.
Geffen and Sacks are among Emanuel's biggest donors, each contributing $100,000 during his campaign, according to state records.
Emanuel also reported receiving transportation from major political donor Kenneth Griffin, the founder of the Chicago hedge fund firm Citadel LLC. Griffin and his wife, Anne Dias Griffin, the founder of Chicago hedge fund firm Aragon Global Management, have donated millions of dollars to Republican causes but also contributed $200,000 to Emanuel's campaign in 2011.
The mayor also reported having separate transportation costs picked up by Groupon co-founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, who also founded the Chicago venture capital firm Lightbank.
Emanuel also reported accepting transportation from Chicago finance magnate Jim Crown, a co-chair of President Barack Obama's 2008 Illinois finance committee. Crown and top executives with private investment firm Henry Crown & Co. have contributed more than $100,000 to Emanuel's campaign.
Sam Mencoff, a co-CEO of the Chicago private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners, and Bob Clark, chairman and CEO of construction firm Clayco, also covered transportation costs for Emanuel, according to the mayor's report. Both men are Emanuel campaign contributors as well.
Emanuel held a news conference with Clark in January to announce that the St. Louis firm was moving its headquarters to Chicago. The firm is seeking infrastructure business in Chicago and elsewhere.
Emanuel also listed gifts from the investment bank Allen & Co. for transportation and being a guest at a conference. The mayor also reported receiving at least $5,000 each from investments in two J.P. Morgan mutual funds.
(Chicago Tribune, Page 4) Source: Chicago Tribune
A coalition of clergy on Tuesday blasted the mayor's latest plan to charge non-profits for water, saying the proposal failed to meet their needs.
On Sunday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel changed his decision to take away free water from nonprofit organizations, putting forth a compromise plan that woud, restore the perk to groups with assets under $1 million.
But Elder Kevin Ford, of the Interfaith Coalition to Restore the Water Fee Exemption, said the cutoff should be higher. An amendment to the current water fee ordinance suggested by the coalition and supported by 29 aldermen asks that nonprofits with less than $250 million in assets be exempt from paying for water.
"Is the expectation we'll sell those assets [church buildings and other property] in order to get $1 million in assets?" Ford asked at the news conference at his church's community center at St. Paul Church of God in Christ.
Saying that the leaders of nonprofits had to "be practical and pragmatic" about what the city could afford, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) called on her colleagues in the City Council to release the ordinance from the budget committee for a vote and almost certain passage.
Cardinal Francis George acknowledged that nonprofits "should help contribute" but suggested organizations' operating budgets could be used to determine water costs instead of their assets.
"The lake is a gift from God," George added. "We feel sometimes we should charge the city for using our water."
Archdiocese of Chicago Chancellor Jimmy Lago argued the cost of the water for nonprofits could be covered by major institutions like Northwestern Hospital that would fall outside the cutoff.
Organizations with assets about Emanuel's cutoff were vocal about their frustration.
Having to pay for the water Diana Faust's organization uses would force her to cut 10 percent of its work with the homeless.
Faust, the executive director of the Franciscan Outreach Association, said her group has a $2 million budget, $525,000 of which comes from the city to help her run two homeless shelters and help thousands of needy find homes.
In 2011, Emanuel eliminated the free water perk for hospitals, churches, universities and other nonprofits.
(Sun Times, Page 16) Source: Chicago Sun Times
As part of the programming for the 2013-14 One Book, One Chicago selection, Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story Of America's Great Migration, the Chicago Public Library welcomes Timuel D. Black, Jr., Linda Johnson Rice, and Adam Green for an engaging conversation of how the Great Migration shaped their lives and the city of Chicago. The free program takes place on Monday, May 6 at 6 p.m., in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St. Timuel D. Black, Jr., a recent Champion of Freedom Award recipient, is a Chicago educator, activist and historian who has written extensively on the Great Migration in his books Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration and Bridges of Memory Volume 2: Chicago's Second Generation of Black Migration. Linda Johnson Rice's parents, John and Eunice Johnson, came to Chicago from the South and built the Johnson Publishing Company, one of the world's most successful black-owned media companies of which Ms. Rice is President and CEO. University of Chicago History Professor Adam Green, writes about the Great Migration in his books Selling the Race: The Culture and Community in Black Chicago, 1940-1955 and Time Longer than Rope: Studies in African American Activism, 1850-1950. One book, One Chicago is presented by the Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Public Library Foundation, Allstate, and BMO Harris. For more information, visit chicagopubliclibrary.org, or call 312-747-4050.
Kim Kardashian is advising family and friends not to send her any baby gifts. Instead, she'd prefer those who are feeling generous to make a donation to a Chicago hospital for kids.
TMZ reported Tuesday that "there's NO baby registry - despite the slew of fakes popping up on the Internet" and that Kardashian and her beau, rapper Kanye West, are encouraging gifts to Chicago's Lurie Children's Hospital.
Kardashian says she's gotten more used to pregnancy.
"Now I think I'm past all the awkward phases and stages, and once you feel the baby kick it's a whole new experience," Kardashian said Monday while attending the E! Network Upfront in New York. "I finally really embrace it."
Pregnancy hasn't slowed her down. After spending several days in Mykonos, Greece, the "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" star went to Paris to meet West, where he is reportedly working on his new album - reportedly a "dark" and "raw" affair.
(Sun Times, Page 33) Source: Chicago Sun Times