WBEZ | obama cabinet http://www.wbez.org/tags/obama-cabinet Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Pritzker would join growing list of Chicagoans in White House http://www.wbez.org/news/pritzker-would-join-growing-list-chicagoans-white-house-106970 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP766081941098.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Even before Penny Pritzker was nominated to be Commerce Secretary, her detractors had been accusing President Obama of cronyism for even considering her for the job.</p><p>Pritzker, a billionaire Chicago businesswoman, has long been a political ally and big fundraiser for Obama. And if her nomination is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Pritzker would be far from the first Chicagoan to leave the Windy City for the Obama White House.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s reputation for political nepotism has made Obama&rsquo;s hometown appointments an easy target for his critics. But one expert on Obama presidential patronage suggested presidents are wise to promote from within their inner circle.</p><p>After all, Obama helped win election in 2008 with the help of two top advisors, Chicagoans David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett. Once in office, he tapped former Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan to be Education Secretary, University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee to be a top economic advisor, and two successive chiefs of staff to muscle through his agenda &ndash; current Mayor Rahm Emanuel and William Daley, brother to the former mayor, and all are Chicagoans.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s Rabbi Sam Gordon, of Congregation Sukkat Shalom, in north suburban Wilmette.</p><p>Gordon was appointed last month to the board that oversees the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, one of hundreds of presidential appointments that don&rsquo;t get much press coverage.</p><p>So how&rsquo;d he get it?</p><p>Not likely from the $1,000 he&rsquo;s donated to Obama&rsquo;s presidential campaigns.</p><p>&ldquo;Last time I checked, I&rsquo;m not a major donor, that&rsquo;s right,&rdquo; Gordon joked.</p><p>But Gordon says he did know the president at the genesis of his political career, adding that his daughter even volunteered on one of Obama&rsquo;s early State Senate campaigns.</p><p>So the president already knew Gordon was plugged into the Jewish community &ndash; and, yes, the Chicago connection helped him get the unpaid appointment, he said.</p><p>&ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t know the president if it weren&rsquo;t for Chicago,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I mean, that&rsquo;s one of the great things about being in Chicago, uh, and the great things about a community that is so open and where people can know each other so well.&rdquo;</p><p>Not everyone buys the power of Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think it really has too much to do with a geographic location,&rdquo; said Louis B. Susman, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Susman was a top political fundraiser for Obama before getting his ambassadorship &ndash; the kind of cushy posting that&rsquo;s often seen as a reward for top political allies.</p><p>But Susman says that&rsquo;s not the whole picture.</p><p>&ldquo;Look, obviously you appoint people that have worked hard for you, but he&rsquo;s not going to appoint people that he doesn&rsquo;t think can do the job,&rdquo; Susman said of the president.</p><p>Both Susman and Gordon represent two typical types of presidential appointees: The long-time supporter and the political loyalist, said Vanderbilt University&rsquo;s Dave Lewis, who has studied patronage in the Obama White House.</p><p>There is always the risk of bad political optics and the impression of insider dealing when presidents appoint from their own political circles, Lewis said. It&rsquo;s not uncommon: Lewis said President Clinton had his appointees from Arkansas, and President George W. Bush tapped Texans.</p><p>Lewis called Pritzker a &ldquo;triple threat,&rdquo; because she was not only an early Obama supporter and a prolific fundraiser, but her business acumen makes her a good fit as Commerce Secretary.</p><p>&ldquo;And you wanna reward people who have publicly supported you for a long time because that sends the right signal to other people who are considering whether or not to support you, and she fills all of those criteria,&rdquo; Lewis said.</p><p>And, Lewis says, the Chicago connection doesn&rsquo;t hurt, either.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe is a political reporter for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 03 May 2013 09:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/pritzker-would-join-growing-list-chicagoans-white-house-106970 Obama taps Penny Pritzker for Commerce secretary http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-taps-penny-pritzker-commerce-secretary-106942 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Bill Healy - Board of Ed pics 374 copy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Barack Obama on Thursday chose two old friends with corporate executive experience for top posts on his economic team, naming longtime fundraiser Penny Pritzker as Commerce secretary and adviser Michael Froman as U.S. Trade Representative.</p><p>Pritzker, a Hyatt hotel heiress, businesswoman and philanthropist, is Obama&#39;s pick to fill a Cabinet post that has been vacant since former Secretary John Bryson resigned last summer, after he said he suffered a seizure that led to a series of traffic collisions.</p><p>Froman is one of Obama&#39;s law school classmates and senior economic advisers who previously worked as an executive at Citigroup. The Cabinet-level trade representative performs as the administration&#39;s top adviser and negotiator on international trade. If confirmed by the Senate, Froman would replace Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor who stepped down as trade representative in February after serving in the post throughout Obama&#39;s first term.</p><p>Obama made the nominations in the White House Rose Garden just before departing for Mexico. He said the two will help fulfill his top priority to grow the economy and create middle class jobs, in part by opening new markets overseas to sell U.S. products.</p><p>&quot;They&#39;ve got a lot of work to do, and I intend to work them to the bone as soon as they&#39;re official,&quot; Obama said to laughter from a crowd that included the nominees&#39; families and administration staff.</p><p>If she is confirmed by the Senate, Pritzker would become the fourth woman serving as secretary in Obama&#39;s current Cabinet. She also would be the wealthiest in the Cabinet by far, with Forbes estimating her net worth at $1.85 billion and ranking her as the 277th richest American.</p><p>Pritzker is a lifelong Chicagoan who has known Obama since the 1990s and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for both of his presidential campaigns. She was his finance chairwoman in 2008, served as co-chair of Obama for America 2012 and gave $250,000 to help put on his inaugural festivities in January.</p><p>Obama selected her for his 16-member Presidential Economic Recovery Advisory Board in 2009. When that board expired, Obama included her in his 26-member Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.</p><p>Pritzker has led several companies and currently serves as chair of investment firms Pritzker Realty Group and Artemis Real Estate Partners. She&#39;s also on the board of the Hyatt Hotels Corp., the chain co-founded by her father.</p><p>Pritzker has donated generously to education and the arts and resigned from the Chicago Board of Education in March as she was being vetted for the Commerce nomination.</p><p>&quot;She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur,&quot; Obama said. He also noted he was nominating her on her 54th birthday and joked, &quot;For your birthday present, you get to go through confirmation. It&#39;s going to be great.&quot;</p><p>Sure to come up is the Pritzker family&#39;s co-ownership of Superior Bank, a Chicago-area thrift that failed in July 2001 after losing millions on risky, high-rate mortgage loans to borrowers with bad credit. With about $1.7 billion in assets, it was at the time the largest insured U.S. financial institution to fail since 1992 and cost the deposit insurance fund $286.3 million.</p><p>Federal regulators blamed risky business strategies by Superior&#39;s management for the collapse, but they also cited failures on the part of its auditor Ernst &amp; Young.</p><p>The Pritzker family and its partner in Superior agreed to pay $460 million without admitting any liability in a settlement with the regulators. In exchange, the owners were allowed to receive 25 percent of any money the government recovered from Ernst &amp; Young, which came to about $31 million.</p><p>Froman, Obama&#39;s deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, is steeped in the issues confronting the trade representative.</p><p>He has been Obama&#39;s main representative at international economic summits such as the meetings of the Group of Eight and Group of 20. He is responsible for coordinating White House policy on international trade, investments, energy, climate and development.</p><p>Obama credited Froman with helping negotiate trade agreements for South Korea, Colombia and Panama that the president said have supported tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.</p><p>&quot;He has also won a reputation as being an extraordinarily tough negotiator while doing it,&quot; Obama said. &quot;He does not rest until he&#39;s delivered the best possible deal for American businesses and American workers. He&#39;s fought to make sure that countries that break the rules are held accountable.&quot;</p><p>Froman served during President Bill Clinton&#39;s administration as chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. He also worked as deputy assistant secretary for Eurasia and the Middle East and did a White House stint similar to his current job under Obama.</p><p>Before joining the Obama economic and national security teams he worked in various capacities at Citigroup, including as managing partner of the Wall Street bank. He also has been a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund.</p><p>Among the top ongoing trade issues are negotiations over the Trans-Pacific partnership, an Asia-Pacific trading bloc that is key to Obama&#39;s efforts to boost exports to Asia. Members include the U.S., Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore and Peru. Last month, the U.S. approved Japan&#39;s entry into negotiations on the trading bloc.</p><p>___</p><p>AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace, AP Business Writer Marcy Gordon and AP writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.</p></p> Thu, 02 May 2013 06:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-taps-penny-pritzker-commerce-secretary-106942 Transportation secretary Ray LaHood to leave administration http://www.wbez.org/news/transportation-secretary-ray-lahood-leave-administration-105193 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 9.28.24 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who lifted the profile of distracted driving as a national safety concern, is stepping down, presenting President Barack Obama with another Cabinet vacancy at the start of his second term.</p><p>The former congressman from Illinois and one of only two Republicans who served in Obama&#39;s Cabinet, LaHood worked for more safety in the air and on the ground and pushed for improvements of roads and bridges. Under his watch, the department demanded tougher fuel efficiency requirements for automakers and took steps to address airline pilot fatigue.</p><p>Obama, who at one point served with LaHood in the Illinois congressional delegation, said they were &quot;drawn together by a shared belief that those of us in public service owe an allegiance not to party or faction, but to the people we were elected to represent. And Ray has never wavered in that belief.&quot;</p><p>LaHood, 67, said in an interview with The Associated Press that he told Obama a week after the November election that he needed to move on. But he also said he was still &quot;conflicted&quot; by his decision because he liked working for the president and considered it the &quot;best job I&#39;ve ever had in public service.&quot;</p><p>He said he plans to remain at the department until his successor is confirmed by the Senate, which he expects in about two months. The only other Republican who was in Obama&#39;s first-term Cabinet was Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who stepped aside and was replaced by Democrat Leon Panetta earlier.</p><p>LaHood, who once considered likely to run for governor in his home state, said he would not seek public office and indicated he didn&#39;t have any specific plans.</p><p>&quot;I have had a good run. I&#39;m one of these people who believe that you should go out while they&#39;re applauding,&quot; he said. LaHood said he was content to watch from the sidelines as his oldest son, Darin, serves in the Illinois state senate.</p><p>His move continues an exodus that will give Obama&#39;s team a new look in his second term. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Panetta and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are departing and in addition to LaHood, the heads of the Interior and Labor departments also have announced their resignations. Obama has nominated former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to serve as defense secretary to succeed Panetta.</p><p>Possible replacements for LaHood include Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has pushed for increased rail service in Los Angeles and served as chairman of last year&#39;s Democratic National Convention, and Debbie Hersman, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. The name of former Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, who led the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has also been mentioned.</p><p>LaHood served seven terms in Congress representing a central Illinois district that includes his hometown of Peoria, Ill., before he was chosen by Obama for the post. He traveled widely, visiting 49 states, 210 cities and 18 countries promoting Obama&#39;s agenda. He made trips that allowed him to ride some of the world&#39;s fastest trains and inspect the latest vehicles at auto shows.</p><p>In Washington, he would occasionally don a bicycle helmet and peddle around the District to promote bike lanes.</p><p>At the start of the new administration, LaHood spearheaded efforts to stimulate the economy through transportation construction projects and promoted the administration&#39;s vision of a nation connected by high-speed trains. But the high-speed rail program, which was supposed to be one of the president&#39;s signature projects, has been on life-support since Republicans regained control of the House in the 2010 election.</p><p>The department struggled with how to pay for the repair and improvement of the nation&#39;s aging transportation network and eventually reached a compromise with Congress last year on a more limited, scaled-back 2-year plan that gives states more flexibility in how they spend federal money.</p><p>Perhaps LaHood&#39;s most passionate work involved distracted driving, which he called a &quot;national epidemic.&quot; He launched a national media campaign to end texting and cellphone use by drivers, an awareness campaign that drew comparisons to efforts to promote seat belt use more than a generation ago. He buttonholed auto executives to help reduce driver distraction and would even yell at other drivers on occasion to put down their cellphones.</p><p>&quot;Every time someone takes their focus off the road &mdash; even if it&#39;s just for a moment &mdash; they put their lives and the lives of others in danger,&quot; he said in 2010.</p><p>During his tenure he slapped Toyota Motor Co. with record fines for delaying safety recalls and failing to promptly report problems to federal regulators. And he recently ordered United Airlines to ground its Boeing 787 Dreamliner following mishaps with the aircraft&#39;s batteries.</p></p> Tue, 29 Jan 2013 09:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/transportation-secretary-ray-lahood-leave-administration-105193