President Barack Obama is nominating longtime fundraiser and philanthropist Penny Pritzker to run the Commerce Department and economic adviser Michael Froman to be the U.S. Trade Representative.
The president announced the nominations Thursday in a Rose Garden ceremony, where he promised to work them to the bone once they're on the job. He says they will help strengthen the economy and increase a sense of security for the middle class.
Commerce nominee Penny Pritzker, a businesswoman, philanthropist and Hyatt hotel scion, is Obama's final pick to fill vacancies among Cabinet secretaries in his second term. The Commerce post has been vacant since last summer, when former Secretary John Bryson resigned after he said he suffered a seizure that led to a series of traffic collisions.
Pritzker will become the fourth woman serving as secretary in Obama's current Cabinet. She also will 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.
Pritzker is a lifelong Chicagoan who has known Obama since the 1990s and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for both 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.
Obama has called her a fearless leader for his candidacy "who never wavered, never waffled and cracked the whip with grace and good cheer."
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.
Pritzker has led several companies and currently serves as chair of investment firms Pritzker Realty Group and Artemis Real Estate Partners. She's also on the board of the Hyatt Hotels Corp., the chain co-founded by her father.
She's 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.