Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Payoff for an Oligarch

Charles Laurence writes:

Penny Pritzker is the fairy godmother whom Barack Obama will be thanking most profoundly - if privately - when he gets to his Inauguration Ball in Washington in January...Pritzker showered Obama with more than money: before any of the rest of us had heard of Barack Obama, she had taken him under her wing to give him the keys to the Chicago Establishment's fabled political 'machine' which has taken him to the White House...

Her victory makes her the undisputed chief of one of Chicago's wealthiest families, which has a combined wealth of more than $12bn and which founded the Hyatt hotel chain and myriad other businesses. It is also notorious for its secrecy and its feuds...

Obama will be well aware that there is no such thing as a free lunch in Chicago politics. The Pritzkers have done a lot for the new president, and now the question is, what can he do for them? Something to do with foreign policy is the hot tip back on the Gold Coast.

The Pritzkers have always been major supporters of Israel. After the Six Day War, the family built the Hyatt Regency hotel in east Jerusalem, and in his early days as an Illinois senator, Obama co-sponsored an amendment to the Illinois Pension Code allowing the state to make loans to Israel.

So, is it an embassy for Penny Pritzker?

There are also rumors that Pritzker may be named Commerce Secretary.

Whatever the position she lands, it is likely to be only a small part of the rewards this oligarch will gain from putting her man in the White House.

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