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Change you can believe in? Obama's bundlers get plum posts


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President Obama announced Thursday that Penny Pritzker, an ex-national finance chair for the Obama campaign, will lead the Commerce Department. If confirmed, she will be the richest cabinet secretary in U.S. history. The president already skipped over her for the nod once.

The New York Times said of Pritzker in 2008, "Ms. Pritzker's family is renowned for finding ways to avoid paying taxes on its wealth. The Pritzkers were pioneers in using tax loopholes to shelter their holdings from the internal revenue service, and many of their dealings have never been made public."

Pritzker's trusts were set up by her grandfather, and she has not received a dime from them, said Tommy Vietor, former White House National Security spokesman.

"What we need in a Commerce Secretary is somebody who can create jobs," said Vietor. "Those are the qualifications we should focus on, not something her grandfather did when she was a little girl."

On Wednesday, the president named another campaign bundler, Tom Wheeler to head up the Federal Communications Commission. Wheeler spent two decades as a lobbyist representing the two industry groups that represented every single cable company, and every single cellphone provider.

"This guy was a lobbyist a decade ago," said Vietor.

President Obama signed an executive order the day he stepped into office putting tough new anti-lobbying rules into place.

"The president took this important step, and you get kind of one day of stories about how this was sort of a good idea and a good move," said Vietor. "Then if you do anything where you mention lobbyist afterward, he's getting dinged for it."

"President Obama in his second term is clearly liberated enough to give really good jobs to fundraisers," said A.B. Stoddard, associate editor with The Hill.

Stoddard said nominating Pritzger is the bigger problem.

If "Obama is looking at a larger budget deal that contains tax reform, he is really going to hear it about tax warfare, and loopholes from your fancy, fat cat friends from Republicans in her nomination," said Stoddard.

Also making political news is the renewed effort for gun control. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, is renewing his failed push for expanded background checks for gun purchases.

But his Republican counterpart on that bill, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, said on Tuesday that Republicans "did not want to be perceived helping something that the president wants to accomplish, simply because it's the president who wants to accomplish it."

"As sure as dogs will bark in a kennel, politicians in Washington, D.C. are going to play politics," said Kevin Madden, former Romney campaign adviser.

"The belief that we don't need another set, another level of federal gun laws ... that was at the heart of that opposition," said Madden.

Manchin and Toomey had no time to twist arms on their failed gun bill, said Stoddard.

Given enough time, added Stoddard, they can make some headway. But Vice President Joe Biden pushing to accomplish gun control this year, and all the polling in favor of it, said Stoddard, "will push them, the coalition, to try and bring something up too soon, and I don't think they're going to make it the second time."

"This is a very long marathon," said Stoddard.

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