Penny Pritzker, heiress to the Hyatt hotel fortune and one of Forbes' top 300 U.S. billionaires, is not without her critics. But as the high-powered businesswoman heads to her confirmation hearing Thursday on the road to becoming President Obama's commerce secretary, vocal opposition to her approval has been limited -- and there's scant evidence to suggest Congress will put up a hard fight to block her from getting the job.
Pritzker, who heads the investment firm PSP Capital Partners, is the daughter of a co-founder of the Hyatt hotel chain. She's also a longtime supporter of the president's and has played key economic roles in both of his presidential campaigns. In 2008, she worked as the Obama campaign's national fundraising chairwoman, and in 2012, she had no official campaign post but served as a major Democratic bundler. Some have questioned her qualifications for the job, but as the Wall Street Journal points out, the Commerce Department has a long history of tapping major campaign fundraisers to the job.
This isn't the first time Pritzker has been up for the job of commerce secretary: In 2008, she withdrew her name from consideration for it when it became clear the scrutiny on her finances could be potentially embarrassing for the Obama administration - and herself.
At the Senate Commerce Committee hearing Thursday, Pritzker will likely face tough questions about her economic history: In a 184-page financial disclosure report, she acknowledged the existence of at least one offshore trust and recorded $53.6 million worth of "consulting" income from her family's offshore trust in 2012 alone. According to Forbes, her family has historically had "a famous taste and talent for avoiding taxes." And questions have been raised about her involvement with Superior Bank, a Chicago-area bank that folded in 2001 after engaging in subprime lending.
But the White House says it's confident she'll "have broad support" from the Senate despite past questions about her financial assets.
"Penny was asked not to be considered for the position in 2008," one White House official told CBSNews.com. "At the time she was managing a portfolio that was under pressure due to the financial crisis of the time and those businesses had thousands of employees."
This time around, the official said, folks like the Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Financial Services Forum were swift to announce their support for Pritzker. And the issues that had led to her withdrawal in 2009 are apparently no longer as grave a concern.
"[Her financials] were obviously looked at by career folks both at the Commerce Department and the Office of Government Ethics," the official said. "Both obviously went through a rigorous review process and we're confident that she'll be confirmed."
As Republicans focus on a slew of controversies facing the Obama administration, and with a series of potentially tough nomination battles on the horizon for the president's picks to lead the Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency, the GOP appears to have its sights elsewhere.
After Pritzker mer with ranking commerce committee member Sen. John Thune, R-N.D., last week, he offered up a measured response, promising a "rigorous, fair, and thorough" hearing while neither praising nor criticizing her capabilities. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., meanwhile, has announced he'll not only support Pritzker's bid but also introduce her at the hearing.
And while Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has expressed a determination to scrutinize any "tax avoidance activity" in her past, he told the Wall Street Journal this week he thought her prospects for confirmation were "probably good."
One Democratic aide for the Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., suggested there's not a lot of concern so far about Pritzker's prospects.
"Chairman Rockefeller believes Ms. Pritzker is a highly qualified candidate with decades of experience in a broad range of business and civic organizations," the aide said in an email. "He looks forward to discussing the challenges facing the Commerce Department with Ms. Pritzker at [Thursday's] nominations hearing and fully expects her to be voted out of Committee and receive full Senate confirmation."
So far, the most vocal objections to Pritzker's nomination have come from the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, which is protesting the nomination on the grounds that Hyatt, for which Pritzker has served on the Board of Directors since 2004, is one of "the worst hotel employers in America."
"What we've seen over the last several years is a broad spectrum of labor abuses," said Annemarie Strassle, a spokeswoman for the union UNITE HERE. "As somebody who has been the leader of this company as all of these problems have taken place, she should be held responsible."
But the AFL-CIO, one of the nation's most prominent labor unions, is staying quiet on the issue.
"We're not talking about Pritzker," AFL-CIO spokesman Jeff Hauser told CBSNews.com in an email. Asked why not, he declined to comment.