Pritzker’s Priorities: ‘Grow Exports’

Photograph by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Elle

Penny Pritzker, left, and Robbie Myers attend ELLE’s annual Women in Washington Power List dinner hosted by Myers, ELLE Editor-in-Chief, with Gucci at Villa Firenze, the home of the Italian Ambassador, on March 25, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s priority for 2014 is to “grow exports and to work with more foreign exports to grow the economy and grow jobs,” she says.

Pritzker, honored last night at a dinner hosted by Elle Magazine and Gucci, took some time to reflect on matters of style and enjoy herself at the glamorous affair at Villa Firenze,  home of  Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero.

“My new head of international trade, he’s not been confirmed yet, but he’s got great style,” she said. “He just pulls it all together. He’s elegant and there’s a touch of whimsy to his approach, but he’s very serious.”

She was speaking of Stefan M. Selig, a top executive at Bank of America.

Standing in the house’s parlor, wearing a blue cocktail dress and holding a Bottega Veneta clutch, the president’s Cabinet member and campaign finance supporter from Chicago said she’s optimistic about job creation.

“I’ve probably been in 10 or 15 countries since I’ve been in this job,” she said. “The interesting thing is people want to invest here, and our own companies see the opportunity and other  countries around the world see the opportunity, and my job is to work with them to set the conditions to work here.”

Pritzker’s fellow honorees, including Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii Democrat, are featured in a fashion spread about Washington’s influential women in Elle’s April issue.

After the three-course dinner, served in the house’s Venetian dining room with pink roses and candlelight, Collins said she’s trying to get the green Calvin Klein dress she wore in the magazine “on discount. They had to have it altered for me. Who else will it fit?”

What is she working on this year?

“Cyber security, and  getting the transportation and housing appropriations bill through. I’m working on a compromise on unemployment legislation that will strengthen the jobs training component.”

Reflecting on her full agenda, she added, “I need sleep.”

Gabbard, newly elected and the youngest member of the House, said: “I have been working on and will continue to champion justice for sexual assault victims in the military. We’ve made some progress.”

Bisogniero was absent for the dinner (he’s in Italy preparing for President Barack Obama’s stops in Rome and the Vatican tomorrow), but his wife, Laura Denise, filled in as host. Next week the Italian embassy will host business leaders such as William Swanson, chairman of the board of Raytheon Company, at the “La Primavera” gala.

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The previous evening at the Kennedy Center, Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, Rep. Jim Moran, Virginia Democrat, Rep. Leonard Lance, New Jersey Republican, and Rep. David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat, turned out for Alec Baldwin and Maureen Dowd.

Baldwin introduced the acerbic New York Times columnist as the Nancy Hanks Lecturer on Arts and Public Policy, an annual talk sponsored by Americans for the Arts.

She didn’t hesitate to get in a few jabs, saying that she could learn a thing or two about “the dark arts from Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan.”

Afterward, Dowd and Baldwin and their congressional friends headed to 701 Restaurant for a dinner party hosted by Ovation, the arts network.

Wearing green Manolo Blahnik heels, Dowd said “my instruction in fashion came from the movie stars of the 1930s and 40s. Today people look up to `The Real Housewives of Botox’.”

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