[Update: Wouldn't you know it -- I put this post together late Saturday night and Sunday morning's Inky has another story on the PA Society. Look for info from today's story at the bottom of this post]
As you may have read most of Pennsylvania's political community has fled to New York for the annual Pennsylvania Society weekend. I say most because while the bigwigs are off hobnobbing, the footsoldiers are home guarding the store. Or maybe my invitation was lost in the mail. ;)
If you have ever wondered how the tradition got started, here is some information from two Inky articles (citations at the end of the posting).
Every December for 105 years, the political establishment has moved to the neutral territory of New York for a weekend that reflects the industry it celebrates: plentiful business interests, intense competition for the attention of elected officials, and big fund-raisers. (2004)
and more here
The society was created by Pennsylvania steel, coal and oil magnates, who spent so much time in New York on business that they gathered over dinner annually to renew their ties to the state. Its membership, until recently, largely consisted of Republicans, who - in the early days, at least - convened closed-door meetings in smoke-filled rooms to select their statewide political candidates.
Since then, the annual fete has evolved into a weekend-long affair of parties and private meetings among politicians, lobbyists, business executives and lawyers from all corners of the state and Washington. It especially remains a must-attend for wanna-be office holders looking for face time with Pennsylvania's most powerful people. (2003)
It was not originally so:
The society, a nonprofit organization with a 15-member council, frowns on fund-raising events. But they appear to be a mainstay of the event(2004)
Not everyone views it benevolently:
The gluttony is not without its critics. Barry Kauffman, executive director of Pennsylvania Common Cause, a Harrisburg-based government watchdog group, said the weekend represents "a characteristic of a pervasive problem in Pennsylvania."
"We've noted the extraordinary opportunity this dinner provides for wealthy special interests to mingle with the movers and shakers in state government," Kauffman said. "It is there where a lot of candidates for state government are first floated. It is there where people find out their fund-raising viability - can they attract fat-cat money? (2003)
He has reason to worry, as you can see from these two quotes:
"We live by the philosophy that luck is when pursuit meets opportunity," said Kenneth Segarnick, counsel to New Jersey-based Brandywine Senior Care. "Coming here is the pursuit. There's a breeding ground of opportunity, and so as long as you stay and play, you'll find what you are looking for." (2003)
And, my personal favorite:
"You have to get up there and see your contributors," Perzel said. "I need the money to fuel the political engine; that's a reality today. . . . Do you think we're going to let Gov. Rendell ratchet things up and not respond?" (2004)
Update: This year's bash is being attended by over "1,000 politicans, business executives and lobbyists."
"Senate President Pro Tem Robert Jubelirer (R. Blair) defended the weekend: 'This is not class warfare -- just an opportunity to let your hair down a bit.'"
My favorite quote:
"One weekend attendee, Ken Davis, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, was shopping around his candidate for lieutenant governor, Montgomery County Commissioner Jim Matthews. 'I don't know anyone who's been bought at Pennsylvania Society,' David Said. 'Rented maybe -- but not bought.'"
Doesn't that just restore your faith in government?
Jordan, Lara Jakes. "Political, business bigwigs live it up - as usual - in N.Y. -
The annual Pennsylvania Society weekend offers - chances for the elite to
make merry and make deals," December 15, 2003, p. B06
Budoff, Carrie and John Sullivan, "Political networking in a N.Y. weekend - "Everybody who is anybody, and everybody who wants to - be somebody" works the Pa. Society's 3-day schmooze-athon," December 12, 2004, p. B01
Gelbert, Marcia and Carrie Budoff, "Pa. pols just can't resist N.Y. bash," December 11, 2005, p. B1