Sunday, December 11, 2005

What is the Pennsylvania Society?

[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


Anonymous said...

Jane - haha. I read this as I eat Ramen noodles for lunch...ahhhh. And so it goes.
But really, how about the money that gets tossed into NYC to put this shindig (did i spell that right? I never wrote that one out before) on - There is no reason not to do this in Pennsylvania.
Gotta go - lunch is getting cold!

AboveAvgJane said...


What?! You mean you don't get to have $100 lunches on the public dime! I'm shocked that these perks aren't extended to the hardworking folks who keep H'burg and the state gov't going. Seriously, Ramen noodles are pretty good, aren't they? I have them for lunch sometimes myself. Creamy chicken is my favorite.

The articles I read on the PA Society did mention efforts to move the event to Pennsylvania but they never seem to get anywhere. Maybe it could alternate between Philly and P'burgh.

I have my dictionary handy because I had to look up a word for a recent blog entry. According to Mr. Webster you have shindig right.

Thanks for the post. Enjoy your lunch!

J. J. Janos said...

The Pennsylvania Society is a fine organization where commonwealth history, companionship and conversation takes place in different parts of Pennsylvania.

The Annual Dinner in New York is the longest contract in Waldorf Astoria history and a place to enjoy just before christmas along with Broadway and Rockefeller Center.

If you love the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania you will enjoy The Pennsylvania Society.

Anonymous said...


Your previous response is no better than the liberal newspapers that fail to report 100% of the story. Instead you focus on issues that you heard/read and make your own assumptions.

it's time to get your facts straight before you respond. PA Society is founded by individuals who pay their own way to attend this weekend. No public money is used. What perks do you speak of? Last time I checked (less then one week ago), one had to be a citizen of PA to join and that's it.