Politically Savvy Friends

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cavorting with the PA Society

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

Don't try to find a prominent Pennsylvania politician in their hometowns this weekend. That's because most of them are in New York City to schmooze with each other and the "wheelers and dealers" from Pittsburgh industry. It's call the annual Pennsylvania Society dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, but it's an excuse for politicians to enjoy each other and the money people while in the delightful environs of Manhattan during the Christmas season.

Now I admit I have attended some of those dinners (and other related events) over the years -- and, yes, it's great fun -- but there is something a little peculiar about Pennsylvania politicians and business leaders leaving the commonwealth in order to "make contacts" and "enjoy" each other's company.

The history of this weekend is fascinating to political insiders. Back in the late 1800s when Pennsylvania was solidly Republican, the PA Society gathering in New York was when the railroad, steel, and coal barons gathered, privately, to name their Republican candidates for state office.

This weekend's gathering is much more ecumenical, as it has been for decades, with Democrats just as visible as Republicans. Gone are the days when industry moguls named candidates for public office. Of course, they still play an important role -- money! So politicians flock to the Waldorf in hopes of connecting with the big money donors who will help fund their campaigns in the months ahead.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato is hosting an event (not a fundraiser) in NYC, as he done in past years, to "meet and greet" the state's business leaders, especially from Philadelphia, who can help boost his candidacy for governor in 2010. I am told that Onorato expects 300 to 500 people to drop by for his liquor and hors d'oevres. But just in case someone is NOT going to NYC this weekend, Onorato mailed invitations to around 8,000 people, including government leaders in all 67 counties of the state. Hmmmm, does anyone think he's not running for governor?

Of course, Dan is not the only one taking advantage of the gathering to spread around some holiday good will. But one thing is certain -- those that are hope to have a future in Pennsylvania politics. As for the rest of us, enjoy the snow this weekend!