I’m in New York this weekend for a peculiar rite of the state’s political elite – the Pennsylvania Society Weekend. It’s three days of receptions, fundraisers, schmoozing and a boring official, endless dinner centered around the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The lore is that this event developed in the late 19th century, when New York industrial barons would bring Pennsylvania lawmakers in for a weekend of carousing, during which they would get their marching orders for next legislative session.
It’s always been condemned by some as a sleazy nexus of money and politics, and in the year of Occupy Wall Street, it’s particularly frowned upon.
I go because I want to know what the powerful are up to, and I find they’re more talkative in a festive mood after a couple of cocktails. I stick to club soda and take a lot of notes.
And we journalists who visit have developed a tradition for gathering at an Italian restaurant on Friday to share war stories and insights. I look forward to that every year.
Here’s an interesting take on the whole thing from Daily News editor Larry Platt.
There was an actual political event to start this weekend – a debate among seven of the 10 declared candidates for the Republican nomination to run against Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey.
I won’t begin to try and describe the debate. You can read this quick take from the Daily News’ Chris Brennan.
I’ll just say that the field includes an 18-year legislator, a former congressional candidate, a former staffer of Rick Santorum, two rich guys, two people with ties to the tea party, and a pharmacist who couldn’t make it to the debate because he couldn’t get off work.
Everybody was anti-tax and pro-life, and regarded Bob Casey and the Democrats as practically indistinguishable from Mao Tse-tung. I exaggerate, but not too much.
Here’s a bit of Harrisburg attorney Marc Scaringi’s opening statement: “I am running for the United State Senate to stop President Obama and Senator Casey from continuing to assault our liberties, our freedoms, our free enterprise system, and indeed the very American way of life.”
I expect the field will narrow some after the Republican State Committee meets next month and exercises its will, or doesn’t.