Pennsylvania Society aftershocks and afterthoughts

    My favorite line from the Pennsylvania Society weekend, the just-concluded sojourn of the state’s political elite to Manhattan, came from a Harrisburg veteran I’ve known for many years.

    “Visit the Pennsylvania Society, and you’d have to conclude there’s a shrimp shortage in Harrisburg,” he told me in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria. “Throw a reception and put a shrimp bowl on the table, and legislators flock to it like they haven’t seen one in years.”

    We got an email from a reader who had this to say about the event:

    “I am planning to start a Petition for 2012 in the election year, that the PA POLS, if they want to have a drunken three day party spree…they spend THEIR money on it in PA and not with PA taxpayer’s money.”

    Disgust at the Pennsylvania Society weekend is not uncommon among citizens of the commonwealth. But I should make it clear that the events are not government-sponsored or taxpayer-funded.

    They’re done the way things are always done in Harrisburg – by politicians and special interests who seek their favor. Events are either political fundraisers for politicians, or receptions sponsored by banks, law firms, unions or others who court their favor.

    Politicians typically cover their travel and lodging expenses personally or from their campaign funds.

    I can’t swear that no legislator sneaks in some state expense vouchers for part of his or her trip, but I think they mostly don’t, because someone would find out and they’d pay a price.

    I’ll note that when I got on the Megabus for my trip to New York, I saw Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Greenlee across the aisle.

    The event is useful to reporters because there are scores, maybe hundreds of sources and potential sources gathered in one place – a very target rich environment. And I know there are good-government and non-profit types who make the trip for the same reason – they can buttonhole a committee chairman and have the kind of conversation that would be hard to schedule in the capital.

    All that said, it is a very strange set of events, and probably should happen alternatively in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, rather than Manhattan. Various authorities have railed about this for years, to no effect.

    There’s good description of the history and origin of the event by Angela Couloumbis of the Inquirer here. The Daily News’ John Baer always has an interesting report from his weekend, highlighted this year by the jocular and profane comments of former State House Speaker Bill DeWeese, who’s awaiting trial on corruption charges.

    And Daily News editor Larry Platt has an interesting take, written before this year’s festivities, here.

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