Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pennsylvania Society: A Schmooze Fest With A Side Of Brawl

Pennsylvania political and business elite from both parties have been gathering for the Pennsylvania Society dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan on the second Saturday of December for 114 years. 1400 people attended this year's dinner on December 9 while thousands more attended the lavish parties on the sidelines of the event. At a time when Republicans and Democrats only talk at each other through cable news, this weekend is a rare bipartisan oasis. While some criticize the expense, others hope that politicos that play together, maybe will later be able to work together.

The Pennsylvania Society went Hollywood this year. Movie director M. Night Shymaylan, the Pennsylvania native that has directed many of his movies in Pennsylvania, was this year's honoree. Attendees included: Senator Casey, Mayor Nutter, Pa. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, new State Attorney General Kathleen Kane, former US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, Comcast's David Cohen, campaign stragegist Larry Ceisler, and attorneys Ken Jarin, Bruce Marks, and Alan Kessler. Cozen O'Connor, Buchanan Ingersoll, electrician's union, Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania were among the groups sponsoring parties.

The next big race in Pennsylvania is the governor's race in 2014. Governor Corbett, speaking during the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Seminar at the ornate Metropolitan Club, tried to reassure business leaders that he will soon be revealing his plans for controlling the state's pension costs, privatization of the liquor stores, and repairing the ailing infrastructure. Being a former prosecutor, Corbett is in the habit of presenting the entire case not teasing with a few details.

Frank Rapoport of the law firm McKenna, Long, & Aldridge, who is an expert on financing infrastructure, said that the Governor is going to announce ptlans for private companies to upgrade Pennsylvania's highways and then collect tolls. He thinks local union pension plans will finance the road repair because it will offer them a steady return of 7% and jobs for their mayors. Pennsylvanians that can afford to pay the tolls will be able to travel to work faster and avoid the bottlenecks on the older highways. This plan was made possible by the legislative passage of the Public/Private Partnership July.

The billionaire owner of the Red Apple grocery stores, John Catsimatidis held a fundraiser for Corbett at his palatial Fifth Avenue home. "This is no big deal. We have been doing business in Pennsylvania for 29 years," said the charismatic mogul, who is quick to tell that his daughter is married to Richard Nixon's grandson.

He remains unconcerned about the allegations that Corbett might have slowed the pace of the Sandusky investigation for political gain. "There are people who wished that we put a man on the moon quicker," replied the former Clinton supporter.

Two of the Democrats that want to replace the governor, Allentown mayor Ed Pawlowski and Philadelphia Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, were busy drumming up support during the weekend. The affable Pawlowski reiterated his plans to run due to his belief that Corbett is vulnerable. Schwartz has been trying to quietly explore a run until the Daily News broke the story. She reassured potential contributors in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria.that the unexpected publicity had not deterred her from running. State Treasurer Rob McCord indicated that he will defer to Schwartz about running in 2014.

Mayor Ed Pawlowski and his wife Lisa

The head of the Fels Institute of Government at Penn, David Thornburgh, believes that Corbett will fine. "Ridge poll numbers looked the same after two years. He won re-election, " he noted.

Republican Congressman Charlie Dent's party is always a big draw. Dent holds it at the restaurant Mint, because he apparently has a yen for Indian food. His special guest this year was Michigan Congressman Fred Upton. Unfortunately, attendees would have preferred the Michigan Congressman's cover girl niece Kate Upton instead.

A relaxed party atmosphere often loosens the lips of politicians. A new representative in Harrisburg accidentally divulged that one of his colleagues is so cheap that he makes staffers pay for their own toilet paper. Thornburgh confided that Chief Justice Roberts used to prep him before he argued at the Supreme Court when they worked together at the Justice Department.

Congressman Pat Meehan, on the other hand, was tight lipped about the fiscal cliff. He said, "I don't know if things can be resolved before the deadline. I am here not Washington."

Some union supporters and Republicans could not quite get the hang of bipartisanship. A fight broke out between the two sides at the W hotel.

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