NEW YORK, NY — While some of you were shoveling snow this weekend, many of your elected officials were in New York City schmoozing with business people and lobbyists.
The Pennsylvania Society`s own mission statement claims it exists, “…to honor achievement, to reward excellence, and ….to celebrate service to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
But according to figures compiled by the Philadelphia Inquirer, it`s annual weekend bash generates at least $20-million in revenue. Not for Pennsylvania, but for New York.
Each December, our state’s movers and shakers gather at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, for the Pennsylvania Society`s weekend of events. Rooms at the Waldorf start at #350 a night.
“More is done in New York City on this weekend than could be done anywhere else for Pennsylvania and Pennsylvanians,” said Carol Fitzgerald who is the Pennsylvania Society’s Executive Director.
She couldn`t cite any specific examples of what gets done, but says this 115-year tradition that brings some three-thousand Pennsylvanians to Manhattan makes the Keystone State a better place.
The event started in 1899 by some native Pennsylvanians living in New York, and to stimulate and discuss business. Pittsburgh financier Andrew Carnegie was an original member, and for more than a century, the annual dinner has been held at the Waldorf.
“When I was Governor I tried to move it,” said former Governor Ed Rendell.
He believes that most Pennsylvanians would be offended by seeing the wealthy spending their money in New York to dine, schmooze, even shop in Times Square.
“We waste, my guess is between $10 and $15-million that goes into the New York City economy, that could go to Pennsylvania,” added the former Governor.
But Rendell and other politicians still come to New York anyway.
US Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey held receptions and area Congressman Lou Barletta were among the many who held receptions this weekend.
Only a few state officials with local ties were even willing to talk about whether the event and the money it generates, should be moved to Pennsylvania.
“I can`t issue an order saying ‘Wilkes-Barre or Scranton,’ if I could I would,” said Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Correale Stevens of Luzerne County.
But he doesn’t think the Pennsylvania Society will buck tradition, despite criticism that millions are flowing from to New York for the weekend.
“It’s understandable that it should be in Pennsylvania, but they have a long tradition here,” said Justice Stevens.
Society Director Carol Fitzgerald says the idea of moving the bash to the Keystone State is rarely discussed.
“People love to come to new york during this season of joy, and peace, and leave their troubles in Pennsylvania,” said Fitzgerald.
Congressman Lou Barletta of Hazleton agrees, saying New York during the holidays provides a place for leaders of both parties to form friendships, and avoid settings that often create partisanship.
While Pennsylvania lawmakers were there, the only taxpayer dollars spent were for room and meals for Governor Tom Corbett’s security detail. Exact figures were not available.