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Politics & Government

Private Parties or Secret Government Society?

For one weekend every December, the Commonwealth experiences a great migration of its political insiders to New York City for a slew of parties and fundraisers.  But the annual gathering known as the Pennsylvania Society isn’t the clandestine meeting of elites some make it out to be.  

Democratic strategist Larry Ceisler, who hosts one of the weekend’s many soirees, argues for the party as a great political equalizer. 

He said the 114th annual gathering is actually an exercise in good government, because of the accessibility of elected officials. 

“I have seen it firsthand where people who run nonprofits who are losing state funding or even anti-drilling activists have been able to talk to the people who lead the general assembly or talk to the governor.”

But some note the event is exclusive, with many of the parties invitation-only, it's also expensive.

Price of entry into some fundraisers is several thousands of dollars, and tickets to the dinner anchoring the whole affair are between $350 and $400.

Government reform advocate Eric Epstein, of Rock the Capitol, said he's wary of all that off-campus hobnobbing.

“All power elites in all three branches of government get together for a weekend in New York City and cut deals that affect everybody in Pennsylvania for the rest of the year.”

A state House Democratic spokesman said the tradition isn’t coming at the taxpayers' expense. He said it’s paid for with campaign funds, corporate accounts, and personal money.