State Attorney General Tom Corbett, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor, was probably the most whispered-about pol during the Pennsylvania Society weekend in New York City. He has a grand jury investigating corruption charges against various state lawmakers in the so-called Bonusgate affair, which is about using taxpayer money for political purposes.
"It was interesting to see Tom Corbett in the same with rooms with people he's reportedly investigating," freshman State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Phila.) said. "It's not your normal cocktail-party conversation, that's for sure."
Corbett's office has charged 22 people in two rounds of Bonusgate indictments this year and last, including Philadelphia Republican State Rep. John Perzel and former Democratic House Minority Whip Mike Veon. Much of the conversation over the weekend centered on former Beaver County Democratic State Rep. Sean Ramiele, who was acquitted of six felonies last week in a Bonusgate trial related to Veon, and how his case could influence not just the other cases, but Corbett's chances.
No fights broke out, and there was one unconfirmed report that State Rep. Bill DeWeese (D., Greene), who has been asked to testify before the grand jury but who has not been charged, shook hands with his tormentor at a reception.
Many regular attendees said it seemed there were fewer lawmakers than usual this year. Perhaps they were afraid of being subpoenaed for taking a napoleon from an energy lobbyist. - Thomas Fitzgerald
Legislation languishes as scandals mount
The scandals in Harrisburg that have deprived the Pennsylvania Society of its former political lions, including imprisoned former Democratic State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo as well as Perzel and Veon, have also helped to cripple leadership in the General Assembly.
State officials at the gala were only too aware that they were guzzling appletinis and Manhattans having left Harrisburg without a resolution on the expansion of gambling with table games, leaving a $250 million hole in the state budget. Democratic House leaders called off a vote on the bill Thursday because they couldn't muster enough votes - or members - to carry it. All this while Gov. Rendell says he can't release $730 million in funding for universities, museums, and hospitals.
"We're imploding," one Democratic state House member lamented. "We couldn't even get our guys to come in on Thursday."
Though Philadelphia's ranking House Democrat, State Rep. Dwight Evans, said he was optimistic that a deal would get done, Rendell was exasperated, attributing the delay to pure "inertia."
"There's no sense of urgency to do anything over there," the governor said on Friday. - Jeff Shields
A push for more women serving in Harrisburg
The General Assembly might work better if there were more women in it, according to one group. It was not on the unofficial schedule of parties toted around by many of the Pennsylvania Society participants, but given the influential women behind the nascent Genevieve Society, their $500-a-head inaugural cocktail reception Friday was a must-attend.
U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Marjorie O. Rendell was there with her husband, the governor, as was Mayor Nutter, for the new organization formed "with the goal of ensuring that women's voices are heard throughout the commonwealth in the halls of government, in the polling place, and in corporate board rooms," as the invitation proclaimed.
The founding members include lawyers and public-relations leaders, "highly accomplished professionals who recognize that we need to be more focused and organized in getting women elected to public office," former state Treasurer Robin Wiseman said. The event was organized by locals including Abbe Feldman, Denise Smaller, Eleanor Dezi, and Mary-Rita D'Alessandro. They named their organization after Genevieve Blatt, the first woman elected to statewide office.
Wiseman said the Genevieve Society would emphasize not "women's issues," but matters of particular importance to women.
"We need to make sure we have a civil discourse," Wiseman said.
Are you listening, boys? - Jeff Shields