It’s time to retire the Pennsylvania Society

Demonstrators gathered outside the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association's Pennsylvania Society event at the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan on Dec. 2, 2023. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Sean Kitchen

December 4, 2023

The Pennsylvania Society, which dates back to the Gilded Age, turned 125 over the weekend. It’s time to retire the out-of-state event where Pennsylvania’s political elite determine the future of the commonwealth.

Saturday’s rally outside the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association’s Pennsylvania Society luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in Midtown Manhattan proved one thing.

It’s time to retire the Pennsylvania Society.

While former governors Ed Rendell and Tom Ridge billed it as an opportunity for civility in a time of extreme partisan polarization, the true motives of the gala that dates back to the times of Gilded Age industrialists and robber barons remains the same as it did 125 years ago.

The swanky event brings together some of Pennsylvania’s most powerful political figures, lobbyists and business executives in a city that’s outside the commonwealth and hours away from their actual constituents. They met in Manhattan to essentially set the political agenda for the following year and divy up the Commonwealth’s resources while working Pennsylvanians continue to struggle.

Wealth inequality in the US, and around the world, is reaching the same levels as witnessed towards the end of the Gilded Age, according to a 2023 report from the Brookings Institution, a non-partisan think tank.

Over the past four decades, there has been a broad trend of rising income inequality across countries. Income inequality has risen in most advanced economies and major emerging economies, which together account for about two-thirds of the world’s population and 85 percent of global GDP,” the report states.

The report goes on to state that the US is one of the countries responsible for driving income inequality globally along with other advanced economies such as Russia, China and India.

On Saturday, Pennsylvania residents traveled to Manhattan as part of the PAYBAC coalition to protest the commonwealth’s richest billionaire Jeffrey Yass, and how his money has a toxic influence on the commonwealth’s democracy.

Yass, who lives a private lifestyle, was not in attendance but the demonstrators’ message was heard loud and clear by anyone who walked into the Metropolitan Club on Saturday.

The billionaire has a net worth of over $28 billion thanks to his investments in Tik Tok and uses his wealth to fund right-wing extremists who will push his anti-public education agenda.

Close to 100 rally goers arrived outside the Metropolitan around noon on Saturday and came with fake bags of money, lifesize price tags with Yass’ name on it and a series of poker cards highlighting all the right-wing causes and organizations the mega-donor’s money supports or props up in Pennsylvania.

Attendees and organizers of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association’s luncheon were less than thrilled to see Pennsylvania residents crashing their event. In order to leave the event, they had to walk through a gauntlet of demonstrators chanting about Yass and were forced to talk to demonstrators who were handing them leaflets about Yass and the gala itself.

Bishop Dwayne Royster, the Executive Director of POWER Interfaith, a progressive faith-based organization that advocates for public education and other causes, succinctly explained the purpose of the PA Society.

“There are political leaders that are coming in from around the state to the PA Society in New York to hobnob with the oligarchs, the autocrats, the plutocrats, the billionaires, and the millionaires so that they can take control of the Pennsylvania democracy,” Royster said in an interview with The Keystone.


  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.



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