LANCASTER, Pa. — The Wyndham Resort and Convention Center outside Lancaster is the place to be this weekend if you are a Republican in Pennsylvania. The annual PA GOP Winter Meetings are taking place there Friday and Saturday, and in 2022, a huge election year in the commonwealth, there is sure to be plenty to talk about.
However, unless you have a lot of money, chances are you won't know what happens.
The event is closed to press. Gubernatorial candidates attending tell FOX43 they had to be invited, and then donate an undisclosed amount of money in order to secure a spot inside the conference.
"The Pennsylvania Republican Party doesn't want the public to know what's going on behind closed doors," said Joe Gale, one of the 15 declared Republican gubernatorial candidates.
Gale, a Montgomery County Commissioner who considers himself as running against the Republican Party establishment, is not attending this weekend's convention.
It is unknown which candidates for U.S. Senate, Lieutenant Governor, and Governor are attending. Shawn Berger, one of the gubernatorial candidates, told FOX43 he hasn't been given any information about what is taking place, other than an hour-by-hour agenda of events. Though, he doesn't know what will be discussed, nor does he know who he's debating against Friday night.
"They gave us a list of what's going to go on throughout the day," Berger said. "Everybody has the right to know everything. What's going to go on? I'm not sure."
Berger shared with FOX43 the email he received from the PA GOP. Along with there being forums for U.S. Senate and Lieutenant Governor candidates, there is also a "PA GOP Leadership Committee Meeting" on the agenda, and a "Senate Election Investigation" session, hosted by State Senator Cris Dush, who is heading the Republican pushed investigation into Pennsylvania's 2020 Presidential Election.
No media will be allowed to attend.
FOX43 reached out to the PA GOP via email, asking what was on the agenda for the weekend and who is participating in the debate Friday night. On three separate occasions, we were told the event was closed to press, and no details are shared for closed media events.
Calls to the PA GOP press office also went unanswered and calls were not returned.
"I'm surprised, because there's nothing being discussed people shouldn't already know," Berger said. "So when there's topics they are talking about, I dont think that it should be held back. There's no reason it should be held back. Why they're holding it back? I don't know."
Berger says attending the PA GOP Winter Meeting event is invite only, and even then, his campaign had to make a sizeable, but undisclosed donation. His campaign sent FOX43 a donor sheet, which included four levels of sponsorship: $10,000, $5,000, $2,500, and $1,250. The more money you give, the better perks you receive throughout the weekend.
Margi Ferris, Berger's campaign manager, wrote to FOX43 in an email, "The more money you give to them, of course the more they will acknowledge your existence."
Some, like Joe Gale, prefer not to bother. He says he doesn't want to appease party leaders, and says he is against the endorsement process that is playing out in Lancaster this weekend.
"I believe the endorsement is actually a negative," he said. "It means you're controlled and a puppet on a string. That's not what the people of Pennsylvania are looking for."