Wednesday, May 24, 2006

West Branch Manufacturers: Swann fumbled

Williamsport Sun-Gazette: "West Branch Manufacturers: Swann fumbled

Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann canceled a keynote speech to the West Branch Manufacturers’ Association 11 days before its annual dinner, citing a conflicting campaign stop in Erie with former Gov. Tom Ridge.

The group canceled Tuesday’s event and will plan a dinner in the fall with a different speaker, according to Executive Director Michael J. Sharbaugh.

“His chief scheduler contacted William J. Metzger Sr. and said Swann was cancelling to go to Erie,” Sharbaugh said, adding Metzger was contacted Friday.

With more than 270 reservations for the event and more coming in Tuesday morning — another company called requesting a table for 10 — many were disappointed to hear the news, Sharbaugh said.

“I was going to vote for him but now I won’t,” Sharbaugh quoted several people as saying.

“It’s hard to understand,” he said. “It makes you wonder, if he were going to be governor, would he keep his commitments?”

Sharbaugh said the association would have understood if Swann had had to cancel for “a legitimate reason — like he had to have emergency surgery — but not just because he got a better offer.”

Meanwhile, plans must be canceled for a long-planned event.

“The Genetti has graciously agreed to let us out of our contract. We really do appreciate that. Bill Metzger is refunding funds raised,” he added.

Metzger, a member of the group’s board and this year’s dinner chairman, explained the process of coordinating a speaker with a dinner date.

“We started discussions with Mr. Swann’s chief scheduler Jan. 25. We sent a letter putting the request in writing. We left it open to two months for them to pick the date,” Metzger said.

“The dinner is generally held in May or June of each year. We float the date according to the keynote speaker. His camp picked the date.”

To get Swann as a speaker, the group had to agree to raise funds for his political campaign, Metzger said.

“Politicians running for office have a significant need to raise money for campaigns,” he said. “One way to get them to speak at events is to hold a fundraiser,” he said.

The campaign manager will usually suggest a figure that should be met by the fundraiser, Metzger said. In this case, the amount was $10,000.

“We raised in excess of $15,000,” he said.

Funds raised specifically for Swann’s campaign were made out to “Swann for Governor.”

“I returned those checks to each of the donors. It’s the donor’s choice now” whether to give the money to Swann’s campaign, he said.

The funds raised were through “a VIP reception in support of Lynn Swann,” which also was going to be Tuesday.

As of May 1, Swann reportedly raised $3.3 million statewide, compared with the $17.2 million raised by Gov. Ed Rendell.

Swann had other commitments in Pittsburgh in the morning on Tuesday, but “we had arranged for a private, two-engine plane to pick him up in Pittsburgh and bring him to Williamsport. We had arranged for a suite at the Genetti for him to freshen up,” Metzger said.

The VIP reception would be at the Ross Club, followed immediately by the group’s reception and dinner.

“He had asked and we had agreed that he would speak before the dinner so he could get home not too late,” he added.

Metzger said he was particularly angry that Swann had canceled not only so close to the deadline, but also that the association had already re-arranged its plans several times to accommodate Swann’s schedule.

“Originally, he had committed for May 30, he’d leave Pittsburgh mid-morning and we’d have a luncheon reception at the Williamsport Country Club. Then his campaign called and said that was not feasible. The real point is that we re-arranged several times to suit his needs, to be as conciliatory as we can reasonably be,” Metzger said.

When Swann’s campaign contacted Metzger, they offered an alternate speaker in the form of Swann’s running mate Jim Matthews, he said.

“I advised her that people had committed to this event to hear Lynn Swann speak on his opinions on the office he was running for, not Jim Matthews’. The only options were to rearrange or that he bring Ridge,” he continued.

“I was told that was not possible,” he said.

“The facts are the facts and people can draw their own conclusions,” Metzger said, regarding Swann’s receipt of a better campaigning offer.

“We regret the campaign’s need to postpone our long-awaited appearance before the association to a later date. We appreciate their understanding and we look forward to sharing our vision of change and reform for Williamsport as soon as possible,” Melissa Winters, spokeswoman for Swann’s campaign, said to the Sun-Gazette."

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