While others will tell you the "news" is that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Gov. Nikki Haley, Herman Caine, Senator Pat Toomey, Fox TV's Brit Hume and other nationally recognized speakers very popular with conservatives are all speaking at this weekend's Friday-Saturday (March 23-24), 2012 annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, in my book that is only the third best reason to attend.
First and foremost, is this PALC is the most important networking opportunity for movement conservatives short of going to Washington, DC. Harrisburg, PA is a lot closer for most of us who live in Pennsylvania and certainly less expensive.
One of the prime opportunities for conservatives to network together over the past 40 years has been the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
What I liked best about CPAC has been the opportunity to meet like minded, mainstream conservatives from all around the country and share ideas and war-stories, build fellowship, and in so many cases find new friends that I worked with for many years to come on projects of common interest.
The second major benefit of a conference like CPAC was that the exhibit booths area were without a doubt, a major attraction for mainstream conservatives and for those who wanted to specialize in a particular topic.
So whether your interest is right to life or values issues, or the gun rights issue, or youth issues or social issues or national defense, there were competing groups all over the place offering their literature and materials, books, and in many cases the opportunity to chat with major leaders of that group and in many cases, major leaders of our cause.
The only drawback for that CPAC - and it is still true about it today - is that it cost a lot of money and took a major commitment of time to make it all the way to Washington DC to reap those very worthwhile benefits.
And not everyone I knew who was committed to the conservative cause, could always make that sacrifice or afford to pay that cost in time or money to attend.
This coming weekend, the show comes to town, and people who live in Pennsylvania have a chance to go to a much less expensive version of CPAC right in the state capitol, the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference.
While it has no connection to CPAC - which itself has been hosting spinoff, local events similar to this Pennsylvania version - the PA version of this confab for conservatives, is a true delight for the same people who have traveled to CPAC in Washington in years past or those who wish they could have.
In fact, many of the people - the most dedicated and committed ones that is - who you will see strolling around the exhibit areas and visiting those literature/sponsor booths, have also attended CPAC in the past and are long term, committed, mainstream conservatives.
I strongly urge my conservative friends in Pennsylvania to attend all or part of this conference, with full registration available online.
And if you simply cannot swing the cost for a full registration, just visiting the exhibit area (zero cost) is worth the trip all by itself.
The cost of the hotel is much less than the cost at a CPAC in Washington so even staying overnight if that is necessary for you, will be much less of an expense for a great networking opportunity like this.
As an incidental, there will also be speakers representing the candidates for President - and in two instances - Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich - the candidate himself has confirmed to speak to the conference, while Gov. Niki Haley will be the rep for Gov. Mitt Romney.
While I like to emphasize the "mainstream" conservative aspect of an event like this, there are a host of "special interest" or narrow focus groups that will have literature booths and speaking roles at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference so whatever your interest in the conservative cause, you will likely find one or more groups there playing a major role, and ready to provide you information and a source of new friends who share your interest.
And if you are "open minded" about which issues you want to focus on you cannot find a better way to "shop around" than to visit this "cafeteria" of the conservative cause, where you can go down the line visiting all of the booths, chatting with people and groups representing gun interests, tax cut, right to life, and the groups that do not focus on an issue but on the "how to" aspects of organizing for our conservative cause, whatever aspect - media relations, social networking, fundraising, membership recruiting etc. And like a cafeteria line, you put on your tray what you like and no one is going to mind what you don't choose - it is up to you and there's a lot of variety here.
Having attended several of these events I have to say that the top two reasons to attend are the same as for the CPAC's I've attended - the networking and meeting of new friends and getting the chance to see old friends from out of town who I haven't met up with in awhile, plus the literature booths.
But the lineup of speakers for this conference may very well be the most impressive yet. The candidates for President are well represented, as I mentioned.
In addition, one of the people who is perhaps the "Networking King" for conservatives in Washington, Grover Norquist, will be one of the speakers.
Norquist represents Americans for Tax Reform but perhaps of more importance to full spectrum conservatives as well as those committed to one aspect of our cause, is that he also operates a "conservative networking meeting" (the Wed. club I believe it is called) in Washington, DC. He was also the subject of a cover article recently in Newsmax Magazine because he has been such a fixture of the conservative cause.
Any group which aims to reach out to other groups and movement conservative staff from Senate and Congress, would do well to secure a few minute presentation slot at this regular meeting presided over by Norquist at his group's Washington, DC office. Not enough time to fully explain your issue but plenty of time to make an impression so that those interested can look you up after the meeting.
Other speakers include Fox News Senior Political Analyst Britt Hume, Former presidential candidate Herman Cain, PA's conservative U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, Lt. Governor James Cawley, film producer Ann McElhinney, Human Events political editor John Gizzi at the two day conference.
There will be four interactive panel presentations as the "policy" part of the conference. The conference offers the option of an extension of time - a real bargain - because several participants have pre-conference events. One such is a "Bill of Rights" seminar.
And on Friday morning, March 23, there is an "activist training workshop" conducted by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. The Center also helps extend the conference further with a post-conference seminar on how to use video in messaging.
One of the many "literature booths" in the exhibit hall will be operated by a group I've reported about in these pages several times in the past, ACTION of PA (Americans for Christian Traditions in our Nation).
For those who recognize the urgency of voter registration, the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council are sending a "Values Bus" to promote voter registration. Heritage Action operates a PA affiliate which focuses on issues of interest to us here and on our Congressional delegation.
To vote in the GOP primary on April 24 in Pennsylvania you have to be registered to vote by March 24 (30 days in advance). So this is a very timely topic and one that should be of interest to all conservatives.
If you want to be sure to miss nothing you'll need to make plans to arrive before 9 AM's workshop kick off on Friday, March 23, and stay through the dinner which starts that day at 6:30 PM.
Get ready for a very early start on Saturday, March 24 at 7 AM and continuing through a 3 pm seminar by a young fellow who first came to our attention because of his work "busting" the ACORN scam and working with Andrew Breitbart - James O'Keefe will be speaking on Video activism and sharing how any of us can "capture the real story the mainstream media won't cover by using the power of live video evidence the media can't spin."
For those still trying to figure out who they like best as a candidate for U.S. Senator in the April 24 GOP primary, the candidates will have a debate during the conference - and of course given the nature of this conference you can be sure they are coming well prepared to tell us why "they are the true and best conservative" of the candidates running.
Student registrations are available for only $40, and the dinner only (and don't forget the invaluable exhibit area!!) is $50 while the best deal is the full registration including the dinner and breakfast, for $85 ($160 for a couple). And there's an option to get up more close with the dinner speakers for an extra $100.
You'll find more details than I've covered here, including the agenda by topic, time and speakers, and a registration form, at the PA Leadership Conference website.
If you are a mainstream conservative or wish to seek out from among their ranks people to work with your particular group or campaign from the ranks of the best conservatives in Pennsylvania, this, PA Leadership Conference isn't something you want to miss. I highly recommend this conference. Lowman Henry and those helping him organize this event have once again done a superb job, and I thank them.
HanoverHenry is Pat Henry on Facebook, and I'm on the lookout for new friends there.
Links to articles I wrote at RED STATE at my Facebook Notes section.