Craving power, Pa. GOP looks to candy makers

Pennsylvania GOP's favorite energy snack?

It may not be a requirement to hold the title, but several Republican power brokers in Pennsylvania seem to have a sweet spot for chocolate.

In recent months, revelations about the questionable expenditure of millions of charitable dollars by the trustees at the Hershey School directed a harsh light at GOP control of the school funded by the candy-company founder.

The former Republican state attorney general, LeRoy S. Zimmerman, chairs the Hershey Trust board, along with several political heavyweights with seats on various Hershey boards. They include former Gov. Tom Ridge, who sits on the candy company board, and former NFL star and gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, who sits on the board that manages Hershey Park.

As for the big bucks the trust paid for golf course and a clubhouse, Zimmerman says Monday in an Inquirer commentary that it’s all for the benefit of the kids who attend the school.

The other notable example of a sweet tooth among GOP bigwigs is Robert B. Asher, who runs Asher's Chocolates out of his Montgomery County power base.

A permanent member of the Republican National Committee from Pennsylvania, Asher raised $3 million for Republican causes this election. More than that, he shaped the race that saw Tom Corbett elected governor and James F. Cawley, lieutenant governor. In the Philadelphia suburbs, Asher pretty much saw to it that Republicans regained the congressional seat being given up by Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and held on to one straddling Chester, Berks and Montgomery counties.

Asher’s party activism runs mostly below the radar, though. In part, that’s due to his 1989 felony fraud conviction over a no-bid state contract – a stain that Asher says “will never wash away.” But his party’s leadership nonetheless embraces Asher for his counsel and support.

So look for the state GOP's chocolate craving to be a factor in Pennsylvania politics for some time.