Since the Wawa debate started in 2010 I have been accused of having a bias. What I have attempted to do is provide details on the process of how this type of decision is made and to go beyond the public debate by peeling back a layer to reveal what is happening behind the scenes. In my story yesterday I corrected and pointed out the flaws in a recent column by Larry Platt of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Let’s take a closer look at Larry Platt and how he is connected to those representing Wawa and the developers.
As we have pointed out before, one of Wawa’s lawyers is Marcel Groen. Groen is the head of the Democratic Party in Montgomery County. In 2007, Platt considered a run for Congress in the 6th Congressional District, which at the time included a small portion of Conshohocken. Here is Platt’s take on the meeting with Groen from a blog on GQ’s website in 2008:
One of my first formal sit-downs was with Montgomery County party chairman Marcel Groen. The political world is full of players like Groen, a local power broker to whom national party leaders defer. He wasn’t well-known, and he liked it that way. But to both national and local politicos, if you had Groen’s support, it meant you were, as (Neil) Oxman put it, “real.”
“I like your story,” Groen said. “And I have no doubt you can raise a ton of money.” He agreed to support me and offered to take me to D.C. to meet with national party officials in the next month. Then he came back to the key topic: money. We’d be needing some. We’d be needing a lot.The national party would kick in anywhere from $1 to $2 million, he said, but only after I proved that I could raise that much by myself.
Basically, Platt had political ambitions and he could only be successful by securing Groen’s support. He kissed the ring of the local party boss and was now the party backed candidate. That party boss is now one of Wawa’s lawyers.
As Platt mentions, Groen offered to take him to Washington DC to meet the party leaders and obtain their blessing. This trip occurred in October of 2007. The Morning Call reports:
Philadelphia magazine editor Larry Platt spent Monday in Washington in part wooing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee into giving him the green light to challenge Rep. Jim Gerlach. Montgomery County Democratic Committee chair Marcel Groen was with him.
One of the consultants working on behalf of Wawa and the developers is Larry Ceisler, who is providing communications/public relations services. Full disclosure, Ceisler’s company is the entity that purchased advertising on MoreThanTheCurve.com to help obtain signatures for its petition.
If you Google Platt and Ceisler’s names together you find they have a history. When Platt was considering entering the Congressional race, Ceisler took him around the PA Society and introduced him to potential supporters. The PA Society is an annual weekend social event in New York City for Pennsylvania’s politicians, lobbyists, donors and other insiders. Platt writes in the same GQ blog in 2008:
Larry Ceisler, a well-connected insider, took me around, feeding me pertinent facts about whomever he deemed important for me to meet. He’d hustle someone more important over to interrupt the conversation he’d just had me start. Around the hundredth time that I heard myself say, “As a journalist, you’re by definition on the sidelines; when the stakes are so high, you’ve got to get in the game,” a concern took hold: Did I believe this stuff, or was I reading from a script? Was I becoming an asshole?
It is important to note that Platt was at the PA Society as a potential candidate. He had the support of the party and insiders were introducing him to all the right people. This was in 2007. In 2011, Platt strangely wrote a column in the Daily News about attending a party at the PA Society titled “An Outsiders View on an Insiders Ball.” In this column, he fails to mention that in 2007, he was the belle of the ball meeting potential supporters while being shuffled around by insiders. In 2011, he acts like he is showing up to the party for the first time, when he had first hand experience as a potential candidate.
People may be upset that I peeled this layer back and brought to light the relationships that exist, but it is really just a Google search away. Imagine what is to be learned about the relationships of elected officials, their party bosses and connections to those representing Wawa.