Stephen Wojdak, Lobbying Titan, Dead at 76
The firm he founded, S.R. Wojdak and Associates, is arguably the state's most influential.
Stephen Wojdak, a giant figure in Pennsylvania politics credited with creating the state’s first modern lobbying firm, died Tuesday in Boston. He was 76 years old.
A former four-term state Representative who served as chairman of the Philadelphia delegation and of the House Appropriations committee, Wojdak founded his namesake lobbying firm in 1977. In the decades since, S.R. Wojdak and Associates became arguably the state’s most influential lobbying company, with a roster of high-powered clients and access to a wide array of government officials in both Harrisburg and Philadelphia.
“He combined a keen intelligence and a tremendous sense of knowing right from wrong, and trying to do the right thing on behalf of a whole range of issues that impacted people in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia,” said Kevin Feeley, speaking on behalf of S.R. Wojdak and Associates.
“Someone told me once that if Pennsylvania were an onion, you’d peel back a layer and there he was. He was involved with so much and he did it without fanfare. He wasn’t interested in public attention. He was truly one of the class acts of politics and government.”
Feeley did not know the exact cause of death, but said Wojdak had been suffering from breathing problems in recent months, and had been hospitalized in Boston for about a week. He had been vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard with his family.
“He was a shrewd judge of character,” said Joseph P. McLaughlin, director of the Institute of Public Affairs at Temple University, and a former Wojdak lobbyist. “He understood what made people tick.”
And part of that was money. Wojdak was a prodigious donor to political campaigns. That money, combined with his own savvy and that of a highly talented staff, gave S.R. Wojdak and Associates tremendous influence over public policy in Philadelphia City Hall and the State Capitol. As former Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce President Charles Pizzi once told the Daily News:
“They are a shadow government,” said Charles Pizzi, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. “They understand the legislative process. They understand the executive’s role. And they know the personalities. They’re a very sophisticated organization. They can make complex issues simple to understand. They’re raising lobbying to an art form.
Wojdak has been at the center of countless huge public policy initiatives, from the legalization of gambling, to securing state funding for the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Lincoln Financial Field, to tort reform, to utility deregulation and much more.
Wojdak is survived by five children and his wife, Elizabeth.