State Watch

Philadelphia Dem power broker indicted

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Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged one of Philadelphia’s most powerful political bosses on dozens of counts, including theft, fraud and conspiracy charges, in another blow to one of the country’s few remaining big-city political machines.
In a 116-count indictment, prosecutors allege labor leader John Dougherty — known as Johnny Doc — and six associates systematically stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union he ran, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98.
“He used Local 98 as his personal bank account and as a means to obtain employment for himself, his family and his friends,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment.
{mosads}Dougherty, prosecutors said, used union credit cards to shop for personal effects at Target and Lowe’s, buying everything from Noxema and Q-Tips to scented candles and a Christmas tree.
He allegedly used union money to pay for trips to the Belmont Stakes, for meals at fancy restaurants and for tickets to Phillies and Flyers games and concerts by Barry Manilow and Billy Joel.
Those charged also include Bobby Henon, a Philadelphia city councilman who is also paid by Local 98.
Prosecutors said Dougherty used Henon to settle scores and win contracts for union-affiliated companies from corporations doing business with the city.
The indictment alleges that Dougherty and Henon enthusiastically backed a new tax on sugary drinks in Philadelphia, which would cost the rival Teamsters union 100 jobs in the city.
The indictments come two years after the FBI and the IRS raided several union offices and homes of top union officials. Dougherty said last week he would fight any charges that came his way.
Observers said Dougherty’s indictment would be another blow to Philadelphia’s beleaguered political machine, which for decades has been a critical get-out-the-vote tool for Pennsylvania Democrats.
Democrats rely on heavy turnout in Philadelphia to win statewide races in swing Pennsylvania. Ward bosses have honed their turnout machine over time.
“It’s a big deal to the Democratic Party in the state,” said Richard Dilworth, a political scientist at Drexel University. “There’s going to be a significant inability to consolidate political resources toward specific elections and toward specific people in the way that Dougherty could do it.”
Local 98’s political arm raised more than $12 million during the 2018 election cycle, according to federal campaign finance records, a figure that does not include the amount they raised or spent on state-level races.
One of the candidates Local 98 backed over the years is state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty, Johnny Doc’s brother.
Dougherty was an early and influential backer of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D), who easily won the Democratic primary in 2015. Kenney, who was not mentioned in the indictment, called the charges “sad.”
“I mean, it’s certainly sad and disappointing when these things happen. The process will play itself out and we’ll have some mending,” Kenney said Wednesday, according to a local TV station.
Dougherty and Henon are the latest Philadelphia political bosses to face criminal charges; in recent years, former Rep. Chaka Fattah (D) and state Sen. Vincent Fumo (D) both went to jail after corruption investigations.
Another top Philadelphia political boss, former Rep. Bob Brady (D), decided not to seek reelection in 2018 after one of his top advisers was accused of paying off a potential rival.
Brady, who headed the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, held powerful positions on the House Armed Services and House Administration committees.
Fumo held a senior post on the state Senate Appropriations Committee, allowing him to funnel state money back to the city.
Fattah, who helped deliver votes from Philadelphia’s African-American wards, held a top position on the House Appropriations Committee.
Unlike some Rust Belt and Northeastern cities, where single political machines long dominated politics, Philadelphia’s has always been a fragmented coalition that brought together African-American voters and blue-collar ethnic whites, Dilworth said. 
“The idea that there’s ever been a cohesive party machine in Philadelphia has always been overstated,” Dilworth said. “The party system in Philadelphia has been fragmenting for so long anyway. I think 2018 sped that up a lot.”
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