What to Know
- John Dougherty has held sway over Democratic politics in Philadelphia since taking control of the city's electricians' union in the 1990s.
- Despite ups and downs, "Johnny Doc" has continued to oversee millions in political donations that have affected elections annually.
- His brother, Kevin, was elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2015 — an election that has affected statewide politics ever since.
Johnny Doc’s the guy in the Mayor’s Reception Room at Philadelphia City Hall in construction boots and cargo shorts. He lets the suits do the talking.
In the neighborhoods, he's the guy who's not afraid to confront non-union contractors. He lets his fists do the talking.
Whether or not you know who John Dougherty is, if you live in the greater Philadelphia area, the head of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 has had an effect on your life.
Here are some of the biggest impacts Dougherty has made, even if you’re not a IBEW dues-paying member, before he was federally indicted Jan. 30 on corruption and tax fraud charges.
- Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation: Look no further to see the scope of Johnny Doc’s power than the state’s current delegation serving in Washington D.C. The dots aren’t even that hard to connect. A.) John Dougherty’s union spends hundreds of thousands of dollars through political action committees on the 2015 campaign of his brother Kevin Dougherty. B.) Kevin, a Democrat, is elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in an election that gives Democrats a 5-2 advantage on the state’s highest bench. C.) The court rules that the Republican-majority Legislature’s congressional map is unconstitutional, and must be redrawn. Eventually, it redraws the map itself. D.) Democrats rejoice, then take nine seats in the 2018 midterm election.
- The cost of soda in Philly: Fellow indictee, Councilman Bobby Henon, was the promoter of a soda tax back in 2015, even before Jim Kenney was elected mayor and ushered through what became Kenney’s defining legislation: the sugary beverage tax. It is helping pay for universal pre-K and a $500 million initiative called Rebuild, which is dedicated to renovating city rec centers and libraries and involves lots of union labor. Henon sits on the Rebuild board.
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- Blue-Collar pay: Johnny Doc is not only in charge of IBEW Local 98. He also sits atop the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, an umbrella group for dozens of labor unions. Whether it’s strong-arm tactics, ratmobiles, or behind-the-scenes legislative efforts, Johnny Doc has kept developers and big corporations from subverting organized labor’s wages with non-union workers.
- Semi-dark money in local elections: Dougherty deploys political action committees, ie PACs, as conduits for donations to candidates across the spectrum, whether it’s for mayor, congress, or even district attorney.