Tony Williams: It’s Time to Talk About Johnny Doc’s “Dark Money”

The mayoral candidate says the "white dude who works in the building trades" isn't getting enough attention.

John Dougherty and Anthony Williams

L to R: John Dougherty and Anthony Williams | Photos by Jeff Fusco

Is the press unfairly scrutinizing state Sen. Anthony Williams’ financial supporters in the Philadelphia mayoral race, while virtually ignoring former City Councilman Jim Kenney’s backer John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty?

Williams sure seems to think so.

At a live Q&A held by Philadelphia magazine as part of our Candidate Conversations series, deputy editor Patrick Kerkstra asked Williams what he would say to those who are worried that three wealthy school reform advocates from the suburbs are buying the mayoral election. American Cities, a super PAC funded by Main Line financial traders Jeff Yass, Arthur Dantchik and Joel Greenberg, is on pace to spend more than $4 million on pro-Williams TV advertisements in the race.

“One white dude who works in the building trades in South Philadelphia should also be mentioned,” said Williams. “For some reason, that’s like a mystery. He’s in real dark money. He gets an advantaged position. He operates and influences. He calls newspapers on a daily basis.”

When pressed by Kerkstra to name names, Williams would not explicitly say the words “Johnny Doc,” but he was clearly referring to him. Dougherty is the leader of the city’s powerful electricians union, Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Dougherty is supporting Kenney for mayor, and a super PAC associated with the union leader has aired pro-Kenney ads.

According to NewsWorks’ Dave Davies, pro-Kenney super PACs — including Building a Better Pennsylvania, which has received considerable donations from Local 98 — are on pace to spend $2 million on TV ads in the mayor’s race.

“People are going to talk about three guys from City Line Avenue who don’t have any advantaged position?” asked Williams. “People should face the reality that, for whatever reason, they’re refusing to completely write the whole story. So if they’re going to be concerned about those guys, then, they should be concerned about that one guy because that one guy has advantage — City Hall, City Council, Supreme Court.”

It’s no surprise that Williams is attacking Kenney’s supporters. After all, Kenney’s campaign has taken shots at Williams’ boosters, calling them “unnamed millionaires” who “have far too great an influence in our upcoming mayoral election.” Also, Kenney and Williams are currently tied for first place, according to a poll commissioned by a group backing Kenney.

What makes this interesting is that it could be a preview of the kinds of attacks that Team Williams might make in anti-Kenney TV ads. So far, neither the mayoral candidates nor the super PACs supporting them have aired any negative advertisements.

But, we assure you, they’re coming.