This Isn’t the First Time the Feds Have Searched Johnny Doc’s Home

Authorities raided several properties connected to powerful Philly union leader John Dougherty today. He's been under investigation before.

John Dougherty, head of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council. | Photo by Jeff Fusco

John Dougherty, head of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council. | Photo by Jeff Fusco

The news that authorities raided several properties connected to John Dougherty, the Philly power broker and IBEW Local 98 business manager, came as a surprise. But he has been investigated before.

In TV commercials, Dougherty paints himself as a bubbly friend of Santa and Benjamin Franklin, but he’s also a feared political leader.

He appears at protests alongside Giant Inflatable Union Rats. His union has drones. His support of Jim Kenney is widely credited with helping Kenney win the crowded Democratic mayoral primary. His union nearly led Manny Morales to victory over Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez; she is a possible candidate to be mayor one day, while Morales was a no-name who compared gay men to flatworms on his Facebook page. Dougherty’s brother Kevin is now a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice. Former candidate Nelson Diaz said Dougherty won the mayor’s race.

Dougherty’s union asked Homeland Security to investigate NBC 10 — the actions of a union with a lot of clout. He scored papal mass tickets last-minute for a family from San Diego — the actions of a guy with a ton of clout. Last fall, he became head of the building trades council.

His allegiance with Bobby Henon, who also had his offices raided today, helped get Henon named City Council majority leader, against the wishes of City Council President Darrell Clarke. “Electricians union leader John Dougherty is gaining even more power in Philadelphia and … Clarke’s iron grip over Council might be loosening ever so slightly,” Philadelphia magazine’s Holly Otterbein wrote at the time. And he helped push the soda tax through City Council. “If you fuck with my boy, I’ll fuck with you,” Dougherty said, according to an eyewitness who spoke to the Daily News. (“I didn’t say f- with. I said, ‘Look, you guys play with Henon, lose my number,’” Dougherty told the paper.)

“During the mayoral campaign, observers wondered how much sway Dougherty would have in Kenney’s City Hall,” Otterbein and Jared Brey wrote in this magazine in July. “After the soda tax fight, we now have the answer: quite a bit. Doc’s allies say he has the interests of working Philadelphians at heart, and that he knows how to get things done. But what does it mean that a man who is not elected or employed in government — and who allegedly punched a non-union electrician in the face — is meeting with Kenney and business leaders as if he’s a member of the administration?”

Oh, yeah: Dougherty reportedly got into a brawl with contractor Joshua Keesee, allegedly punching the non-union electrician in the face. When deputy district attorney Laurie Malone recommending filing assault charges against Dougherty, she was demoted. The Inquirer reported in February that the feds had joined the investigation into the alleged assault. It’s not known if today’s raids are related to that alleged fight.

Dougherty has faced investigation before. When a libel case he’d filed against the Inquirer was thrown out, the judge unsealed a 2006 sworn affidavit by FBI Special Agent Kathleen O’Hanlon. It was in support of a search warrant for Dougherty’s Moyamensing Avenue home, the same one that was raided today.

That affidavit alleged Dougherty received free work on his home, filed false income tax returns, and bought a condo in Wildwood at far below market value. Dougherty was not charged with a crime in that investigation, and in fact has never been charged with any crime. His house was searched by federal agents in 2006, though. And in 2008, an electrician named Gus Dougherty — no relation — pleaded guilty to 99 charges, including doing free work for Johnny Doc.

Robert Huber profiled Dougherty for Philadelphia magazine in 2014. In it, Dougherty said he’d turned over a new leaf. “I have changed the foundation of how I do things,” he told Huber. “Everybody knows the stories.” The old stories. And then, almost confessionally: “I can’t change who I am. I did things I didn’t want to tell anyone about.”

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