Updated at 7:25 PM
The FBI raided at least seven locations across Philadelphia Friday in an investigation that has already ensnared John Dougherty, his politically powerful union, at least one councilman and reportedly touches the Philadelphia mayor’s office and the state Supreme Court.
Dougherty, the business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, returned to his South Philly home in the morning hours to find it being searched by the FBI and state police. The feds also raided his South Philly bar, the headquarters of the union, and the South Jersey home of its president. The office of City Councilman Bobby Henon, a close ally and major beneficiary of Dougherty, was also searched by the feds. Henon is a board member of IBEW Local 98, and a lone FBI agent sat outside Henon’s office Friday morning and refused to comment, saying only “the office is closed today.”
Federal agents left each location they raided with boxes of paperwork, including a truckload of documents from the IBEW headquarters on Spring Garden Street.
The Inquirer, citing an anonymous source, reported late Friday that the investigation “focused on the union’s finances and its involvement in the political campaigns of Mayor Kenney and state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty, who is Dougherty’s brother.” In 2015, IBEW Local 98 donated nearly a million dollars to fund Dougherty’s successful run for state Supreme Court. It also independently spent upwards of $200,000 in support of Kenney’s campaign for mayor.
At an unrelated event Friday, Kenney declined to comment on the investigation. Kenney’s spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said no member of the administration has been questioned by the FBI, and no requests have been made for documents. She added: “We have no reason to believe the investigation is in any way related to Mayor Kenney.”
FBI officials have refused to comment about the basis of the raids, but the Inquirer is reporting that the federal investigation stretches back two years. And two years ago the National Review, a right-leaning D.C.-based publication, reported Doc’s Union Pub — one of the locations raided today by the FBI — has been at the center of something that resembled a legal “self-pay scheme.”
Local 98’s PAC gave at least $85,000 to the bar in seven separate disbursements between 2012 and 2013, according to FEC filings. And according to the National Review, 14 state candidates and committees endorsed by the union spent a total of more than $400,000 at Doc’s Union Pub between 2005 and 2013. The bar is located at 2nd and Mifflin streets in South Philly.
According to state campaign finance reports, U.S. Congressman Bob Brady, state representative Bill Keller and judge candidates Joseph Waters and Henry Lewandowski have spent thousands of dollars at Doc’s Union Pub, as did the Committee of Philadelphia Democratic Campaign. Keller’s campaign spent by far the most. From 2000 to present day, his campaign spent more than $50,000 at the bar.
The FBI and Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office were also investigating a brawl involving Dougherty and a non-union contractor in February. Though state troopers were present at Dougherty’s house, a spokesperson for Attorney General Kathleen Kane said her office is not involved. The local office of the FBI has not returned messages seeking comment.
Dougherty, often known by his nickname Johnny Doc, is arguably the most influential person in Philadelphia politics. IBEW Local 98 is the single largest independent campaign contributor in Pennsylvania.
Last year, he helped elect Mayor Jim Kenney, who received hundreds of thousands of dollars from PACs and organizations related to Dougherty. Hitt, Kenney’s spokeswoman, said his administration won’t be commenting on the investigation and Jane Roh, a City Council spokeswoman, also declined to comment.
Dougherty consolidated his power further when he became head of the Building and Construction Trades Council last fall. He showed his influence publicly this spring as Council debated the merits of the soda tax, which Dougherty supported. After a Council session, Dougherty reportedly stood up for Henon, a board member of IBEW, saying to opponents of the soda tax, “If you fuck with my boy, I’ll fuck with you.”
And in April, Dougherty met with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
This isn’t Dougherty’s first run-in with the Feds. In 2014, a judge unsealed an FBI agent’s affidavit dated from 2006 in which the agent claimed Dougherty had received renovations to his house, evaded taxes and incorrectly reported income.