John Dougherty may not be a household name, but he is the kingmaker of Philadelphia and much of Pennsylvania.
Dougherty, known as Johnny Doc, is a classic example of Democrat machine politics that have nothing to do with making people’s lives better.
Take, for example, the much-heralded tax on sweetened beverages that became law in 2016. The tax raised the cost by about 20 percent and was intended to cut soda purchases and fund pre-kindergarten for poor kids.
This year, there are 2,250 children in city-funded, pre-K programs, or less than 10 percent of those who reportedly need some programs. What’s appalling is that only one-quarter of the more than $130 million raised from the soda tax has gone to fund the programs, while the rest has paid for other city projects.
Moreover, the tax has resulted in the closure of supermarkets in the city because people buy cheaper products just across the border in the suburbs.
But here is the real deal about the tax. The soda tax is the kind of bare-knuckle tactics Dougherty and his union buds have been using for years—a throwback to the days of machine politics in Chicago and the power plays of union leaders like Jimmy Hoffa.
Mayor Jim Kenney, who has known Dougherty since childhood and got elected mayor based on his financial and political backing, pushed the tax.
After a city official explained to the union boss how the tax would benefit the city, Dougherty reportedly replied, “You don’t have to explain to me. I don’t give a f—.”
Dougherty, the business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, wanted to hurt the Teamsters’ Union. As a result of the soda tax, the Teamsters lost an estimated 100 jobs in Philadelphia because the assessment meant fewer people drank soda, which left fewer trucks to deliver the drinks to local stores.
Local 98 has been a huge source of campaign funding in Pennsylvania during the last few election cycles, and it has had a significant role in shaping the judiciary, putting 60 of its preferred candidates on the bench, including Dougherty’s brother, Kevin, elected to the state Supreme Court in 2015.
Bobby Henon, a longtime Dougherty bud and key leader of the Philadelphia City Council, reportedly struck a bargain on the soda tax campaign in which he got a variety of goodies, including a $73,131 salary from Local 98 and tickets to sporting events worth nearly $12,000.
Dougherty and Henon, along with six others, were indicted last week on more than 100 federal charges of embezzlement, bribery, and theft.
Maybe the indictments will tie up union funds when this year’s city and state elections roll around. It’s likely the Democrats will find someone else to bankroll their deeds and buy people off while promising nonexistent programs and causing businesses to suffer.