Do Something

6 ways to play watchdog

If you want city government to be less corrupt and work better for you, get involved. The first step is staying informed. Here are a few ways to do that:

Tune into WURD’s live coverage of Council meetings (plus interviews with key members and spotlights of current issues) Thursday’s from 10am-1pm

Watch stated meetings, committee meetings, budget hearings, and Councilmember spotlights on City Council’s YouTube channel

Follow Mayor Kenney on Twitter.

Use our guide to contact your electeds or go to a meeting in person.

Check out Council’s calendar and meeting agendas to find out when they’ll be voting on legislation you care about. There’s a public comment period at every meeting, right before Council votes on resolutions and bills.

Call the Chief Clerk’s office (215-686-3410 or 215-686-3411) to sign up to speak; if you haven’t signed up by 5pm on Wednesday before the meeting, go to Room 400 City Hall before the Council session starts to add your name to the list. You can also show up day-of and you’ll have the opportunity to speak after all citizens who signed up. You get three minutes, so make them count.


Anti-corruption crusade

Ideas for reform

What we’ve seen play out with Johnny Doc and Bobby Henon is atrocious—how do we move towards a less corrupt future of Philly politics? Here, a few ideas:

End the Outside Income Perk
Here in Philly, we have one of the nation’s highest-paid councils—an average of roughly $134,000 per year, plus perks like a city car—and yet no restrictions on outside income.

By permitting outside income, we’ve created a class of local politicians with two masters—taxpayers and those who are putting them on the payroll. It’s a system that is inherently hostile to democracy.

Let’s Defang Councilmanic Prerogative.
You can’t very well outlaw something that isn’t even a law. Well, you could do as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot did on her first day, when she lessened the power of the Windy City’s “Aldermanic Prerogative” by signing an executive order that strengthened the city’s planning and zoning departments.

Or you could, as Philly 3.0’s Jon Geeting has argued here, remove from the Charter the prerequisite that a Council ordinance precede the selling of public land, which would go a long way toward knee-capping Councilmanic Prerogative.

Read more here.

Who Will Return Johnny Doc’s Money?

The convicted labor leader’s union has spent $40 million on Pennsylvania politicians since 2010. A writer for Broad + Liberty wonders if they will finally distance themselves from his influence.

Who Will Return Johnny Doc’s Money?

The convicted labor leader’s union has spent $40 million on Pennsylvania politicians since 2010. A writer for Broad + Liberty wonders if they will finally distance themselves from his influence.

The dust is settling on Philly union leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty’s conviction on a slew of federal conspiracy charges. Among his guilty counts: buying a seat on Philadelphia City Council, in the form of Northeast Philly Councilmember Bobby Henon, at a rate of $70,000 per year. In return, Henon did Dougherty’s bidding. Henon has been found guilty of multiple federal charges, as well.

But this annual $70,000 to secure influence on City Council, while significant to the federal charges, is minuscule compared to the approximately $40 million Johnny Doc’s union, IBEW Local 98, has spent on politics across Pennsylvania since 2010.

If Johnny Doc demanded loyalty from Henon for $70K per year, what did he demand from the dozens of other elected officials whom he helped propel into office?

The question remains whether these politicians will stay loyal to Johnny Doc or separate themselves from his money—and influence—once and for all.

Here’s a look at some of the top recipients of Johnny Doc’s tainted contributions:

Dougherty’s brother, Democratic Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty, tops the list. In 2015, Johnny Doc helped elect his brother to the state supreme court with more than $1.5 million in direct and in-kind contributions. In fact, IBEW was Justice Dougherty’s largest contributor, far outpacing the trial lawyers’ Committee for a Better Tomorrow, which gave $850,000. If it seems untoward that a state supreme court justice benefitted so greatly from a family member who is now a federal convict, that’s because it is.

Dougherty’s judicial picks don’t end there. As of the end of 2020, 47 sitting judges had received campaign donations from his union, including Pa. Superior Court Judge Dan McCaffery ($190,000) and Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler (just over $100,000), who was elected in 2017.

Next up is Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf, who has received more than $1.2 million from Johnny Doc’s union. Notably, Wolf took $300,000 after Johnny Doc was indicted by the Justice Department in January 2019. If Johnny Doc expected a $70K-per-year councilmember to do his bidding, what did he expect from a sitting governor in exchange for $1.2 million?

RELATED: You can’t fix Philly’s culture of corruption when almost everyone is complicit.

In Philadelphia itself, Dougherty’s largesse was most significant, particularly in Northeast Philadelphia. Democrat Rep. Ed Neilson has received more than $397,000 from Johnny Doc’s union.

In 2014, when Neilson was running for City Council, The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that Johnny Doc credited him “with helping … build the ‘machine’” that gets union leaders “‘in the right room’ with contractors, developers and politicians who controlled jobs.” Now that he’s been funded by that machine to the tune of nearly $400,000, what doors has Neilson opened for Dougherty and his allies?

The following Philly-area state lawmakers also received more than $100,000 each from IBEW 98:

  • Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia): more than $290,000.
  • Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia): $220,000. Boyle was recently arrested and charged with harassment and violating a protection from abuse order.
  • Newly elected state Senator John Kane (D-Delaware): $215,000, including $140,000 since Johnny Doc’s indictment.
  • Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), who’s running for U.S. Senate: $150,000, including $50,000 since the indictment.
  • Rep. Angel Cruz (D-Philadelphia): $143,000, including $23,000 since the indictment.
  • Sen. Vince Hughes (D-Philadelphia): $117,500, including $70,000 since the indictment.
  • Rep. Mike Driscoll (D-Philadelphia): $116,500, including more than $25,000 since the indictment.

While Pennsylvania Democrats have been the primary recipients of Johnny Doc’s largesse, Republicans also made the list.

Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, for example, has received $97,500, including nearly $22,000 since Johnny Doc’s indictment. Ironically, Schmidt recently announced his resignation as commissioner to take over the helm at Philadelphia “good government” group Committee of Seventy. Does accepting money from someone under FBI indictment now qualify as “good governance”?

Finally, raising serious concerns is Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has taken nearly $250,000 from Johnny Doc since 2005. Shapiro is now running for governor and is expected to be the Democratic nominee. When asked in early November if he thought the jury would convict Johnny Doc, Shapiro replied “I think given my role as AG I can’t answer that one.”

Here’s a question Shapiro can answer: Now that Johnny Doc has been convicted, will Shapiro return the $250,000? Will any of the politicians above return the tainted money, for that matter?

From doling out millions to judges, local elected officials, our governor, our attorney general, and countless others, it’s little wonder Johnny Doc was able to shield himself from scrutiny for so many years. The question remains whether these politicians will stay loyal to Johnny Doc or separate themselves from his money—and influence—once and for all.

This article is part of a content partnership with

Gina Diorio is the Public Affairs Director at Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, an independent, non-partisan, 501(c)(6) membership organization dedicated to improving the economic environment and educational opportunities in


The Dougherty Fallout

The Fix: A Post-Dougherty Anti-Corruption Crusade?

The Fix: What Good Can Come From the Dougherty/Henon Trial?

The Fix: You Can’t Change a Culture of Corruption…

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