Pennsylvania Democrats are reeling after a powerful Philadelphia labor leader was charged with multiple counts of embezzlement, bribery and theft this week, according to published reports.
On Wednesday, charges were announced against John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, the IBEW Local 98 business manager. The union is considered to be the "single biggest independent source of campaign funding" in the state, Politico reported.
Dougherty has helped pour union clout and money into campaigns for politicians — mainly Democrats — running for local, state, and national offices, Politico reported. He is also credited with pulling strings in the Democratic takeover of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
"I would argue they're the single-most effective political organization in the state," former Republican Rep. Ryan Costello told Politico. "They're thinking five, six, seven steps ahead."
Other Republicans are also taking notice.
"Anytime there's a vacuum, it gets filled, and I believe there's an opportunity for the Republicans to take advantage of the fact that the Democratic machinery is minus one piece," Charlie Gerow, a Pennsylvania-based GOP consultant, told Politico.
Dougherty and six others are facing a total of 116 charges relating to misuse of labor funds and bribing corrupt politicians.
A 159-page federal indictment released Wednesday indicates that FBI and IRS agents spent more than two years raiding the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 offices and union leaders' homes.
"I got a different world than most people ever exist in," Dougherty reportedly stated in a transcript of a 2015 FBI wiretap put in the indictment.
How has he responded?
Philly.com reported that Dougherty pleaded not guilty Friday to the charges that allege he bribe a city councilman and used union dues to enrich himself. He was released on a $50,000 bond after he agreed to limit contact with potential witnesses and union members.
Dougherty, 58, has repeatedly denied any wrong-doing.
If convicted, Dougherty's absence could be felt in key races ranging from local elections in Philadelphia all the way up to the 2020 presidential race. Pennsylvania is likely to be a key battleground state in 2020, analysts say.