For a city like ours, corruption has become such a part of the atmosphere, it’s like the weather: part of the air we’ve been breathing for so long that we don’t notice that it is toxic until we start choking.
And toxic is a good word to describe last week’s indictment of union boss John Dougherty and his associates, including Councilman Bobby Henon, that lifted a rock to show the writhing underside of the dirty way this city often conducts its business.
Many were victimized by the alleged actions of Dougherty, Henon, and friends; the victims include those in government who are honest and dedicated to serving the public and who have been tainted by the brush of corruption. This is serious.
Does Mayor Jim Kenney know how serious? No neophyte when it comes to politics, Kenney followed up a tepid response to the Henon allegations (“Bobby Henon should make the decision based on what’s best for his constituents. If he stepped down today, his constituents would not be represented for 10 months.”) with a move that was either blind or stupid: He attended a PAC fund-raiser in his name, held two nights after the indictment was released, sponsored in part by Local 98. Donors had to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $11,400 to attend, and were instructed to mail their checks to Marita Crawford at IBEW 98, one of the Local 98 officials who is also named in the indictment.
We suppose that campaign fund-raising is protected by the First Amendment, as are PACs. But is Kenney oblivious to the bad smell left by his presence at that event? He defended his move by saying he’s "a union mayor, and supports union activities and union work.”
Then why, as the Inquirer reported, did he sneak out the back door when leaving the fund-raiser?
Kenney’s also been splattered by the allegations in the indictment because his signature law, the beverage tax, is framed not as a way to get pre-K for the city’s children, but as an opportunity for Dougerty to punish the Teamsters. While it certainly is plausible that Dougherty would support the bill because it might have that effect, it isn’t plausible that Kenney would cook up an idea like the beverage tax just to do Doc a solid. But that doesn’t mean Kenney shouldn’t be taking the stage to vigorously defend his tax and assure voters that the law has a reasonable distance from any nefarious motives. Even two years after passing, the tax remains controversial, with businesses and Teamsters claiming serious damage and others supporting it as sound policy (including the Editorial Board). Its characterization as a petty revenge move will give further ammunition to the tax’s enemies.