IN PHILADELPHIA politics, the age-old adage "watch your back" is always good advice.

But watching who you say that to can be just as important.

Just ask District Attorney Seth Williams.

Brett Mandel, who is taking another run at the City Controller's office in the May 21 Democratic primary election, sent a group text message via his cellphone on Dec. 7, the first day of the Pennsylvania Society gathering in New York City.

Mandel asked the elected officials and political players he texted to stop by his campaign fundraiser if they were attending the annual political soiree.

Williams, apparently not realizing he was responding to a large group of people, replied that he was in Aspen, Colo.

He added: "if u see Johnny Doc . . . watch your back."

John Dougherty, leader of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, backed attorney Dan McCaffery in the 2009 Democratic primary election for district attorney.

Williams, who is seeking a second term next year, finished first in that five-candidate race. McCaffery came in second.

Back to the text message.

One person, using a phone number we've called City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez on a few times, responded: "Gentlemen don't text on this group. Your conversation should be private." Sanchez did not respond to our calls about this.

Brian Sims, who will be sworn in next month as a new state House member from Philadelphia, then responded: "Yikes. Not a conversation for a text string with others on it."

Dougherty was talking with Mandel at a Pennsylvania Society event when City Councilman Bobby Henon, a former political director for Local 98, walked up and showed him the text messages.

Dougherty, who is backing City Controller Alan Butkovitz's bid for a third term, then read Mandel the riot act in public.

Mandel confirms that Dougherty spoke with him about the text messages but said he didn't want to get in the middle of whatever prompted Williams to warn him about Dougherty.

Dougherty said he thinks "it's pretty obvious" that Williams is suffering from "paranoia" spurred by rumors that his brother, Family Court Administrative Judge Kevin Dougherty, will run for district attorney in 2013.

Dougherty said his brother has no plans to challenge Williams in the primary and intends to support his bid for a second term.

Williams told us he and Dougherty have not spoken about the text messages.

Asked if his warning to "watch your back" was serious or just an accidentally shared joke, Williams told us: "I'm a prosecutor, unfortunately I think we need to watch out for everyone."

Like we said: good advice.

Brady pitches Chamber

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady gave the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce's board of directors his big pitch Thursday morning for a local casino applicant, Penn National Gaming, which is promising two-thirds of the profits to the city's School District and municipal pension plan.

Brady calls the Chamber an "extremely concerned faction of the city" looking at the troubled finances of both institutions.

"They asked the right questions: How many jobs? What's the revenue for the city?" Brady said. "How the business community goes, the city goes. I thought they were owed an explanation."

The Chamber declined to let us listen in on the discussion.

Chamber President Rob Wonderling also declined our request to share his thoughts on Brady's pitch.

A spokeswoman emailed a statement from Wonderling that the Chamber is "always interested to learn more about key initiatives such as that being presented by Congressman Brady."

City Council this month approved hearings on Brady's pitch. Those hearings have not been scheduled because Council President Darrell Clarke has not signed off on them so far.

Penn National is one of six bidders for the city's lone remaining casino license. The state Gaming Control Board will host a hearing Feb. 12 for the bidders to explain their proposals. Public input hearings will be held April 11 and 12.

Happy Cloutydays

Clout is taking some time. We'll be back in a couple of weeks.

Quotable:

"My right hand. It can shake hands and sign autographs without stopping. I am constantly impressed with its durability and stamina."

- Former Gov. Ed Rendell responding in a Q&A story by Politico this week when asked "Which is your favorite body part on yourself and why?"

Phone: 215-854-5973

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: philly.com/phillyclout