After indictments, Ironworkers’ union left on electoral sidelines

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

Formerly a heavy-hitter in Pennsylvania politics, at least in Philadelphia and its suburbs, Ironworkers’ Local 401 has spent far less during the 2014 election cycle than any others in recent history.

Ten members of Ironworkers Local 401, including union business manager Joseph Dougherty, were charged with racketeering and participating in a conspiracy to commit criminal acts that included arson, extortion, the destruction of property and assault. They are accused of using violent tactics against both nonunion and fellow union contractors who were perceived to have violated Ironworkers’ turf.

The case is still waiting to go to trial in federal court.

WON’T GIVE IT BACK: John Kane says he plans to keep the money donated by the Ironworkers Local 401 union, in spite of the crimes alleged by an FBI investigation and federal indictment. He’s the Democratic candidate in a hotly contested state Senate race in the 26th district.

But in the court of political opinion, the union seems to be less welcome than it was in previous cycles.

After handing out more than $160,000 to candidates in 2010 and more than $170,000 in 2012, Ironworkers Local 401’s political action committee has spent only $46,650 so far in 2014, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Department of State.

Although final reports are not due until after the election, the union is well below its pace from previous years.

One of the few races the union is involved in this year is the hotly-contested state Senate seat in Delaware County. Democrats have that seat, left vacant by retiring state Sen. Ted Erickson, D-Delaware, on the top of their list of possible pick-ups as they try to flip control of the state Senate this year.

According to campaign finance reports, the Ironworkers’ PAC has contributed $10,000 to John Kane, the Democratic candidate in the race, since the start of the year. Kane serves as business manager for another Philadelphia union, Plumbers Local 690.

Though Ironworkers money has become politically toxic for some candidates this year, Kane has stood by Dougherty and the union. He told Delaware County Daily Times earlier this month he was keeping the money because “it’s not Joe Dougherty’s money, its his members.

Tom McGarrigal, owner of a car dealership and the Republican candidate in the race, has made an issue of the contributions. In vicious television ads, McGarrigal’s campaign has tied Kane to the Ironworkers’ union and their members’ alleged crimes.

Kane didn’t condemn the violence and even said he’ll keep the campaign dollars he took from Dougherty,” the ad intones.

Aren Platt, spokesman for Kane’s campaign, said Ironworkers’ alleged crimes have nothing to do with Kane or his union.

“What the McGarrigle campaign is trying to do is imply guilt by association,” Platt said. “John Kane and Plumbers Local 690 have been thoroughly vetted, and conduct themselves at the highest ethical standard.”

The Ironworkers union has also poured at least $1,000 into the campaign coffers of state Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia; state Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery; and state Rep. Jesse White, D-Washington.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a York County Democrat, received $1,000 from the union this year, though he isn’t on the ballot until 2016 when he can seek re-election.

Mike Driscoll, a Philadelphia Democrat seeking a seat in the state House, received $1,000 from the union. Karen Chellew, a Bucks County Democrat seeking to fill the seat vacated by retiring state Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, got $2,500 from the union.

The biggest single contribution from Ironworkers this year went to a candidate for Congress. The union sent $10,000 to Building A Better Pennsylvania, a political action committee tied to state Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Philadelphia.

Boyle seeks to replace U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Penn., in the state’s 13th congressional district after Schwartz launched a failed bid for governor this year. He is expected to prevail against Republican candidate Dee Adcock in the heavily Democratic district.

During her primary run for governor, Schwartz donated a $10,000 contribution from the union to charity following the federal indictment.

Like Kane, Boyle has kept contributions from Ironworkers even though he says he doesn’t condone the union’s alleged actions.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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