Kingmaker Dougherty could be in real trouble; what does that mean for Kenney, the man he made king?

John Dougherty hugs a supporter outside his house on Friday after a federal investigation became public.

John Dougherty did exactly what you'd expect John Dougherty to do Friday as federal investigators hauled box after box of evidence from his Moyamensing Avenue home: The powerful union leader and political kingmaker played it cool.

Sure, he paced. But he also offered swarms of reporters wilting in the summer sun iced tea and doughnuts, and cocksure confidence.

"I've had many, many subpoenas and many, many visits. I'm not making rookie mistakes. I've been doing this for 25 years," he said in his Cagneyesque rat-a-tat, while G-men carted away their boxes and a computer.

But with each box investigators carried from Dougherty's home and a nearby pub that bears his name, from the electricians' union headquarters on Spring Garden Street, from the offices of union ally and City Councilman Bobby Henon, from the home of a union bigwig in South Jersey, came the weight of a question: Could this be the raid that brings down Johnny Doc?

With that question came a bigger, more nebulous one: If Doc falls, will he pull Mayor Kenney down with him?

Could Johnny from the Block and all his boxes mean trouble for Jimmy from Cantrell Street?

My colleague Craig R. McCoy reported last week that the federal investigation focuses on Dougherty's personal finances and Local 98's donations to political campaigns, including those to childhood pal Kenney and his own brother, state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty.

On top of that, there's the pesky state probe into allegations of union intimidation and violence, including a South Philly brick-tossing brawl between union and nonunion workers in 2014 (the nonunion guys started it, Doc said), and a fight this year when Doc punched out a nonunion worker at a South Philly work site (the guy insulted his family and rushed him first, Doc said).

The mayor says he knows nothing about the federal investigation. His spokeswoman says no one from the administration has been questioned. The feds aren't hauling off any of the mayor's records.

But what's clear is that seven months into a very promising administration, Kenney now finds himself in a spot where he surely doesn't want to be. He's standing in the shadow, the stink, of the federal investigation of his powerful benefactor.

The kingmaker could be in some trouble. What does that mean for the king?

Kenney's neighborhood bona fides have always been part of his appeal, never more so than in the mayoral race. Here was an old-school politician with new-school sensibility. A neighborhood guy who could pass for a dockworker at the corner bar but who embraced enlightened stances on social issues - someone who had changed along with a changing city.

In that way, Kenney seemed a natural fit for leader of our "New Philadelphia" - a city defined by the contradictions of a shiny new downtown and the many neighborhoods still left behind. Someone who could bridge old and new.

As mayor, he's worked to do just that. From the soda tax to fixing up parks and recreation centers, and to helping shift conversations toward poverty and inequality.

But the neighborhood progressive was propped up by the oldest of old-school power brokers, Doc.

Doc with his seemingly unlimited union money and unfettered power. Doc, who claims he's settled down, but who still runs into street fights with his fists out. Doc, who has once again brought the power of the FBI and the Justice Department and the state Attorney General's Office down upon Philadelphia.

Doc, who says he's not making any "rookie mistakes."

Maybe none of this goes anywhere. Or maybe it stops at Doc.

Some political insiders I talked with said they don't see the investigation threatening Kenney's ability to get things done. This is still Philadelphia, after all, home of the Philadelphia Democratic Party. We are not shocked numb by possible corruption.

Others believe a weakened Doc means a weakened Kenney. If Doc's house and businesses were raided three months ago, would the mayor still have had the muscle to push through his soda tax?

I hope he would have.

Either way, the pall of suspicion will likely linger for months, if not longer.

What is clear is that despite all our city's newfound polish and gleam, despite the success of the papal visit and the DNC, despite all the growth and development and energy and life that have come to Philly in recent years, despite all the efforts to end pay-to-play, at the bottom of everything, the power structure of our body politic still gives federal agents cause to come around collecting boxes.

Imagine what this city could be if it didn't.

mnewall@phillynews.com

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