RIP: Robert Brady – King of the Philadelphia Democratic Political Machine

With a flash meeting called at DCC headquarters at Spring Garden, key Philadelphia ward leaders were given the news:   Congressman Bob Brady will no longer seek office.   The immediate effect:  Brady’s political career is winding to a close.  And with that will soon come his job as chief cat-herder of Philadelphia’s Democrat establishment.

There is a strong expectation that Brady will soon be named in an indictment that has already resulted in a guilty plea from former Municipal Court judge Jimmy Moore.   Moore admitted to a payment arrangement and lying on campaign finance reports where he received over $70,000 in compensation from Brady in exchange for dropping out of a Democratic primary challenge.   In addition to this, Federal prosecutors are currently pursuing charges against two other close Brady aides.   Brady paid Judge Moore to drop out given that Brady has had a record of skepticism and fear about African-American candidates vying for his position as a US House rep for Pennsylvania’s first congressional district.

Most millennialkin in Philadelphia have absolutely no clue how much their closest friends in local government have had their lives and careers controlled from the party boss.   As head of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, Brady leads and directs the city’s Democratic ward leaders.

Ward leaders in turn manage the local party’s GOTV efforts and distribute pay… and payola… to elected volunteers known as ward committee people, or “committee-people” for short.   This system ensures that no one rises in Democratic politics without going through the ward system.  In turn the ward system exploits the aspects of having full control over the City government.   In the bad old days this meant ward leaders would directly hand out civil service jobs, also known as patronage.  Nearly every City Council person who serves is a product of the city’s ward system and must have the full support of the wards in their district in order to have a shot at getting volunteers and access to residents.

The Closed Loop of Control is Gone

Social media has had an interesting effect on the city’s political system.   It has allowed direct criticism to be levied at the lower rungs of Philadelphia’s politics; in particular the ward leaders.   In years past this part of local politics was mostly ignored save for brief mentions in flash news about a more visible local corrupt politician who got intro trouble and how various ward leaders were involved.

Ascendant progressives looking to get into City government have had direct resistance in the form of the city’s ward system and the overarching protectionism coming from Bob Brady.

With Brady’s ability to control most of the party’s hotheaded and aspirational ward leaders already gone; it’s is expected that there will be a lot of folks both visible and invisible vying for control over the city’s political machine.

How long Brady remains is a mystery only Brady knows the answer to.   But Brady’s magical consensus abilities have already eroded, starting with the debacle over the 197th state representative special election and a current struggle between building trades union loyalists and upstart progressives.   In the 197th District special election, Brady lent endorsement to a replacement candidate who lives in Bucks County—far away from the Hispanic neighborhood of Feltonville.   Once Republicans challenged the party’s nomination, a cat fight ensued in front of Brady where upset committeepeople were locked out of DCC party headquarters while Brady selected a replacement ward leader who worked at the Parking Authority as a substitute.   The chaos ultimately left the Democratic City Committee without a named candidate on the ballot and a scramble ensued to issue stamps and cajole Spanish-speaking voters to the polls, informing them that the machines were broken and that they need to vote as a write-in using a stamper.

And I’ll make one easy prediction here:  the word “unity” will come up a lot at internal gatherings and discussion while this struggle takes place.   I don’t expect this to be the death of Philadelphia’s long-running political machine; which has strangulated this place for too long.

Instead, I think Democratic ladder-climbers at the low-rungs of the party will attempt to sell the idea that Philadelphia’s political machine never existed and will repackage the machine itself as “unity”, and for good measure invoke the Trump boogeyman as a distraction while they battle it out in the Brady vacuum.

Meanwhile we will get more of the same types of people looking to build political fiefdoms out of the city’s neighborhoods and ignoring the great and the good and instead settling for mediocre people because friendships, family and loyalty are more important in Philadelphia’s political system than good people.

There are certainly good Democrats out there with good ideas for the city–but right behind Bob Brady stands a lot of people who have been waiting for “their time” participating in the this city’s political machine hoping to get morsels of spoil from it.  They will be a massive impediment to progress.

The RACISM Of Democratic Map Making In One Picture

So the GOP won its case to keep the current congressional maps

It’s not exactly a victory for anyone, let alone ordinary people.
But one thing is not disputed. We have Congressional districts drawn along racial lines.  And both parties in Pennsylvania have a long and sordid history of altering the lines of jurisdiction based on the skin tones of the folks who fall on one side of that line or the other.
Let’s examine this map of the PA-1 Congressional district, which represents Philadelphia’s River Wards and over the years has increasingly added more and more residents from Delaware County.
This is Congressman Bob Brady‘s congressional district.   The reason for each change in its shape is simple:  it grew arms and legs and hugs the Delaware River to kick out as many black people as possible from it.
It’s also no surprise that Congressman Brady is currently under an FBI probe in his involvement in kicking out a black challenger to his congressional seat, by paying him off.
Incidentally, this person also happens to be the leader of the Democratic City Committee and the region’s top Democrat. Few people like to discuss this in-depth or dwell on it.
Should Republicans have heeded Bob Brady’s requests over the last 30 years to keep black people out of his district so he would face weak challengers? I argue they shouldn’t have. But by granting Brady’s requests to make his seat safer for himself, that usually comes with some strings attached (i.e. not challenging the borders of other districts).
This is different than just Republican vs. Democrat map-drawing. The PA-1 district has never in 40 years ever been at risk of falling into the hands of Republicans no matter what way the map is drawn.
It’s been gerrymandered to protect one person’s career.
Democrats could have fixed this themselves. And in 2 years time they can unfuckify this seat on their own by requesting it be a compact district.

It Appears The Leader of Philly’s Democrats Is A Total Twatwaffle

We’ve long suspected it, but Philadelphia now has direct evidence in its hands that the leader of the city’s Democrats, Congressman Robert A. Brady colluded in a scheme to pay off a senior municipal court judge to drop out of a challenge to his seat for re-election.  It gets worse… it’s to get rid of a black guy.

In a bombshell article in the Inquirer, senior Municipal Court judge Jimmie Moore has agreed to resign.   As part of his plea deal, he admits to accepting $90,000 in payments from Brady to drop out of the race.

Why Did Brady Do It?

Congressional District 1 – Represented by Robert A. Brady

The payments have to do with dissatisfied Democrats who believe that “racial math” has made it possible to elect a minority in the PA-1 Congressional District.   Brady helped shape this district to compact as many white Philadelphians as possible who don’t live in the Northeast.  In BradyWorld™, PA-1 is for white people. PA-2 for the longest time was represented by Chaka Fattah (who is now in Federal lockup), and PA-3 was for Northeast Republicans [now a Democratic seat occupied by Rep. Brendan Boyle].

Even after Brady’s attempt to solidify his safe seat, the demographic changes in the western end of his district and the inclusion of Feltonville, Juniata and part of the Lower Northeast which has seen dramatic demographic shift have made Brady vulnerable to Democratic challengers.

When Jimmie Moore came along, he apparently concerned Brady enough that he arranged for a meeting.   According to documents filed by the US Attorney, that meeting took place at the office of Wilson Goode Sr.  Goode is the first African-American mayor of Philadelphia.

Also as part of the deal reported by the Inquirer, Moore admits that the $90,000 in payments from Brady’s campaign funds were set to be disguised as poll expenses.   Only part of that sum was actually reported to the Federal Election Commission.  A forensic analysis by the FBI concluded that some of the funds went to personal expenses rather than paying off campaign debts.

Will Brady Get Prosecuted?

It remains to be seen whether a third criminal filing will hit the Federal court dockets that directly names Brady.   For the quid pro quo, the government would need to show that Brady himself helped arranged the scheme.   It doesn’t appear that it would have been possible to arrange a deal like this to compensate Moore and get him to agree to drop out without Brady present during any of it.   And Brady is well-known in Philadelphia for being a deal-maker, he is often brought into the picture during heated union disputes of all sorts. And this is one hell of a critical deal–for him.

Still, the government would need direct evidence showing Brady participated in person and had direct knowledge for him to be implicated in falsifying his own campaign finance records where he marked the expenditures.   Given the collapse of Moore and his expected plea arrangement, it appears the leader of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee faces a very serious and real risk of a federal prosecution.

A prosecution of Brady would inflict considerable damage to the Democratic City Committee.  Namely the DCC’s official endorsements and Brady’s penchant for arranging who gets to run in special elections would come into sharp focus as numerous Democrats who have put a lot of time into the party watch the tea leaves closely for signs of his departure and the leadership fight that is sure to follow.


What’s With Philadelphia’s Black Leadership?

Wilson Goode Sr. (LIFE Magazine, 1984)
Wilson Goode Sr. (LIFE Magazine, 1984)

The Year was 1986

Wilson Goode Sr. was the first black mayor of Philadelphia.   Originally from the South, he had moved to Philadelphia and slowly worked his way up in public administration, eventually working in the mayor’s office under Mayor Green–the little-remembered 1-term mayor that came after Frank Rizzo.

White flight had toned down a bit from the mass exodus of the city during the late 1970s.  City planners, the mayor and City Council were boxed between a false hope that Philadelphia’s industrial might would one day turn a corner and the reality setting in that it would never, ever come back.   Goode had a vision of a new, service-oriented city whose economy was its people, not products.

Goode was also the antidote to a looming Frank Rizzo who seemed to be itching to come back to power and had become a behind-the-scenes power broker. Black residents of Philadelphia were hit with economic decline much harder than their white counterparts and whether Goode realized it or not, the idea of a black mayor made people feel that their economic suffering would get the attention it deserved.

Not long into Goode’s reign, one of the weirdest strikes hit the city.   Most of both AFSCME locals had decided to strike after contract negotiations hit a rough patch.  Many returned to work after a few days, but the city’s trash haulers decided to stay on strike after proposals were put forward to modernize the department and install larger compacting trucks.

You can guess what came next…

One of the most bizarre scenes hit the city’s streets… trash piles–some the height of four and five story buildings had started accumulating around Philadelphia as residents spent a month with no trash service.   Goode went to battle in the courts.  He threatened to replace all the city’s trash haulers with private contractors permanently, anything to get them back to work and to strike a deal.  When word hit strikers that private haulers were going to cross the picket lines, AFSCME representatives scoffed.   Wilson Goode said “try me” and started interviewing job candidates and prepared to fire the city’s trash haulers permanently.  The picketers rushed back to the bargaining table.

Goode became an instant populist hero across all quarters of Philadelphia.  The trash strike and Goode’s tough words to AFSCME transformed him into a national star.   Soon after the strike, Goode broke ground on what is now known today as Liberty Place–the iconic twin towers of the city.  It was possibly the peak of his career as mayor.   On the same day he broke ground on One Liberty Place, MOVE happened, which is the only thing we remember Goode for now.


Today we learn that Wilson Goode Sr., who now earns his keep as a minister was a lean-to as Congressman Bob Brady allegedly paid off his campaign rival Jimmie Moore to get him to quit running for congress against Brady’s seat.  Moore is African-American.  Reports say that Goode was contacted by Brady.  I can only imagine it was for a single reason—Brady wanted to use Goode to help broker the deal to get Moore to agree to drop out.

Whether Goode actually provided the assistance won’t be known until either the FBI or the US Attorney General releases whatever communications they may have recorded of the meetings.   It’s clear from prosecutor’s descriptions of what occurred that Goode was aware of what Brady was trying to do.

And ultimately: $90,000 left Brady’s campaign account and wound up in the hands of Moore, allegedly for “polling” expenses, if you can believe that.

Congressman Brady often faces little challenge in his re-elections in his specially-drawn safe district.  It’s very improbable that he would need to poll his constituents about anything, much less pay his primary campaign opponent to do the research—but that’s the story Brady’s press secretary is telling the Inquirer.

And this is just another item in the chain of Philadelphia’s list of Black Power Problems.

There’s DA Seth Williams, the first African-American District Attorney of Philadelphia.  He is currently sitting in a holding pen at the Federal Detention Center awaiting sentencing for his bribery conviction.

There’s the total collapse of the Fattah Organization, a power base that launched the careers of many other black politicians in Philly.  The founder of that political powerhouse–Chaka Fattah, once a political stalwart and long-time congressman who used to be Bob Brady’s equal in Congress who was able to assemble a factory that produced one black protege after another, is now serving a Federal prison sentence for wire and mail fraud.   His son Chip Jr. is also in Federal prison for fraud on school contracts.

Or how about the state prosecutions of State Rep. Louise Bishop, or LeAnna “I’m the fuckin’ Senator” Washington, or Thomasine Tynes for taking a fugly Tiffany bracelet as a bribe.

And then there was that one time when the second black mayor of Philadelphia, John Street, had let his poor choice of aides and staffers run wild.  They turned the Street Administration into an illegal den of Pay-to-Play contracting that nearly cost Street his re-election and came close to breaking the Democratic Party’s lock on the mayor’s office.   A chintzy public-relations blitz was launched with the Clintons and movie stars flying to Philadelphia, and local celebs like Bill Cosby and Patti Labelle were deployed to the Save Street operation to prevent Street from losing to Republican Sam Katz.

What is this?

As black representation in Philadelphia politics was infected by the very corruption that is at the core of our politics; it has changed most of us for the better.   It’s obvious now after these disappointments that identity politics is only skin deep.  It’s now reflected in the way Philadelphians vote and younger residents of the city are far less influenced by the “racial math” that so many older Philadelphians are accustomed to playing.  It’s not entirely gone, but the racial math game has led to enough election defeats that we know it’s a fool’s game to play it.

But that doesn’t mean the racial lens that we see our politicians through is gone.   Take a look at our Congressional districts.

Bob Brady’s district was drawn to hug the Delaware River to compact as many white Philadelphians as possible.   District 2, which used to belong to Fattah and is now represented by Dwight Evans, was created to compact as many black Philadelphians as possible.   District 3 was originally drawn to satisfy Northeast Republicans.    Philadelphia’s political leaders, including Brady, helped create these districts.

Today’s rising black stars in the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee still have to pay homage to Bob Brady, as aloof and inattentive to racial issues as he is.  It’s rather pathetic, actually.

I don’t think the current crop of kids who are maturing and see a future in local politics are going to stomach this situation for much longer.  I don’t think they are also happy with the idea that the leader of the Philadelphia Democratic party brokered a deal–willingly–to get rid of a black rival for his seat in a primary by buying him off.   And worst of all: that some of Philadelphia’s black establishment either participated in it, or if they knew about it–stayed silent.

I hope that’s the case anyway.   This doesn’t look good for Brady, and it certainly doesn’t look good at all for Philadelphia’s image as a progressive town.