The Velvet Hammer

In light of all of the encomiums being heaped on Nancy Pelosi in reaction to her announcement that she would not seek another term as Speaker of the House, I thought I’d provide a little background and commentary on Michael Madigan, nicknamed “the Velvet Hammer”, who was Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives for most of the last 40 years. Let’s start with a quick summary of important events:

Date Event
1969   Elected 13th Ward Committeeman
1970 Elected to the Illinois House
1977 Becomes part of House leadership
1983 Elected to the first of 18 terms as House Speaker
2019 Excommunicated
2021 Resigns as Speaker
2022 Indicted on federal racketeering charges

During Mr. Madigan’s tenure in office Illinois went from a state whose population and economy were growing rapidly, whose fiscal state was reasonably solid, and where the Democratic and Republican Parties competed for power in the state to one in which the population was declining, individuals and businesses were fleeing, it had (by some reckonings) the highest taxes in the nation, was paying higher interest rates to borrow than any other state, and Democrats held hegemonic unchallenged control. While in office Mr. Madigan became rich through property tax appeals cases handled by his law firm.

Mr. Madigan was an important Speaker. He was an influential Speaker. He was a powerful Speaker. He was not a good Speaker. As the late Mayor Daley would say, let’s look at the record.

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