Madigan's father, Michael, was "a very strong Democrat, a product of the Great Depression. He carried with him very strong feelings in favor of the New Deal." Michael Flynn was the Cook County Clerk, and also the Democratic committeeman of Chicago's 13th Ward, an unpaid, political-party leadership position. Madigan's father was a precinct captain in the 13th Ward and worked in the Cook County Clerk's office, where he befriended a young Richard J. Daley. Madigan later characterized the relationship between his father and Richard J. Daley as "political friends." The elder Michael Madigan later worked for 25 years as the 13th Ward superintendent for the City of Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.
Madigan was born on April 19, 1942 and was raised in the Clearing neighborhood of Chicago. Madigan graduated from Saint Adrian's Elementary School, St. Ignatius College Prep on the west side of Chicago, and the University of Notre Dame. In 1965, while a first-year law student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Madigan purchased a membership in the Lake Shore Club and introduced himself to Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley as Michael Madigan's son. Within months, at Madigan's father's request, Mayor Daley appointed Madigan to a summer job with the city law department between his first and second years of law school. Madigan also met Daley's son Richard M. Daley, while both were law students. Madigan's father suffered a heart attack at age 58, and a fatal heart attack at age 60, in 1966. Madigan graduated from Loyola Law School in 1967. Madigan and Neil Hartigan worked together in the city law department. Madigan and Richard M. Daley were delegates to the 1970 Illinois constitutional convention, their first elected public offices, and became good friends.
In 1972, Madigan founded the private law firm of Madigan and Getzendanner with Vincent J. "Bud" Getzendanner, Jr., a fellow Loyola law graduate, one year his senior. In 1976, Madigan married Shirley Murray, a divorced law firm receptionist with a young daughter, Lisa, whom Madigan adopted; Lisa later became Attorney General of Illinois.
Madigan joined Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne in endorsing Alderman Edward M. Burke in the 1980 Democratic primary race for Cook County State's Attorney, over Madigan's friend Richard M. Daley.
In 1986, Madigan urged Adlai Stevenson III to enter the Democratic primary for Illinois Governor. Hartigan withdrew and Stevenson prevailed in the primary and was defeated by James R. Thompson for the second time.
In 1969, the 13th Ward precinct captains elected Madigan their committeeman, making him, at 27 years of age, the youngest ward committeeman in Chicago at the time. Madigan's ward organization has been called the most disciplined in Chicago. In the 1983 mayoral election, the 13th Ward had the highest turnout of any ward, and white, Republican candidate Bernard Epton won 96% of the vote in the 13th Ward, leading Democrat and winner, Harold Washington, Chicago's first Black mayor.
In 1998, the Illinois Democratic Party's Central Committee elected Madigan chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Madigan succeeded his protégé and former chief of staff, Gary LaPaille. Madigan fired the state party staff, closed its headquarters in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, and moved it to Springfield, Illinois to the same office building as his campaign finance committee staff.
In November 1970, Madigan was elected to represent the 22nd District in the Illinois State House of Representatives. It is a majority Hispanic district including Midway International Airport on Chicago's southwest side.
Madigan has been Speaker of the Illinois House since 1983, with the exception of 1995–1997 when Republicans took control of the Illinois House and Illinois State Representative Lee Daniels of Elmhurst, Illinois became Speaker. Madigan recruited candidates who appealed to south suburban Chicago voters and the Illinois House Democratic Majority political action committee he controls spent $272,000 in six south suburban races. Democrats won back nine seats in the Illinois House in the elections of November 1996, regained a majority, and Madigan resumed the Speaker's role and has held it ever since. He is the longest-serving state House speaker in United States history.
Since the 1980 United States Census, except in the 1990s, Madigan has been the chief map maker of the legislative districts of the Illinois General Assembly and the United States Congress in Illinois and during reapportionment he designs the Illinois House districts to increase his majority.
After 2002 – when Democrats took control of all branches of the state government – Madigan feuded with leading Democrats Governor Rod Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones.
Madigan has not been amenable to expansion of gambling in the state, although when the subject came up again in 2007 he said he would hold public hearings to gauge support for expansion of three casinos in Illinois.
Some political observers have been critical of the level of control Madigan has come to hold over Illinois politics, describing him as the state's political boss.
In 2016, Madigan was the subject and namesake of a documentary made by the Illinois Policy Institute. The documentary was widely criticized as being overly partisan and raised ethical concerns after individuals featured in the movie claimed that they weren't told the nature of their interviews.
One of Madigan's chief Democratic deputies in the House is Gary Hannig, who often handles budget issues.
Madigan and Blagojevich clashed over Blagojevich's proposals for increased state spending. Blagojevich blamed the 2007 budget crisis on Madigan, releasing a statement that said, "The way to be able to finally get budgets that achieve the objective of health care and education for families is to get Mr. Madigan to be a Democrat again and stop being a George Bush Republican." Madigan refused to meet with Blagojevich for more than two months after Blagojevich introduced the budget; rather than the proposed $5 billion in increased spending, he recommended $1 billion, funded by the ending of a tax break. When talks stalled, Madigan invited the entire House to accompany him to budget negotiations.
Madigan opposed Blagojevich's proposed gross receipts tax in 2007. He said the tax was "regressive" and would hurt the poor, who are “the least able in our society to take on additional costs.”
Illinois senior Senator Dick Durbin said in 2008 that he received many constituent complaints about the dispute between Blagojevich and Madigan, with letter writers wanting him to step in to negotiate. Durbin said the subject was also often talked about in the United States Congress in Washington, D.C. among the Illinois congressional delegation. However, Durbin joked that he'd rather go to Baghdad to mediate than Springfield.
The Chicago Sun-Times statehouse bureau reporter of 13 years, Dave McKinney, said of Madigan's style as Speaker:
"It's sort of the classic case that you get a guy (Madigan) who is steeped in discipline versus a guy who's very undisciplined, like Blagojevich. You can see it in their work habits, in their mannerisms.
Madigan is very measured in what he says. You never see him flying off on things. He is so precise.
This guy has been speaker for almost 30 years. He runs that chamber almost like he runs his house. They come in on time. He knows the rules. He's written the rules.
Madigan likes news clippings given to him every day; he likes to keep up on things. And he likes them clipped and organized in a certain way. With Rod, you get the sense that he's more of a big ideas person, but then doesn't really have the wherewithal to carry through on things to make sure they get done, to deliver."
The relationship between Blagojevich and Madigan hit its low in October 2007, when Blagojevich fired Bronwyn Rains, wife of Madigan's chief of staff Timothy Mapes, from her position of psychologist with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Blagojevich said he based this on Rains' educational background. She had worked for the department for 24 years with no prior record of problems; one observer called the fallout "nuclear war."
Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson and House Republican Leader Tom Cross often met with Madigan, his Senate counterpart at the time Emil Jones, and Blagojevich in an attempt to referee disputes. In August 2008, Blagojevich stated that House Democrats who held City of Chicago jobs were fearful of voting in favor of his 2008 capital bill because they thought Madigan might be able to get them fired. Blagojevich told reporters:
"They fear their leader, Mr. Madigan, and if Mike Madigan tells them to vote a certain way, they will tell you privately, and I've had these discussions with a couple of state reps, one of whom said, 'I'm afraid if I vote for the jobs bill I'll be fired from my job at Streets and Sanitations [sic]. I'm afraid I'll lose my job.'"
Rep. Gary Hannig told the newspaper that Blagojevich had told House Democrats he was referring to D'Amico. When contacted, D'Amico said that Blagojevich had asked him if he feared losing his job with the City of Chicago's water department, at which point D'Amico said that he had been in a union for 26 years and could not be fired easily, and instead he opposed the capital bill because Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley opposed it.
On December 15, 2008, Madigan announced that he was taking steps to initiate impeachment proceedings against Blagojevich. He named Illinois House of Representatives Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie to Chair the 21-member House committee on impeachment. After the committee reported, Madigan presided over the House deliberations which unanimously voted the first impeachment of an Illinois Governor. Subsequently, the Illinois Senate tried and removed Governor Blagojevich from office, also by a unanimous vote.
Madigan refused to testify in the inquiry over his advocacy for more 40 applicants to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Governor Pat Quinn appointed a commission, to be led by retired Judge Abner Mikva, to investigate attempts by lawmakers and others to influence admissions of unqualified candidates (whose relatives had given money to Michael Madigan, other lawmakers, and the state Democratic Party which is chaired by Madigan) at the state's largest university. The August 6, 2009 report by the Admissions Review Commission stated that the university's top officials (trustees, president, chancellor) were the ones most culpable, because they should have refused the lawmakers' requests, although he also said a separate commission should be established by Governor Quinn and/or the legislature to look into possible misconduct by Madigan and others.
In the summer of 2013, it was reported that Michael Madigan had sought to use his influence to secure patronage hiring and promotion at the Metra commuter rail agency for two of his supporters. Metra CEO Alex Clifford rejected these requests, and he alleges that the agency's board sought his resignation as a result.
In the wake of this scandal five Metra board members resigned, but Madigan denied violating any ethics rules. An investigation by the Legislative Inspector General found that Madigan "should have realized, given his influential position, that by making the [personnel] requests at the conclusion of meetings with Metra officials to discuss funding and other legislative issues, he would be creating reciprocal expectations."
More than 400 current or retired state and local government employees have strong political ties to Madigan, according to a 2014 investigation by the Chicago Tribune. The former Bureau of Electricity in the Streets and Sanitation Department of the City of Chicago was called "Madigan Electric" by political insiders. Madigan recommended at least 26 individuals for jobs at Metra from 1983 to 1991.
Madigan admitted that he is more likely to return phone calls from campaign contributors than from non-contributors.
Of all the current sitting Democratic Illinois House members, Speaker Madigan has received the highest amount of campaign contributions from labor unions. Between 2002 and 2012, he received $670,559. This sum includes:$56,114 from AFL-CIO
$50,000 from AFSCME
$63,600 from Illinois Education Association
$161,000 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers
$135,000 from the Chicago Teachers Union
$204,845 from the Service Employees International Union
On January 1, 2016, the Chicago Tribune reported that House Speaker Michael Madigan "has been on a fundraising tear, courtesy of a quirk in state campaign finance law that allows him to amass multiple five-figure contributions from the same donor into four funds he controls." In 2015, Madigan raised more than $7 million. Over 68% of the money that Madigan raised in 2015 came from trial lawyers, law firms, and organized labor unions.
Illinois created its first limit on campaign contributions for the legislature in 2009. However the law allowed for politicians to raise money for various campaign funds for their political parties and caucuses. Madigan controls four different campaign fundraising organizations: Friends of Michael J Madigan, the Democratic Majority fund, the Southwest Side 13th Ward fund and the Democratic Party of Illinois account. Additionally, over the past 15 years, Madigan raised more than $658,000 in donations from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) Legislative PAC.
In early 2011, leading Illinois Democratic lawmakers and Governor Pat Quinn agreed to a raise the Illinois state income from 3 to 5.25 percent—a 75% increase. At the time, it was estimated that the higher taxes would bring in about $7.5 billion a year. The income tax increase would mean that a married couple with two kids, earning $80,000 a year combined, would pay an extra $1,620 in taxes. Democratic leaders said the plan would pull the state out of its $15 billion budget hole. They promised the tax hike would last just four years, and then fall to 3.75 percent.
Between 2011 and 2014, the Illinois state income tax rate was 5 percent. On January 1, 2015, the tax rate was reduced from 5 percent to 3.75 percent, creating a shortfall in revenue of 2.7 billion dollars starting FY 2015. Madigan has said that he would rather increase income taxes than sales taxes. On several other occasions, he has made comments and introduced budgets that raise taxes in Illinois.
On May 25, 2016, Madigan introduced a budget plan. His plan increased spending and “set the state on autopilot for the next year”, according to the Chicago Tribune. Madigan’s plan allocated $700 million in education funds to public schools. However, that $700 million would only go to Chicago Public Schools and would exclude schools anywhere else in the state.
The Illinois Office of Management and Budget said that the tax rate for an average family in Illinois would have to go up by $1,000 to pay for Madigan’s plan. That amounts to an increase of the income tax rate to 5.5 percent. Governor Bruce Rauner said that the budget was “the biggest unbalanced budget in Illinois history.”
Madigan’s plan passed the Illinois House of Representatives on May 25 by a vote of 63 in favor and 53 opposed. The Republican leader in the Illinois House, Jim Durkin, said the bill was “absolutely the biggest joke.” Among those opposed were seven Democrat representatives. The seven are being targeted for defeat in the fall 2016 campaigns.
Madigan’s tax plan proposed spending $47.5 billion for fiscal year 2017. The state estimated that it would bring in approximately $40.5 billion in revenue, meaning that Madigan’s budget spends around $7 billion more than the state would have available through tax revenue. The Illinois Policy Institute, a fiscal policy think tank, estimated that the state would need to increase people’s income tax from 3.75 to 5.5 percent in order to make up for Madigan’s budget gap. The think tank estimated that the increase would amount to around $1,000 on average per family in Illinois.
In December 2015, the state of Illinois had been going for over five months with no budget in place. On December 9 at the City Club in Chicago, Madigan publicly said that he thinks the state income tax should increase to “at least 5 percent to balance the state’s out-of-whack finances,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Chicago Tribune wrote, “In doing so, Madigan potentially gave new life to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's argument that Democrats are to blame for the stalemate in Springfield because they're intent on only raising taxes to dig out of the state budget deficit.”
Madigan’s exact words were, “A good place to begin, good place to begin would be the level we were at before the income tax expired. . . . And starting there, you can go in whatever direction you want to go.”
One of Madigan’s ideas to raise taxes is to pass a state constitutional amendment that would raise taxes on “millionaires to pay for public schools.”
Madigan also has a plan for a graduated rate increase. State representative Lou Lang, a deputy under Madigan, formally introduced Madigan’s proposal that would change how Illinois taxpayers are taxed at the state level. Instead of being taxed a flat rate, people would be taxed at a graduated rate, with the rate increasing for higher incomes.
The Tax Foundation released a report in early 2016, using figures from 2011, that showed that Illinois had the fifth-highest tax burden in the United States. Illinois had the second-highest burden when compared to other states in the midwest. Under Madigan’s proposal, those figures would change: Illinois would have the fourth-highest and highest tax burden in the U.S. and midwest, respectively. In 2012, Illinois’ tax burden was the second highest in the midwest, after Wisconsin, but before Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker passed tax cuts.
Madigan was instrumental in the passage of SB-1; a plan that amended state employee pension plans by drastically reducing the constitutionally protected benefits of Illinois state employees in retirement. The Illinois Supreme Court ultimately found these legislative changes to be unconstitutional.
As the Illinois Supreme Court ruling stated: “These modifications to pension benefits unquestionably diminish the value of the retirement annuities the members…were promised when they joined the pension system. Accordingly, based on the plain language of the Act, these annuity-reducing provisions contravene the pension protection clause’s absolute prohibition against diminishment of pension benefits and exceed the General Assembly’s authority,”
Madigan was founder and continues as senior partner of the law firm Madigan and Getzendanner specializing in corporate real estate property tax appeals, which has been accused of profiting off of Madigan's position and power. Getzendanner and four other staff attorneys handle the tax appeals, while Madigan brings in clients. In 2008 Madigan and Getzendanner represented 45 of the 150 most valuable buildings in downtown Chicago, more than any other property tax appeal firm, and more than twice as many as the second highest. Clients include the John Hancock Center and the Prudential Plaza. From 2006 to 2008 in Cook County, Illinois, Madigan and Getzendanner received the largest reductions for their clients of any tax appeal law firm. Venues for property tax appeals law firms in Cook County include hearings before the County Assessor, the County Board of Review, and the County courts. Judges in Illinois are elected in partisan elections, and Madigan, by his Democratic Party leadership roles as committeeman and state chairman, is one of the main persons involved in slating judicial candidates.
After the death of veteran 45th Ward committeeman and long-time chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party Thomas G. Lyons in January 2007, Cook County Democrats met in Chicago on February 1 to fill the vacancy. Madigan nominated Joseph Berrios, a former Illinois State Representative, then a Commissioner on the Cook County Board of Review. Cook County Democrats elected Berrios their new chairman. Madigan political workers aided Berrios' 2010 campaign for the Assessor of Cook County, Illinois. Berrios is registered as a lobbyist to Illinois state government and advocates for issues including expanding video poker. Berrios lobbies Madigan in Springfield, while the Assessor is critical to the lucrative commercial real-estate tax appeals practices of law firms, including those of Madigan. "Even by Illinois’s loose conflict of interest standards, the obviousness of the Madigan-Berrios connection is stupefying," wrote Chicago Magazine in 2013.
Madigan and his wife, Shirley, have four children. His oldest daughter, Lisa Madigan, is the Attorney General of Illinois. Madigan is not Lisa's biological father: she was born Lisa Murray to criminal attorney Joel Murray and Shirley (who divorced Joel Murray and married Madigan when Lisa was 10 years old). Lisa changed her name when she was 18 and was formally adopted in her 20s. Shirley is the head of the Illinois Arts Council. Madigan's son-in-law Jordan Matyas is the chief lobbyist for Regional Transportation Authority, a deputy chief overseeing their Government Affairs Department.
In 2002, Madigan helped his daughter Lisa garner more campaign contributions in her run for Illinois Attorney General than even the candidates for governor that year. At one point, Lisa Madigan's $1.2 million raised was more than all the attorney general candidates in 1998 had raised, combined.
During the 2002 campaign, allegations of misconduct in campaign contributions arose—Madigan was accused of using taxpayer dollars for political purposes. Legislative staffers of Michael Madigan made numerous visits at public expense to contested Illinois House districts in the winter and spring before the November 2000 election. The Republican gubernatorial candidate, Jim Ryan, suggested that Madigan should resign. Madigan's daughter Lisa was running for state Attorney General during that year's election and called the allegations baseless. Lisa Madigan's opponent in the race called on her to pay back taxpayer-paid bonuses her father had paid staffers before they departed to work on his daughter's campaign. A federal investigation into one of Lisa Madigan's political endorsements ensued after Madigan allegedly contacted a union boss in Chicago shortly before the union endorsed Madigan's daughter for the post, but nothing came out of it.