Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan is the longest-serving legislative leader in American history.

But for decades, many Illinoisans didn’t have a clue who he was.

In Fall 2009, public polling from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found 40% of residents approved and 43% disapproved of Madigan, with 17% responding “neither” or “don’t know.”

That all changed after our work on the Madigan campaign in 2016.

Our client was the first organization to examine the structure of Madigan’s money, the rules of the Illinois House and the recipients of his political contributions. As part of our multimillion-dollar educational campaign to raise Madigan’s profile, we used our client’s groundbreaking research to create this Schoolhouse Rock-style video explaining a core pillar of the speaker’s power – the House rules.

The next poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in Fall 2016 found the speaker’s name recognition had increased dramatically, with only 2% of respondents responding “neither” or “don’t know.” More importantly, the speaker’s approval rating dropped to 26% and his disapproval rating jumped to 63%.

As media coverage increased and Illinoisans were made aware of Madigan’s influence, his previously unwavering support in the Illinois House began to flicker. For decades, Democrats faithfully cast their first vote of each legislative session to elect Madigan as speaker of the House. Doing otherwise would pit them against the “king of Illinois.” But in January 2017, a Democratic state representative voted “present” for speaker – the first time that had happened in 30 years. In 2019, it happened again. And in 2020, Madigan faced his first-ever Democratic challenger for speaker of the House.