Political boss

For the similar term, see Crime boss
Boss tweed
1869 tobacco label featuring Boss Tweed

In politics, a boss is a person who controls a unit of a political party, although they may not hold political office. Numerous officeholders in that unit are subordinate to the single boss in party affairs. Each party in the same ward or city may have its own boss; that is, the Republican boss of Ward 7 controls Republican politics, while the Democratic boss controls the Democratic party there. Reformers sometimes allege that political bosses are likely guilty of corruption. Bosses may base their power on control of a large number of votes. When the party wins, they typically control appointments in their unit, and have a voice at the higher levels. They do not necessarily hold public office themselves; most historical bosses did not, at least during the times of their greatest influence.


The appearance of bosses has been common since the Roman Republic, and remains fairly common or maybe widespread today. In Spanish America, Brazil, Spain, and Portugal political bosses called caciques hold power in many places;[1] while in Italy they are often referred to as ras.[2] Bosses were a major part of the political landscape during the 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States, such as the political machine of Tammany Hall, which controlled financing of campaigns and influence via owing of favors to arrange patronage public appointments.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's top aide Harry Hopkins used the new relief programs as a device to support the machines, for precinct workers were trained how to assist local families and getting on relief projects such as WPA and CCC.

One of the most powerful party leaders was James A. Farley who was the chief dispenser of Democratic Party patronage during Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. He was not a boss because he worked under the direction of Roosevelt himself. Farley handled most mid-level and lower-level appointments in consultation with state and local Democratic organizations.[3] Farley's ability to build up the Democratic Party's national political machine coupled with the Solid South, the big city bases and the populist vote made it the most organized and most powerful in American history. Farley had such control and intimate knowledge of the workings of his machine that it was said that he was seen as a prophet by many (including Roosevelt) for reportedly correctly predicting the states he would carry in two consecutive national elections and came close to predicting the margin of votes by which Roosevelt would carry these states. Farley parlayed his position as Democratic National Committee boss into a run for the Democratic nomination for President in 1940. Farley had been elected to public office only once, to the New York State Assembly, an office that he held for only one year: 1922–23.

In the South, charismatic populist politicians like Huey Long commanded large networks of supporters. Similar practices existed in the northern cities, particularly New York City, where Boss Tweed (arguably the most infamous political boss) wielded control over the powerful Democratic political machine. In Denver, Colorado during the 1890s there was Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith who operated as the Republican party boss and political fixer.

Charles Brayton exercised great influence over the politics of turn of the 20th century Rhode Island.[4] He exemplified rural bossism within the Republican Party. Chicago had numerous colorful bosses, such as Democrats Hinky Dink and Bathhouse John.[5] The Republican counterparts included Big Bill Thompson, who became mayor in the 1920s.[6] Of course the iconic figure was longtime mayor and chairman of the Cook County Democratic Committee Richard J. Daley.[7] Daley had a major voice in state and national Democratic politics. With a few exceptions in the Southwest, such as Phoenix, most large cities of 100,000 or more in the early 20th century had machine organizations, and usually claimed one or more local bosses. Most were Democrats. Some had a major impact on state politics, such as E. H. Crump in Memphis, Tennessee.[8] A few bosses had reputations as reformers, such as Frank Hague of Jersey City.[9]

Popular culture

The HBO television series Boardwalk Empire focuses on Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (based on the historical Enoch L. Johnson), a Republican Party boss and gangster who controls Atlantic City, New Jersey during the Prohibition period of the 1920s and 1930s.

Boss Tweed was played by Philip Bosco in the 1986 TV movie Liberty,[10] and by Jim Broadbent as a major supporting character in the 2002 film Gangs of New York.[11] Tweed is portrayed as a defender of the rights of minorities and helper of those in need in Pete Hamill's 2003 novel Forever.

Notable individuals

See also


  1. ^ Robert Kern, The caciques: oligarchical politics and the system of caciquismo in the Luso-Hispanic world. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press [1973]
  2. ^ I ras del voto "personale" che ondeggiano tra gli schieramenti
  3. ^ Daniel Mark Scroop, Mr. Democrat: Jim Farley, the New Deal and the Making of Modern American Politics (University of Michigan Press, 2006)
  4. ^ John D. Buenker, "The Politics of Resistance: The Rural-Based Yankee Republican Machines of Connecticut and Rhode Island". New England Quarterly (1974): 212–237.
  5. ^ Lloyd Wendt, and Herman Kogan, Lords of the Levee: The story of Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink (1944).
  6. ^ Douglas Bukowski, Big Bill Thompson, Chicago, and the politics of image (1998).
  7. ^ Mike Royko, Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago (1971)
  8. ^ G. Wayne Dowdy, Mayor Crump Don't Like It: Machine Politics in Memphis (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2006)
  9. ^ Mark S. Foster, "Frank Hague of Jersey City: 'The boss' as reformer." New Jersey History 86#2 (1968): 106–117.
  10. ^ "Characters: Boss Tweed" on IMDb
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (2002-12-20). "Gangs of New York". suntimes.com. Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  • H. F. Gosnell, Machine Politics (1937, repr. 1968);
  • S. Lubell, The Future of American Politics (3d ed. 1965);
  • E. C. Banfield and J. Q. Wilson, City Politics (1963, repr. 1966)
Abdurrahman Vazirov

Abdurrahman Vazirov Khalil oglu (Azerbaijani: Əbdürrəhman Vəzirov Xəlil oğlu) (born May 26, 1930) was the 13th First Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan and the leader of the Azerbaijan SSR from 1988 till January, 1990.

Abdurrahman Vazirov was appointed by Kremlin to lead Soviet Azerbaijan in May, 1988, amidst the heating of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Vazirov replaced Kamran Baghirov, whose dismissal came along with similar dismissal of Karen Demirchyan and appointment of Suren Harutyunyan as the leader of the Soviet Armenia.Vazirov was a Soviet diplomat, who served in India, Nepal and Pakistan. He had been out of the Azerbaijan SSR for over a decade and therefore was untainted by the corruption. He was neither a typical political boss nor a local nationalist; he could not even speak fluent Azerbaijani. But at the same time, Vazirov was born in Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan SSR.

Vazirov shared Mikhail Gorbachev's internationalist values and aspirations for political reform but he could not cope effectively with the complex political situation in Azerbaijan. He was also known as a fierce opponent of the former leader of Soviet Azerbaijan and later the 3rd president of independent Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev.

Vazirov left Azerbaijan SSR amidst the Black January events in Baku, for which he was later sought by the Parliament of Azerbaijan as one of the responsible parties. On January 24, 1990, he was replaced in his position by Ayaz Mutallibov.

Boies Penrose

Boies Penrose (November 1, 1860 – December 31, 1921) was an American lawyer and Republican politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He represented Pennsylvania in the United States Senate from 1897 until his death in 1921. Penrose was the fourth political boss of the Pennsylvania Republican political machine, following Simon Cameron, Donald Cameron, and Matthew Quay. Penrose was the longest-serving Pennsylvania Senator until Arlen Specter surpassed his record in 2005.


A cacique (Spanish: [kaˈθike]; Portuguese: [kɐˈsikɨ, kaˈsiki]; feminine form: cacica) is a leader of an indigenous group, derived from the Taíno word kasikɛ for the pre-Columbian tribal chiefs in the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles. In the colonial era, Spaniards extended the word as a title for the leaders of practically all indigenous groups that they encountered in the Western Hemisphere. In Spanish America, Brazil, Spain, and Portugal, the term also has come to mean a political boss or leader who exercises significant power in the political system known as caciquismo.

Charles P. Weaver

Charles P. Weaver was Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky from 1897 to 1901. He attended Bryant and Stratton Commercial College. He was elected to the Louisville Board of Aldermen in 1888 and served until 1894. He served as secretary and treasurer of the Kentucky & Indiana Bridge Company from 1889 through 1894. He was appointed postmaster by Grover Cleveland in 1894.

He ran for mayor in 1897 against George Davidson Todd in the first Louisville mayoral election where a Democrat ran directly against a Republican. With the support of political boss John Whallen and accusations of voter fraud, Weaver was elected by a margin of 2,700 votes.

As Mayor, he secured financing to buy Dupont Square and develop it into Louisville's Central Park, although the plan was not completed until 1904.

He died in 1932 and was buried in Cave Hill Cemetery.

Christopher Augustine Buckley

Christopher Augustine Buckley, Sr. (December 25, 1845 – April 20, 1922), commonly referred to as Blind Boss Buckley, was a saloonkeeper and Democratic Party political boss in San Francisco, California. Though he never held public office, Buckley ruled the San Francisco Democratic Party apparatus in the late 19th century.

Enoch L. Johnson

Enoch Lewis "Nucky" Johnson (January 20, 1883 – December 9, 1968) was an Atlantic City, New Jersey political boss, Sheriff of Atlantic County, New Jersey, businessman, and racketeer. He was the undisputed "boss" of the political machine that controlled Atlantic City and the Atlantic County government from the 1910s until his conviction and imprisonment in 1941. His rule encompassed the Roaring Twenties when Atlantic City was at the height of its popularity as a refuge from Prohibition. In addition to bootlegging, his organization was also involved in gambling and prostitution.

Flamingo Road (film)

Flamingo Road is a 1949 American film noir,directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Sydney Greenstreet and David Brian. The screenplay by Robert Wilder was based on a 1946 play written by Wilder and his wife, Sally, which was based on Robert Wilder's 1942 novel of the same name.The plot follows an ex-carnival dancer who marries a local businessman to seek revenge on a corrupt political boss who had her railroaded into prison.

Jim Wells County, Texas

Jim Wells County is a county in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 40,838. Its county seat is Alice. The county was founded in 1911 and is named for James B. Wells, Jr. (1850-1923), for three decades a judge and Democratic Party political boss in South Texas.

Jim Wells County comprises the Alice, TX Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Corpus Christi-Kingsville-Alice, TX Combined Statistical Area.

John Henry Whallen

John Henry Whallen (May 1, 1850 – December 3, 1913) was a Democratic Party political boss in Louisville, Kentucky during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in New Orleans, he moved with his family to Cincinnati, Ohio in his youth. As a boy during the Civil War he served the Confederate Army in Schoolfield's Battery as a "powder monkey", a boy who carried gunpowder. He later served as a courier for General John Hunt Morgan.His nicknames included "The Buckingham Boss" and "Napoleon".

John Mahon (baseball)

John J. Mahon was a politician and professional baseball executive. He served as president and principal owner of the Baltimore Orioles of the American League in 1902. He was also a notable political boss in Baltimore, Maryland, affiliated with the Democratic Party.

King–Nash House

The King–Nash House, also known as Patrick J. King House, is a combination of Sullivanesque, Colonial Revival, and Prairie styles house at 3234 West Washington Boulevard in the East Garfield Park area of Chicago, Illinois, United States. The house was built in 1901 by George W. Maher for Patrick J. King. From 1925 until his death in 1943, it was home to Chicago political boss Patrick Nash.

It was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1983. It was designated a Chicago Landmark on February 10, 1988.

Pat Marcy

Pat Marcy (September 6, 1913 – March 13, 1993) was a legendary political boss with influence over the Illinois Democratic Party. According to Federal prosecutors, as well as informants Robert Cooley and Michael J. Corbitt, he was also a trusted and valued associate of the Chicago Outfit. His official title was, "Secretary of the First Ward." FBI agent William Roemer believed Marcy to be a made man in the Chicago Outfit when Roemer testified before the U.S. Senate in 1983.

Patrick Nash

Patrick A. Nash (March 2, 1863 – October 6, 1943) was a political boss in the early and mid-twentieth century in Chicago, which is in Cook County, Illinois, United States. He was in large part responsible for consolidating elements of the Cook County Democratic Party into a political machine. He evolved from a local sewage contractor to a political boss by carefully selecting his political allies. His prominence stems from the death of Anton Cermak and his political career is intertwined with that of Edward Joseph Kelly. The success of this machine was attributed to its decision to be more inclusive than its predecessors. This meant that Nash had success at dealing with a variety of politicians such as William L. Dawson.

Political machine

A political machine is a political group in which an authoritative boss or small group commands the support of a corps of supporters and businesses (usually campaign workers), who receive rewards for their efforts. The machine's power is based on the ability of the boss or group to get out the vote for their candidates on election day.

Although these elements are common to most political parties and organizations, they are essential to political machines, which rely on hierarchy and rewards for political power, often enforced by a strong party whip structure. Machines sometimes have a political boss, often rely on patronage, the spoils system, "behind-the-scenes" control, and longstanding political ties within the structure of a representative democracy. Machines typically are organized on a permanent basis instead of a single election or event. The term may have a pejorative sense referring to corrupt political machines.The term "political machine" dates back to the 20th century in the United States, where such organizations have existed in some municipalities and states since the 18th century. Similar machines have been described in Latin America, where the system has been called clientelism or political clientelism (after the similar Clientela relationship in the Roman Republic), especially in rural areas, and also in some African states and other emerging democracies, like postcommunist Eastern European countries. Japan's Liberal Democratic Party is often cited as another political machine, maintaining power in suburban and rural areas through its control of farm bureaus and road construction agencies. In Japan, the word jiban (literally "base" or "foundation") is the word used for political machines.

The Glass Key

The Glass Key is a novel by American writer Dashiell Hammett. It was first published as a serial in Black Mask magazine in 1930, then was collected in 1931 (in London; the American edition followed 3 months later) It tells the story of a gambler and racketeer, Ned Beaumont, whose devotion to Paul Madvig, a crooked political boss, leads him to investigate the murder of a local senator's son as a potential gang war brews. Hammett dedicated the novel to his onetime lover Nell Martin.

There have been two US film adaptations (1935 and 1942) of the novel. A radio adaptation starring Orson Welles aired on March 10, 1939, as part of his Campbell Playhouse series. The book was also a major influence on the Coen brothers' 1990 film Miller's Crossing, about a gambler who is a right-hand man to a corrupt political boss and their involvement in a brewing gang war.

The Glass Key Award (in Swedish, Glasnyckeln), named after the novel, has been presented annually since 1992 for the best crime novel by a Scandinavian writer.

Thomas Clarke Rye

Thomas Clarke Rye (June 2, 1863 – September 12, 1953) was an American politician who served as Governor of Tennessee from 1915 to 1919. An ardent supporter of prohibition of alcoholic beverages, he helped reunify the state's Democratic Party, which had been divided over the

issue for nearly a decade. Rye is perhaps best remembered for enacting the "Ouster Law," which was aimed at curbing the power of political boss E. H. Crump.

Thomas Taggart

Thomas Taggart (November 17, 1856 – March 6, 1929) was the political boss of the Democratic Party in Indiana for the first quarter of the twentieth century and remained an influential political figure in local, state, and national politics until his death. Taggart was elected auditor of Marion County, Indiana (1886–1894) and mayor of Indianapolis (1895 to 1901). His mayoral administration supported public improvements, most notably the formation of the city's park and boulevard system. He also served as a member of the Democratic National Committee (1900–1916) and as its chairman (1904–1908). Taggart was appointed to the U.S. Senate in March 1916, but lost the seat in the November election.

Taggart, an Irish-born immigrant, came to the United States in 1861 at the age of five, grew up in Xenia, Ohio, and moved to Indiana as a teenager. After relocating to Indianapolis in 1877, he began a successful career as an hotelier, financier, and politician. As the party's county chairman during Grover Cleveland's 1888 presidential campaign, Taggart helped him carry Marion County over Republican Benjamin Harrison, the hometown candidate. As state chairman in 1892, Taggart helped Cleveland carry Indiana in opposition to Harrison’s bid for reelection. In 1908 Taggart assisted in securing the Democratic nomination of John W. Kern for U.S. vice president and Thomas R. Marshall for governor of Indiana. He was also involved in securing the nomination of Woodrow Wilson for U.S. president and Marshall for vice president in 1912, as well as James M. Cox's nomination in the 1920 presidential election. In addition to his political activities, Taggart was the owner and developer of the French Lick Springs Hotel in Orange County, Indiana; he also maintained a summer home at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

Tom Dennison (political boss)

Tom Dennison, aka Pickhandle, Old Grey Wolf, (October 1858 – February 1934) was the early 20th century political boss and racketeer of Omaha, Nebraska. A politically savvy, culturally astute gambler, Dennison was in charge of the city's wide crime rings, including prostitution, gambling and bootlegging in the 1920s. Dennison is credited with electing "Cowboy" James Dahlman mayor of Omaha eight times, and when losing an election, inciting the Omaha Race Riot of 1919 in retribution against the candidate who won.

William M. Boyle

William Marshall Boyle Jr. (February 2, 1902 – August 30, 1961) was a Democratic political activist from Kansas. Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1949 to 1951, he was a friend of President Harry S. Truman and is credited with engineering Truman's upset victory over Governor Thomas Dewey in the 1948 Presidential election. He was forced to resign as chairman of the Democratic National Committee after being charged with financial corruption.

Boyle was born in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1902; he became politically active as a Young Democrat at age 16, thereby attracting the attention of Kansas City, Missouri political boss Thomas Pendergast, who made Boyle a precinct captain before his 21st birthday. Boyle's parents were friends of Harry Truman and the future president took him under his wing. Boyle took a law degree, practiced law and was active in Democratic politics in Kansas City. He played an active role in Truman's successful run for the U.S. Senate in 1934. He became police director of Kansas City in 1939.

In 1941, he moved to Washington to take a job as counsel to the Truman Committee and personal assistant to Truman in 1942. In 1944, Boyle joined the Democratic National Committee, where he helped steer Truman's 1944 Vice-presidential campaign. Boyle opened an office in Washington. In the 1948 campaign, he persuaded Truman, at the time an underdog, to launch a whistle stop tour of the Midwest.

In 1949, Truman made Boyle the executive vice chairman and then chairman, of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In 1951, a Senate subcommittee under Senator J. William Fulbright opened a probe of loan decisions by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). The subcommittee report charged Boyle with exerting political pressure on the RFC to provide loans to political allies. Truman said the allegations were "asinine." However another Senate subcommittee opened a probe that revealed Boyle used his influence to obtain a $565,000 loan for an $8000 fee. Boyle admitting accepting fees, but denied pressing for the loan He resigned from the DNC, citing poor health.

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