Past Recipients of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Award

Past Recipients of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Award

Nov 2, 2012  | 33 min read

2010: Senator Clare McCaskill (D-MO) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-CA)
2005: Senator John Sununu (R-NH)
2004: Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Robert Andrews(D-NJ)
2003: Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL)
2001: Senator John McCain(R-AZ) and Senator Carl Levin(D-MI)
             Citizen Activist: Four Dedicated Maryland Residents
2000: Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Congressmen Thomas Petri (R-WI) & Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
1999: Representative Ellen Tauscher
             Citizen Activist: Friends of the River


2010: Senator Clare McCaskill (D-MO) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-CA)
Elected Officials Recipients of 2010 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award 

Senator Claire McCaskill

Perhaps it is predictable that Taxpayers for Common Sense was excited to learn that before she came to Washington, Sen. McCaskill served as the state Auditor in Missouri.   Based on that resume, we had high hopes for Senator McCaskill serving as a champion for common sense and accountability and we have not been disappointed.   

Starting in her first months in Washington, Senator McCaskill made her mark by grabbing the legendary Show-me State Senator Harry Truman’s mantle and championing a Wartime Contracting Oversight Commission.  She worked on bi-partisan basis to make federal spending more transparent, merit-based, and fair.  Sen. McCaskill has worked with TCS to bring a common sense approach to the multi-billion dollar energy loan guarantee program.  From her perch on the Armed Services Committee she has pushed for much needed common sense reforms in contracting tackled challenging issues like Joint Strike Fighter cost overruns.  In just her first term, Senator McCaskill has become a leader and champion for common sense on Capitol Hill. I am pleased to give Sen. McCaskill Taxpayers for Common Sense’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington award.

Representative Jeff Flake 

Representative Jeff Flake first came to our attention in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote in his first term titled Bloat Watch that called for a veto of the bloated Farm Bill, an issue near and dear to our hearts at TCS.  But most people in Washington know Representative Flake for his consistent, respectful, determined approach on tacking a wasteful system of earmarks.  In fact, during appropriations season, you could be excused if you thought Rep. Flake was an anchor on C-span.  Whether Republicans or Democrats were in control, he has been on the House floor taking on earmarks and has earned the grudging respect of no less than Appropriations Chairman David Obey.   

But Rep. Flake is about more than just earmarks.  He was a leader in the fight over the 2008 farm bill – and he has the scars to prove it.  Rep. Flake has worked with TCS to take on wasteful Army Corps of Engineers projects.  There is little doubt that his principled and relentless pursuit of issues important to taxpayers has yielded incremental but significant progress. I am pleased to give Rep. Flake Taxpayers for Common Sense’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington award.

Senator John Sununu (R-NH)
Recipient of 2005 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award

This year, Taxpayers for Common Sense has honored Senator John Sununu (R-NH) with the “Mr. Smith” Award to recognize his efforts throughout the past few years to promote fiscal responsibility and eliminate wasteful governmental spending, particularly on energy issues.

Taxpayers for Common Sense established the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award in 1999 to honor elected officials who fight on behalf of American taxpayers with the passion that James Stewart portrayed through his character, “Mr. Smith”, in the classic film.

Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) accepts Mr. Smith goes to Washington AwardSenator John Sununu was first elected to Congress in 1996 to represent New Hampshire's first Congressional district in the House of Representatives. After three terms in the House, he was elected in 2002 to serve New Hampshire in the United States Senate.

During his time in Congress, Senator Sununu has distinguished himself as a committed advocate for the taxpayer, having earned the designation of Treasury Guardian from Taxpayers for Common Sense Action. In the House, Senator Sununu rose to become the Vice-Chair of the Budget Committee, and was a leader in the fight to cut corporate welfare, including programs like the Partnership for the New Generation of Vehicles.

Once Senator Sununu reached the Senate, he kept up the pace. In his first year as a Senator, he led a pitched battle against wasteful subsidies in the Energy Bill, offering amendments and eventually bringing consideration to a standstill. Senator Sununu did not stop there; this year, he fought again to rein in the Energy Bill, and co-sponsored an amendment to cut subsidies for road-building in the Tongass National Forest. After only three years in the Senate, John Sununu has shown that he is a dogged fighter for government accountability and is determined to get our nation's priorities back on track. Like Jimmy Stewart in the classic film, Senator Sununu came to Washington to stand up for American taxpayers against pork barrel politics-as-usual and Taxpayers for Common Sense is pleased to recognize and honor him for his work.

Since the award was established, Taxpayers for Common Sense has acknowledged lawmakers from both sides of the aisle for their work and leadership in the fight for fiscal responsibility in Congress.

Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Robert Andrews(D-NJ)
Elected Officials Recipients of 2004 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award

Representatives Robert Andrews and Steve Chabot are the recipients of the 2004 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award for their combined leadership on behalf of taxpayers in fighting to eliminate wasteful timber subsides in Alaska's Tongass National Forest.

Robert Andrews was first elected to Congress in 1990. During his tenure he has served continuously on the Education and the Workforce Committee and is Democratic leader and Ranking Member on the subcommittee on Employer-Employee relations.

Steven Chabot was first elected in 1994 and is currently serving his fifth term. Mr. Chabot is Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Vice-Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East.

Staunch advocates of fiscal restraint, these gentlemen have worked assiduously in their capacity as co-chairs of the Green Scissors caucus to eliminate wasteful and environmentally harmful spending.

In 2004, Reps. Chabot and Andrews introduced an amendment to keep federal dollars from being spent on new logging roads in the Tongass. Removing these road building subsidies would save taxpayers millions every year and sends a strong message to the Forest Service that it is high time it prioritized the public's checkbook over private timber company profits.

As a result of their dedicated efforts, the amendment passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bi-partisan support and received broad endorsement from taxpayer advocates, conservationists, environmentalists, and hunting and fishing groups. The Representatives showed what can happen when strong leaders reject partisan politics, roll-up their sleeves, and work together on behalf of the public's best interest.

Taxpayers for Common Sense salutes Rep. Chabot and Rep. Andrews for their leadership, for their commitment to fiscal responsibility, and for their courage in standing up to special interest and partisan pressures to protect taxpayers.

Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL)
Elected Officials Recipients of 2003 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award

Like Jimmy Stewart in the classic film, Senator Peter Fitzgerald went to Washington to stand up for American taxpayers against pork barrel politics as usual and he kept his promise. Senator Peter Fitzgerald was named the 2003 recipient of the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” award for his efforts and devotion to cutting wasteful spending on behalf of American taxpayers.

From airline bailouts to timber giveaways, Senator Fitzgerald has always made it one of his main priorities to eliminate unwarranted subsidies.

In his first Senate term Fitzgerald has quickly built a reputation as an independent voice for Illinois. A strong taxpayer advocate, Fitzgerald has worked to ease the tax burden on working families and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and effectively.

Continuing work on issues that occupied his attention as a state senator in Illinois, Fitzgerald has been a constant and vocal opponent of no-bid contracts and taxpayer giveaways. In 2000, he launched an effort to require federal competitive bidding guidelines for a major Springfield construction project, fearing that politically connected insiders could benefit at taxpayers' expense if stricter federal standards were not in place.

For two days, in a filibuster the Champaign News-Gazette called “a wake-up call for Illinois taxpayers,” Fitzgerald read into the Senate record a steady stream of newspaper accounts detailing chronic cronyism in Illinois state government-cronyism the senator has attempted, in repeated instances, to reform.

News organizations throughout the state and nation have recognized Fitzgerald's independence, hard work, and vigilance in defending the interests of his Illinois constituents. Congressional Quarterly Daily Monitor observed: Fitzgerald is “willing to buck his party in favor of the voters back home.” “Fitzgerald is his own man,” proclaimed Chicago Sun-Times headline. In 2001, a Daily Herald columnist called Fitzgerald “an independent Republican who votes what he thinks is right, regardless of whether it conforms to the party line.” The senator, concluded National Journal, has “made a surprisingly strong first impression in Washington.”

Senator Fitzgerald has been instrumental in saving million of dollars by introducing and promoting legislation on the following issues:

Airline Bailout
Senator Fitzgerald worked with Senator Corzine on language inserted into S. 1450, the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act of 2001, which would permit the Air Transportation Stabilization Board (ATSB) to insure that the government will be compensated for the risk it assumes in making guarantees. The language allows the ATSB to make the receiptof government-backed loans contingent on repayment with a portion of any future profits through the use of such instruments as warrants, stock options, common or preferred stock, or other appropriate equity instruments. Even with this modest improvement, Senator Fitzgerald still did not feel comfortable supporting the measure and cast the lone vote in the Senate against its passage

Boeing Tanker Lease
Senator Fitzgerald has worked with Senator McCain through the Commerce Committee to review the proposed tanker lease deal between Boeing and the Air Force. The deal would allow the military to lease planes at an overall cost of $6 billion more than the cost to buy the tankers outright. As the Senator stated at the September 3, 2003 Commerce Committee hearing, the arrangement appears to be a legal construct to circumvent the congressional budget and appropriations process. It is a complex, byzantine transaction that obscures the true cost of the tankers and reduces the transparency of the arrangement. This legal construct comes straight out of the Enron structures finance playbook. Senator Fitzgerald has urged Senator Warner, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to have his committee authorize the direct purchase of the planes, rather than the lease of the planes, if the committee determines the Air Force has an immediate need for the tankers.

Independent Audits
In November 2002, the President signed into law a measure that Senator Fitzgerald introduced in the Senate, the Accountability of Tax Dollars Act, which is designed to curb government waste and promote fiscally responsible government, by requiring all executive agencies with an annual budget of more than $25 million to subject their internal budget reviews to an independent audit. The audit is then provided to Congress and the Administration for review.

Financial Accountability
On August 1, 2003, Senator Fitzgerald introduced the Department of Homeland Security Financial Accountability Act. This bill will improve the financial accountability of the Department of Homeland Security by including the department within the requirements of the Chief Financial Officers Act. The Senator also raised the issue of the department's financial management when Secretary Ridge testified before the Governmental Affairs Committee on May 1, 2003.

Sugar subsidies
Senator Fitzgerald has also voted against giveaways to big sugar tycoons, with less than 1 percent of the producers gobbling up 58 percent of the benefits. Originally enacted during the Depression, the sugar program was eliminated in 1974 but resurrected by proponents in 1981. It then narrowly escaped the 1996 Farm Bill reforms that attempted to phase out subsidies for most other crops. In 2000, a glut in the sugar market prompted the USDA to pay producers directly in order to reduce production of surplus sugar. These forfeitures and paid cutbacks cost taxpayers $465 million in fiscal year 2000.

Congressional Pay Raise
Congress has the ability to automatically give themselves pay raises. Senator Fitzgerald has voted against Congress enacting new pay raises because the economy has been in a slump, millions of Americans have lost their jobs and our nation is currently facing record deficits.

A New Look For Us

For his dedication and leadership in regards to each of these important taxpayer issues, Taxpayers for Common Sense is proud to recognize Senator Fitzgerald with its 2003 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” award.

Senator John McCain(R-AZ) and Senator Carl Levin(D-MI)
Elected Officials Recipients of 2001 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Awards

Sen. Carl LevinSenators Carl Levin and John McCain are the recipients of the 2001 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” award for their combined leadership on behalf of taxpayers and service members in fighting for a new round of common sense military base closures.

Carl Levin was first elected to the Senate in 1978. Currently in his fourth term, Senator Levin is the distinguished Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

John McCain was first elected to the Senate in 1985. He was re-elected to a third Senate term in November 1998.

Sen. John McCainThese two gentleman have worked tirelessly to get the base closures provision included in this years Defense Authorization bill. This effort alone could save taxpayers more than $20 billion over the next 15 years.

The senators and TCS's support for base closures are simple. Base Closures make fiscal sense. The President supports them. Secretary Rumsfeld wants them and all the Service Chiefs support them. The men and women in uniform need it – as a way to make our military stronger and prosperous in this new century.

Senator Levin I think said it best when he said, “we can close bases that we do not need, or we can keep them open and rob our military of the resources they need”

Taxpayers from all political stripes thanks these Senators for their leadership and tenacity on behalf of the American taxpayers. Congress recently approved the 343.3 billion defense bill that approved a new round of military base closings, which will start in 2005.

Recipients of the 2001 Citizen Activists
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award

“Projected ship traffic was one of the Corps' assumptions challenged by a dogged group of citizen activists who spent thousands of hours over the past four years poking holes in the analyses the Corps used to justify the proposed dredging project…That kind of David-and-Goliath battle shouldn't be necessary to block unjustified projects.” — The Washington Post, January 26, 2001 (Editorial)

cecil county quartet receives the mr. smith goes to washington awardFour dedicated Eastern Maryland residents, known as the Cecil County Quartet, are this year's grassroots recipients of the 2001 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award for leading the effort to stop a $90 million Army Corps of Engineers plan to deepen by five feet the C&D Canal that connects the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.

Donald H. Burton, Bill Jeanes, Richard A. Noennich, and John M. Williams were just four concerned Eastern Maryland residents when they met in 1996 at public meetings discussing the dredging project. Realizing that they shared similar concerns with the justification for investing taxpayer funds into a flawed project, the four began collaborating on researching, commenting on, and ultimately challenging the Corps project feasibility studies. Through good science, an uncanny eye for detail, and sheer persistence, the group ultimately prevailed in convincing Corps officials that there was no justification for spending taxpayer funds on the deepening.

The “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” awards recognize those who stand up as champions for the taxpayers in the spirit of the classic film. Because the film chronicled a fictional battle over a proposed water project, it is fitting that this year's recipients are recognized for their real-life battle against what Taxpayers for Common Sense and the National Wildlife Federation deemed one of the nation's most wasteful water project in their 2000 report Troubled Waters: Congress, the Corps of Engineers and Wasteful Water Projects.

Donald H. Burton is a retired chemical engineer who worked for 36 years at Hercules Inc. in Wilmington, DE. He lives in Chesapeake City with his wife Carolyn. Together they raised a daughter and now have four grandchildren. Burton is a master boater, and served as the group's maritime expert.

Bill Jeanes continues to work his farm as he has for thirty years. He lives with his wife Lynda in Earleville. They have two children. Jeanes is active in several environmental organizations and is a founder of the C & D Canal League.

Richard A. Noennich is a retired mathematician and computer scientist who worked for 27 years at DuPont. He lives with his wife Debbie in Elkton.

John M. Williams is a retired chemical engineer who worked for 27 years at DuPont. He lives in Elkton with his wife Mary Jo Williams. Together they raised two children.

All four men credit Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) with providing key support to the quartet's efforts over the last five years. In January 1997, Gilchrest appointed the four men to the C&D Canal Working Group. Subsequently, Gilchrest helped arrange meetings between the Cecil County Quartet and Corps officials and pressed the Corps to answer key questions and provide documents when they stonewalled the activists.


Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Congressmen Thomas Petri (R-WI) & Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
Elected Officials Recipients of 2000 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award

Senator Russ FeingoldSenator Russ Feingold (D-WI)Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI), and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) are this year's recipients of the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” award for leading the battle in Congress to stop the $400 million-plus Animas La-Plata (A-LP) water project in southwestern Colorado – the last surviving dinosaur from the age of behemoth water projects.

Authorized in 1968 when gargantuan water projects were still in vogue, this has been a highly controversial project for 30 years. Recognizing that the project was a waste of public funds, Congress never gave the green light for construction.

Rep. Peter DeFazioThis year, Senator Ben Campbell (R-CO) and Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO) introduced legislation that, although scaled down from the original proposal, continued the environmental, fiscal, and legal problems that rightly stalled the original project.

When this legislation was introduced at the end of 1999, Senator Feingold and Representatives Petri and DeFazio stood poised to fight the proposal. This year, as the legislation slowly made its way through the Congress, they were ready and eager to lead the fight. Against discouraging odds, they stood up for what was right and championed both taxpayers and environmentalists. More importantly, these lawmakers took on a battle that had been fought for the last 25 years by the concerned citizens in the community who would be directly affected by A-LP.

Rep. Thomas PetriThese lawmakers have diligently fought this wasteful project for years. As a direct result of the vigilant oversight by Sen. Feingold, Rep. Petri, Rep. DeFazio, as well as a coalition of national organizations and tireless citizen activists, the currently proposed project is much smaller and cheaper than the originally proposed project. Feingold, Petri, DeFazio still seek to prevent its approval in the waning days of the Congressional session.

These three legislators embody what this award is about-recognizing those who stand as champions for the taxpayer, sometimes against daunting opposition. It is all the more fitting to give this award to those who fought against a wasteful dam project since the classic film depicted a fight over a needless, proposed dam.

Like Jimmy Stewart in the film, Senator Feingold, and Congressmen Petri and DeFazio stood up for the American taxpayer to courageously battle pork barrel projects and politics as usual.


Jerry Lee Bogard, Rice Farmer (Stuttgart, Arkansas) and David Carruth, Attorney (Clarendon, Arkansas)
Citizen Leader Recipients of the 2000 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award

Arkansas Rice farmer Jerry Lee Bogard and attorney David Carruth are this year's grassroots recipients of the 2000 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award for leading citizen efforts to stop the United States' most wasteful proposed water project – a $319 million Army Corps of Engineers irrigation project in Eastern Arkansas.

“Let's hear it for common sense and a river. The strangest thing happened the other day. Good sense emerged like a sand bar when various politicians, farmers, conservationists and others met to consider pumping out the White River. Their sound conclusion: Let's not.”

— Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, April 25, 2000 (Editorial)

The “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Awards recognize citizen leaders and lawmakers who stand up as champions for the taxpayers in the spirit of the classic film. The awards are given annually by Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS), a non-partisan national taxpayer group in Washington, D.C. that opposes wasteful government spending.

Because the film chronicled a fictional battle over a proposed water project, it is fitting that this year's recipients are recognized for their real-life battle against what Taxpayers for Common Sense and the National Wildlife Federation deemed the nation's most wasteful water project in their 2000 report Troubled Waters: Congress, the Corps of Engineers and Wasteful Water Projects.

Jerry Lee BogardBogard and Carruth rallied strong local opposition that threatened the funding for the proposed Grand Prairie Irrigation Project. As a result, a compromise was forged where all interests involved agreed to seek aid for farmers to build conservation improvements on their farms while avoiding water withdrawals from the White River. This agreement ultimately killed the Corps' $319 million plan to pump White River water to farmers throughout the Grand Prairie in Eastern Arkansas.

Bogard initially got involved in fighting the proposed Corps of Engineers project when he discovered that it would cost him less to build a tail-water recovery system on his farm than to pay the increased water taxes that would fund the local share of the wasteful Corps irrigation project. Bogard organized more than 300 fellow Arkansas County farmers to oppose the plan in a local referendum.

When the referendum to create a local water district to implement the irrigation plan passed under questionable circumstances, Bogard continued to fight. Eventually, the continued opposition to the plan led to the compromise meeting in Congressman Jay Dickey's (R-AR) office.

David CarruthCarruth volunteered more than a thousand hours of his time as an attorney and an organizer in an effort to save taxpayers more than $300 million and preserve the White River. Duck hunting and other recreational activities on the White River generate hundreds of millions of dollars in private spending. Working with dozens of Arkansas environmental non-profit organizations, activists, and government officials, he developed sound scientific and economic arguments against the irrigation plan that were instrumental in its defeat.

Bogard and Carruth now both serve on the Governor's Task Force that is developing a long-term plan for management of Eastern Arkansas' water resources. Their leadership is bound to save taxpayers millions of more dollars in years to come as Arkansas plans its water resources future.

1999: Representative Ellen Tauscher
Elected Officials Recipients of 2000 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award


Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA)Like Jimmy Stewart in the classic film, Rep. Tauscher stood up for American taxpayers against pork barrel politics as usual. 

Politically savvy and tough, Rep. Tauscher drew a line in the sand against the water project grab and never wavered.  She announced she would offer a floor amendment to delete the $300 million in projects and then campaigned hard.  Her consistent leadership played a key role in rallying support among fellow Californians and in attracting Wisconsin Rep. Thomas Petri as a Republican cosponsor.

Rep. Tauscher is in her second term representing northern California's 10th Congressional District.  She is Vice-Chair of the California Democratic Delegation.  She serves on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Science. 

Friends of the River
Citizen Leader Recipients of the 1999 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Award

Friends of the RiverVeterans of many legendary battles against wasteful water projects, the staff and volunteers of this California conservation group know what to do when someone tries to hijack taxpayer money to damage rivers.  After sounding the alarm, Friends of the River staff Ron Stork, Friends of the RiverRon Stork and Traci Sheehan rounded up a few hardy volunteers and jumped on the next plane to Washington, D.C.  Coordinating with Charlie Casey back in the home office, they worked for weeks from early morning until late at night, delivering letters, phone-banking their allies, telling their story to the media, and collecting votes.  Friends of the River again proved itself to be one of the most effective citizen groups anywhere.

Founded in 1973, Friends of the River is dedicated to preserving, protecting, and restoring California's rivers, streams, and their watersheds.  Betsy Reifsnider is Executive Director.