Jeff Smith (Missouri politician)

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Jeff Smith
Member of the Missouri Senate
from the 4th district
In office
Personal details
Born (1973-12-09) December 9, 1973 (age 41)
St. Louis, Missouri
Political party Democratic
Religion Judaism

Jeff Smith (born December 9, 1973) is a former Democratic member of the Missouri Senate, representing the 4th district from 2007 until 2009. His district covered the western portion of the City of St. Louis. On August 25, 2009 he pled guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and resigned his seat. He admitted his involvement, and attempted cover-up, in two federal election law violations committed during his 2004 campaign for Congress. These violations involved his campaign's coordination with an independent group to fund and create a mailer with information about the voting record of his opponent, Russ Carnahan.

Early life[edit]

Smith is Jewish and was raised in the St. Louis suburb of Olivette, Missouri and graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a double major in African-American Studies and political science. He received his MA and PhD in political science from Washington University in St. Louis.[1]

Smith has taught as an Adjunct and/or Visiting Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Missouri–St. Louis, and Dartmouth College and won the 2002 Washington University Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2001, Smith co-founded the Confluence Academies, a group of charter schools in North St. Louis focusing on math and science education.[1]

Political career[edit]

In 2004, Smith was a candidate in the crowded Democratic primary election for the U.S. House of Representatives to replace retiring Congressman Dick Gephardt. Beginning as an unknown, Smith finished second in the ten-candidate field, narrowly losing to Russ Carnahan.[2] His campaign was widely recognized as an example of successful grassroots organizing. It was the subject of the documentary film Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?, which won the 2006 audience choice award at the Silverdocs film festival.[3] In February 2007, the documentary aired on the award-winning PBS series Independent Lens.[4]

A year after his unsuccessful Congressional campaign, Smith announced his intention to seek the Missouri State Senate seat being vacated by Pat Dougherty. The race was heavily contested and other candidates included State Representatives Yaphett El-Amin, and Amber Boykins, former State Representative Derio Gambaro, and former St. Louis Alderman Kenny Jones. Smith won the primary election on August 8, 2006, and was unopposed in the general election.[5]

Smith, who was widely seen as a rising star in the state Democratic Party, worked across the aisle to pass several pieces of major legislation. On December 22, 2008 Sen Smith introduced Paternity Reform legislation in the Missouri State Senate. Sen. Smith's SB 140 created "fathering courts" throughout the state, while SB 141 is generally like the model legislation.[6] Governor Jay Nixon signed both bills into law shortly after the 2009 legislative session. Smith also emerged in 2009 as the Legislature's leading advocate for historic preservation tax credits.

Criminal conviction[edit]

In September 2004, Smith submitted a false affidavit to the Federal Election Commission relating to a conspiracy with a group called Voters for Truth in the summer of 2004, to run negative advertisements against Russ Carnahan, Smith's opponent in a congressional race. In January 2009, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office, acting upon newly discovered information, opened a criminal investigation to determine whether anyone had attempted to obstruct the Federal Election Commission proceeding. Smith's former associate Steve Brown was approached by the FBI to wear a wire. Brown escaped a jail sentence by recording conversations with Smith. Smith pleaded guilty to two felony counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Each conspiracy count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. He resigned effective August 25, 2009 and was sentenced to one year and a day of prison. He also was fined $50,000. His lawyer requested Smith be sent to a prison camp in Marion, Illinois.[7] However, Smith was sent to the camp at Federal Correctional Institution, Manchester in Kentucky.[8] In late August 2010 he was released to a halfway house in St. Louis.[9] In November 2010, he was released early from the halfway house and is no longer in federal custody.[10][11]

Current life[edit]

In spring 2011, Smith was married and in September, he and his wife Teresa had their first child, Charlie Wallace Smith. Smith accepted a professorial position in urban policy at the New School's Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy in New York City. At present he writes for the website The Recovering Politician[12] and contributes to Politico - The Arena.[13] His writing has been published in Inc. magazine [14] and praised in New York Magazine's Approval Matrix.[15] In 2012, Smith gave a TED talk in New York titled "Lessons in business ... from prison".[16] In 2015, Smith published a book, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison, which details his time in politics and federal prison.[17]


  1. ^ a b "About Jeff Smith". Jeff Smith 2006 Missouri State Senate campaign site. 
  2. ^ "Election Night Reporting: U.S. Representative - District 3 - Summary". Official Election Returns, State of Missouri Primary Election, Tuesday, August 3, 2004. State of Missouri. 
  3. ^ "Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? website". Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. 
  4. ^ "Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?". Independent Lens. PBS. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  5. ^ "Election Night Reporting: State Senator - District 4 - Summary". Official Election Returns, State of Missouri Primary Election - Primary Election, Tuesday, August 8, 2006. State of Missouri. 
  6. ^ "Paternity Fraud Reform Introduced in the Missouri Senate". 
  7. ^ Hinman, Kristen (November 17, 2009). "Former Senator Jeff Smith Will Likely Go to the Marion, Illinois, Clinker". The Riverfront Times. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  8. ^ Levitt, Aimee (October 4, 2011). "Jeff Smith Reveals Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Prison Sex But Were Afraid to Ask". The Riverfront Times. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  9. ^ Garrison, Chad (2010-08-26). "Jeff Smith Moves From Prison to Halfway House". Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  10. ^ "Ex-con Jeff Smith to Carnahan camp: Tell the truth : News". 2010-11-23. Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  11. ^ "Inmate Locator". Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  12. ^ Smith, Jeff. "Jeff Smith « The Recovering Politician". Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  13. ^ Arena Ref: Erika Lovley (2012-12-21). "Farewell to the Arena - The Arena". Politico.Com. Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  14. ^ Smith, Jeff (April 14, 2011). "An Unlikely Place to Nurture the Entrepreneurial Spirit? Jail.". Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  15. ^ "The Approval Matrix - Week of April 25, 2011". 2011-04-17. Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  16. ^ Smith, Jeff (June 2012). "Lessons in business ... from prison". TED. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  17. ^ Smith, Jeff (September 1, 2015). Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America's Prison Crisis. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-250-05840-9. 

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