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 44)
St. Louis, Missouri
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Teresa Smith
Children 2
Alma mater University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington University in Saint Louis

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 pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and resigned his seat. He admitted his campaign's 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 a mailer with information about the voting record of his opponent, Russ Carnahan. Since being released from corrections, Smith co-founded Confluence Academies, a group of urban charter schools in St. Louis that now enroll nearly 4,000 students. He also has authored a successful book chronicling the injustices faced by those incarcerated, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison. Smith continues his community work as the Executive Vice President of Community Engagement & Policy at Concordance Academy, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that provides comprehensive re-entry services to individuals returning to the community after prison.

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.[citation needed] He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating 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 Concordance Academy, a charter school 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 the approach to the 2004 congressional election, a representative, unknown at the time to be working for Voters for Truth, approached members of Smith's campaign staff, offering to create and send out a mailing regarding opponent Russ Carnahan's inconsistent voting record. Campaign staff subsequently approached Smith, who told them he had no opinion on the issue, and regardless of what decision they came to, not to share with him any of the details in order to avoid the possibility of campaign maleficence. In September 2004, Smith submitted an affidavit to the Federal Election Commission relating to an accused conspiracy with the group Voters for Truth, occurring in the summer of 2004. Due to Smith's individual lack of knowledge at the time, Smith certified that he knew nothing in detail regarding the mailing sent by Voters for Truth.

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 friend and associate Steve Brown was approached by the FBI to wear a wire. Brown escaped a jail sentence by recording conversations with Smith, in which Brown deliberately brought up the topic of the campaign mailings. 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.

Smith and his lawyer requested two years of home confinement and full-time community service during which Smith would be allowed to leave his home only to teach civics and coach basketball at Concordance Academy, without pay. It would’ve saved taxpayers over $175,000: two years of a teacher’s salary, plus the cost of housing a federal prisoner. More than 300 people, including a bipartisan group of the state’s top elected officials, wrote public letters to the judge presiding over Smith's case, requesting clemency and arguing that—as Smith's prison counselor in Kentucky would later note—detaining Smith would be a waste of money and resources. In spite of this, Federal officials portrayed Smith as the mastermind of a “textbook case of political corruption” and pushed for a harsh sentence at the top of the federal guidelines. Smith was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. His lawyer subsequently 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; in September of the same year, 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". Archived from the original on 2011-04-17. 
  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. 

External links[edit]