Report: The 4th Annual Sammies

-By Warner Todd Huston

On Friday, April 8, I attended the 4th Annual Sammies Awards, a yearly event that brings together reform-minded folks from across the country to celebrate the best of America. The winners are all recognized for their engagement as watchdogs, reformers, messengers, and strategists and rightfully so.

This year’s keynote speaker was Fox Business Network’s John Stossel. Other featured speakers were such luminaries as Andrew Breitbart, The New York Times bestselling novelist Brad Thor, Jack Fowler, publisher of The National Review, and more. Also in attendance was John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, and dozens of Chicago area notables.

The event was sponsored by the Sam Adams Alliance, a free market and liberty minded policy organization based in Chicago. The group’s stated goal is to engage in the battle to restore self-government to America.

“Once again, the Sammies brought together the freedom lovers and freedom fighters who love their country and, in their way, engage to advance our freedom,” said Yvonne Ralsky, executive director of SAM. “The winners tonight would make Sam Adams proud. They are creative, strategic, impactful, and tenacious.”

This year’s event was held in the great hall of Chicago’s historic Union Station and what a beautiful presentation it was.

With purple as the theme color, the event was well furnished with some excellent settings and centerpieces. You might remember this setting as that from the 1987 movie The Untouchables starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Robert De Niro… though not nearly as much blood was spilled in the making of the 2011 Sammies, to be sure.

And the Winners Are…

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR


Brad Thor and Toby Marie Walker

The award for Rookie of the Year was presented by New York Times bestselling novelist Brad Thor. Toby Marie Walker of Waco, TX won the $10,000 Rookie of the Year Award for her work with the Waco Tea Party–one of the most thriving, creative, and impactful grassroots groups in the country. Toby has consistently rallied the residents of her community to engage and keep elected officials accountable through her tireless efforts, day in and day out. Her activism has been featured on NPR, the BBC, and in The New York Times.

MESSENGER


Andrew Breitbart (middle) with Ben Domenech and Brad Jackson

The Messenger award was presented by New Media mogul Andrew Breitbart. And Ben Domenech of Alexandria, VA. was awarded the SAM Messenger. Mr. Domenech along with Brad Jackson of Austin, TX won the $10,000 Messenger Award for their original and popular daily podcast, Coffee and Markets. With over 5,000 downloads each day, Coffee and Markets has quickly become one of the most widely listened podcasts on the right.

Brad Jackson, of Austin, TX. Mr. Jackson along with Ben Domenech of Alexandria, VA won the $10,000 Messenger Award for their original and popular daily podcast, Coffee and Markets. With over 5,000 downloads each day, Coffee and Markets has quickly become one of the most widely listened podcasts on the right.

REFORMER


Jack Fowler and Brian Aitken

Publisher of the National Review, Jack Fowler, was the presenter of the Reformer award. This year’s Reformer was Brian Aitken of Hoboken, NJ. Mr. Aitken won the $10,000 Reformer Award for making a courageous stand against New Jersey’s draconian gun laws. Arrested for illegal firearm possession, Brian refused to accept a plea bargain on principle and was sentenced to 7 years in prison. After he and his family conducted a successful, multifaceted media campaign, Governor Chris Christie commuted his sentence to time served and refused to reappoint the judge. Brian’s ordeal has brought widespread attention New Jersey’s unjust gun laws, building momentum for their repeal.

WATCHDOG


Keli Carender and Jason Gillman

The Watchdog award was presented by Keli Carender, 2010 Sammies winner. Jason Gillman of Traverse City, MI. Mr. Gillman along with the late Chetly Zarko won the $10,000 Watchdog Award for their work in uncovering evidence of a fake “Tea Party” that was set to run in 24 toss-up races across Michigan. Because of their work, the Michigan Supreme Court removed the fake “Tea Party” from the ballot and the individuals behind the scheme, two local Democratic Party officials, were charged with election fraud.

MODERN DAY SAM ADAMS


Tim Eyman

To present the Servant of the Year award, Stewart McLaurin took the podium. This year’s winner: Tim Eyman, of Mukilteo, WA. Mr. Eyman won the $20,000 Modern Day Sam Adams Award for his lifetime commitment to using the ballot initiative process to shrink the size of government in Washington State. Most recently, he passed an initiative requiring tax increases be passed by 2/3 majority vote, and fee increases be passed by a majority vote. He also successfully waged a campaign to require a public vote on the installation of red light cameras in his hometown of Mukilteo, WA.

PUBLIC SERVANT

The recipient of Servant of the Year was Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. AG Cuccinelli won the Public Servant Award for challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law. Two days after it was passed, he sued the federal government over the individual mandate, and on December 13, 2010, a federal district court ruled the mandate unconstitutional. AG Cuccinelli is currently seeking to expedite a review of the health care law past appellate courts and onto the Supreme Court.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER

As always, Mr. John Stossel, former ABC News consumer reporter and current member of the Fox Business Network team, loosed his sensible brand of libertarianism on the assembled giving us some of the common sense it took him twenty years to learn. In fact, he praised the conservative, free market activists in the room as having beaten him to the realization since he started his career as a good business-bashing liberal. At some point, he told us, he began to realize that capitalism is decidedly good and his liberal friends were wrong. And that’s when the truth — and an ostracizing from his former friends — came to him at last.

All in all (and as always) the Sammies was a great and reaffirming event. Every one of those nominated deserved their recognition and it is a great thing, indeed, that an organization like Sam Adams Alliance is out there giving that activism recognition and helping these great Americans achieve even more success.

Finally, thanks to Nick for helping me arrange my seat at this year’s festivities.

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