We at Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) recently mourned the loss of a close friend. CAGW co-founder, chairman, and journalistic legend Jack Anderson passed away on Saturday, December 17, at the age of 83. He died from complications due to Parkinson’s disease at his home in Bethesda, Maryland.
Jack Anderson will be sorely missed. He was a devoted family man and an inspiration to the taxpayer movement.
As a journalist, he was the last of the great muckrakers. There will not be another like him. His investigative style set the standard for a generation of journalists and instilled fear in the hearts of some ofWashington’s most powerful figures, ranging from the likes of J. Edgar Hoover to President Richard Nixon.
As a syndicated columnist, Jack Anderson’s column, “Washington Merry-Go-Round,” appeared in more than 1,000 newspapers across the country. His in-depth investigations led to breakthrough news stories involving some of the biggest scandals of the last half-century, including: the CIA hiring members of the mafia to kill Fidel Castro and a possible connection to President John Kennedy’s assassination; publishing secret transcripts from the Watergate grand jury; President Nixon’s latent favoritism toward Pakistan in its war with India for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1972; and the uncovering of the Iran-Contra Arms-for-Hostage deal in 1986.
Jack Anderson’s ability to unearth Washington secrets led him into some very precarious situations, a true testament to the high regard in which the elites of the city held him. He was threatened by the mafia, noted first on President Nixon’s “Enemies List,” and the subject of several illegal investigations by the CIA and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. He was even the subject of a murder plot by Nixon aide, G. Gordon Liddy.
In 1984, fresh off of working on President Reagan’s Grace Commission, the late industrialist J. Peter Grace teamed up with Jack Anderson to co-found CAGW in an effort to make the commission’s recommendations on eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government a reality. His connections to the inner workings of Washington and his knack for conveying complex topics to everyday Americans madeAnderson the perfect fit.
One of Jack’s favorite expressions was to communicate ideas so that “the milkman in Kansas City” could understand. That quaint, but apt, expression guides CAGW today in its attempt to translate complex legislative issues into plain English. This knack for popularizing the message of fiscal conservatism has helped CAGW become one of the most widely quoted taxpayer groups in the world.
After Peter Grace passed away in 1995, Jack Anderson assumed the chairmanship of CAGW. His leadership and ability to reach out to people helped CAGW grow to the organization it is today. The watchdog group now boasts more than 1.2 members and supporters, with the vast majority of its contributions coming from individual taxpayers.
Jack spent the last years of his life inspiring the organization to become the most prominent group to uncover, publicize, and eliminate waste at all levels of government. He was a wellspring of innovative ideas for using CAGW’s information in a manner that would capture the public’s imagination. In a little over two decades, CAGW has helped save taxpayers $825 billion through the implementation of Grace Commission findings and other recommendations.
Jack will be remembered for his inner strength, a byproduct of his faith and upbringing. He had the fortitude to withstand numerous investigations, libel suits, and physical challenges. His work earned him a renowned place in American history and serves as a testament to the spirit of vigilance that is necessary to keep government honest and accountable.
As committed as he was to his work, he was even more devoted to his large and loving family. Jack had nine children and 41 grandchildren.
In a confluence of events that cements Jack’s legacy as an inspiration to all that followed him, Washington finds itself in the midst of yet another major scandal borne of buying influence on Capitol Hill. Without Jack and his mentor Drew Pearson, it is less likely that the media would be so eager to turn over every stone in the pursuit of truth.
On behalf of CAGW’s more than 1.2 million members and supporters, the staff, and the Board of Directors Patrick Grace, George S. Goldberger, Jeffrey P. Altman, the Honorable Vin Weber, and myself, I wish to express our deepest condolences to Jack’s wife, Libby, and the entire Anderson family.
Jack Anderson and Peter Grace laid the groundwork for CAGW to become the nation’s largest and most effective taxpayer watchdog. What we have lost in their leadership and vision we make up for with the continuing support and enthusiasm of our membership. Thanks to our efforts, taxpayers have many victories and freedoms to be thankful for. I extend to you my sincere thanks and wish you a happy holiday season.
This obituary appears in the Fall/Winter 2005 edition of Government Waste Watch.