Sammies - Jason Gillman and Sherry Loar
Center-nominated finalists Jason Gillman, left, and Sherry Loar, center, at the Sammies award ceremony in Chicago.

On April 8, 2011, the free-market nonprofit Sam Adams Alliance held its fourth annual “Sammies” awards in Chicago. The prestigious awards celebrate “ordinary Americans who take extraordinary steps to advance our freedoms.”

The Mackinac Center nominated two of the three finalists in the “Watchdog” category, with one emerging a winner.

One finalist was Mackinac Center Legal Foundation client Sherry Loar. With the help of MCLF, the Petoskey day care owner sued the state over the illegal withholding of so-called “union dues” from subsidy checks she received for caring for low-income children. The ensuing media attention to the union scheme went national, and the political backlash culminated in March, when the state stopped withholding dues.

The Center also nominated the winner: Jason Gillman of Traverse City, along with the late Chetly Zarko. The two won the $10,000 prize for uncovering evidence of a fake “Tea Party” attempting to place candidates in 24 Michigan races. While Gillman runs his own blog, he took the story to Michigan Capitol Confidential. Gillman wrote, “Make no mistake, bloggers are useful for digging up info, exposing corruption, underhandedness, etc., but ultimately, … even the important unearthed truths must pass through established and credible sources. In this case my go-to was the Mackinac Center, and specifically Capitol Confidential.”

Thanks to the work of Gillman and Zarko, the Michigan Supreme Court removed the fake “Tea Party” from the ballot, and two Democratic Party officials face election fraud charges.

As the Sam Adams Alliance put it, “These extraordinary Americans help all of us relate to citizenship on a personal level, and inspire us all to re-imagine how we can engage in our democracy.”

They are extraordinary Michiganders as well, and worthy of the honor.