Skip to main content
To request boxes, please submit the collection, series, and box number(s) via our Contact form.

Clifford Stearns Congressional papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS1007
The collection encompassing Congressman Stearns' 24 year career as a member of Congress (FL 6th District - R). It contains official and personal correspondence with fellow House members, the White House, federal agencies, foreign officials, GOP leadership and most of all his constituents. It also includes significant committee publications relating to his committee work and a over a dozen scrapbooks from his travels.

The collection contains minimal information about Representative Stearns’ formative years but is generally revealing about all aspects of his daily political life. It also offers a glimpse into the citrus economy that serves as the backbone of north-central Florida. Accordingly one will also find appointment books, travel logs, briefing books, news interviews and memorabilia.

The material chiefly consists of legislative correspondence, constituent correspondence and general correspondence with additional series specific to photographs and newsclippings.

Dates

  • 1988-2013

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

The Restricted materials series is closed until 2032. Other materials are subject to review by staff prior to use by patrons. Please see staff for more information.

In addition, Series 1, 2, and 3 have the following restriction: All folders in these series requested by a patron must be reviewed by staff for House committee content. House committee content is closed for 30 years from date of record creation and not eligible for patron use. If the patron has questions please direct them to the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives who may be able to assist them in the use of this or similar content.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Extent

585 Linear Feet

Overview

The Hon. Clifford B. “Cliff” Stearns is a GWU alumnus and Air Force veteran who represented Florida’s 6th district in Congress for almost a quarter century. A self-styled “Citizen Congressman,” he strongly advocated for financial restraint and conservative values. This proved to be a powerful message that resonated with voters during the 1990’s when the GOP reclaimed the majority in the House of Representatives. While his committee work lies at the core of this collection, the papers contain a wide range of administrative, personal and political correspondence that document Representative Stearns’ interactions with business and policy-making organizations through his career (1989-2013). It also includes date and briefing books, travel agendae and assorted memoranda to provide an unadorned glimpse into the office of a GOP lawmaker.

Biographical / Historical

A DC native and GWU alumnus, Clifford Bundy Stearns (R-FL) represented Florida’s Sixth Congressional District for 24 years to become one of that state’s most stalwart Republican voices on Capitol Hill. Serving as a member of the 101st through 112th Congresses, Representative Stearns chiefly devoted his efforts to the Veterans Affairs and Energy and Commerce Committees. Not only did this bring him into contact with a wide range of highly visible issues over the years, but committee work also provided him with the capacity to engage in a few well-known controversies.

Stearns entered Congress in 1989, just as George H.W. Bush assumed the presidency, and during his time as a lawmaker the GOP won, lost and retook the House of Representatives. A pragmatic conservatism, the former small businessman rapidly established himself as a highly effective campaigner who would triumph in eleven consecutive election cycles. Stearns also survived two decennial redistricting processes loosing in 2012.

Born in 1941, Stearns was the son of a career naval officer and a librarian. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High and obtained his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from GW in 1963 on an Air Force ROTC scholarship. A Distinguished Military Graduate, he entered the service as an Air Force Lieutenant and worked throughout the 1960’s with the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. Now declassified, Program 417 oversaw satellite launches and tactical weather data relating to Southeast Asia. While this history is largely absent from the collection, it does suggest experience that may have proven useful decades later when Stearns tackled telecom legislation.

He left the service as a Captain before permanently relocating to northern Florida in 1973 to enter the hotel business. There Stearns would emerge as a successful local entrepreneur and starting a family before his election to Congress in 1988. Securing his initial victory in a run-off, for an open seat being vacated by a Democrat, the self-styled “Citizen Congressman” became an ardent and consistent advocate for his district, which included Ocala, Gainesville and suburban Jacksonville.

In his capacity as a freshman House Republican in the 101st Congress, Stearns entered as a member of the minority party. This would remain the status quo for his first three terms. He immediately landed a position on the standing Committee on Veterans Affairs where he found some early success and would remain there for the duration of his career. He was also assigned to the House Committee on Banking, Finance & Urban Affairs and the Select Committee on Aging. This banking assignment coincided with the peak of the Savings & Loan scandal, details of which are documented here in the collection. The collection also reveals that, shortly into his first term, the new representative chose to target the National Endowment for the Arts for defunding. This would prove politically advantageous in years to come as Stearns came to define himself as a “rock solid conservative.” Back in his home district, the Congressman’s local political status likewise began to accrue with his championing of veteran’s issues and desire to maximize efficiencies within the Veteran’s Administration. In 1993, shortly into his third term, the Navy’s Cecil Field was targeted for base closure stemming from the 1990 Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act (functionally known as BRAC). Here Stearns worked proactively with Jacksonville business leaders and the military, over a period of several years, to repurpose the massive parcel which was decommissioned in 1999. Today the revitalization of Cecil Field as a joint civil and military air hub is a tangible reminder of his influence (see District correspondence series).

Representative Stearns’ fortunes changed markedly when the GOP took over the Congress in 1994 for the first time in decades. With Republicans in the majority he soon found himself in a position to advocate more forcefully for causes, such as broader gun rights, as part of a broader conservative social agenda that was taking hold nationally. With a solid political base assuring him a safe seat, Stearns threw himself into committee work. Having exited the House Banking Committee for the Energy & Commerce Committee, he teamed up with Louisiana’s charismatic Billy Tauzin to assiduously overhaul telecommunications legislation. Tauzin, a former Blue Dog Democrat who joined the GOP in 1995 found a sturdy working partner and eventually rose to committee chairman. After the landmark 1995-1996 legislation passed, Stearns appeared to find his niche on Energy and Commerce but would ultimately never rise above subcommittee chair. He followed a similar path with Veterans Affairs and later went on to sit on the Oversight and Investigations (O and I) subcommittees for both committees. Beyond telecom, one will also find considerable resources here on public health policy from the Clinton Proposal to The Affordable Care Act.

In Stearns’ last years, he attracted considerable publicity as a highly outspoken chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee for Energy and Commerce. This gave him the opportunity to address the 2012 Meningitis Outbreak, and investigations into Solyndra and Planned Parenthood. These may be found in the Legislative correspondence series. Clifford Stearns is now with APCO worldwide.

Arrangement

The collection remains in original order. Staff have intellectually sorted folder titles with like-content into identifiable series. This provides researchers easier access to appropriate content. The 7 series include: General correspondence; District correspondence; Legislative correspondence; Constituent correspondence; Audio-visual, photographs, scrapbooks; Press files; and Restricted materials.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Congressman Cliff Stearns, 2012. (2014.027)
Title
Preliminary guide to the Clifford Stearns Congressional papers, 1988 - 2013
Status
folder_inventory
Author
Finding aid prepared by Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2014
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America