The America First Policy Institute (AFPI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan research institute. AFPI exists to advance policies that put the American people first. Our guiding principles are liberty, free enterprise, national greatness, American military superiority, foreign-policy engagement in the American interest, and the primacy of American workers, families, and communities in all we do.
Areas of Interest
Linda McMahon is originally from New Bern, North Carolina, and serves as Chair of the Board and Chair of the Center for the American Worker for AFPI. McMahon served in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet as Administrator of the Small Business Administration. At SBA, McMahon re-imagined the organization, focusing on rural development and championing women entrepreneurs and military veterans. She oversaw natural disaster recovery efforts and helped improve the way the SBA connected small businesses to capital, counseling, and government contracts. After her service in the Trump Administration, she served as Chair of the America First Action SuperPAC, and America First Policy, LLC. Prior to her career in public service, McMahon was the President and later CEO of WWE, INC., which she and her husband, Vince, grew from a small regional corporation to a multinational public company.
“If you want something done, give it to a busy woman to do it.”
Larry Kudlow serves as Vice Chair of the Board for AFPI and as Chair of the Center for American Prosperity. He is also the host of “Kudlow” on Fox Business and “The Larry Kudlow Show” on WABC Talk Radio. He previously served as Director of the National Economic Council under President Donald Trump, where he led the domestic and global economic policy agendas. Throughout the years, Kudlow has hosted several popular television shows with an economic focus, had a successful career on Wall Street, and worked as an associate director in the Office of Management and Budget during the Reagan Administration. He began his career at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as a staff economist. Kudlow describes himself as a Reagan supply-sider and is a staunch advocate for free markets, tax cuts, and deregulation.
“Free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity.”
Brooke Leslie Rollins is originally from Glen Rose, Texas, and serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of AFPI. Rollins was formerly Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Chief Strategist in the White House under President Donald Trump, where she also previously served as Director of the Office of American Innovation. In these roles, she developed and managed the transformational domestic policy agenda of the Trump Administration, leading to historic achievements for the American people. Rollins graduated with honors from Texas A&M University with a degree in agricultural development and was the first female to be elected student body president. After earning her Juris Doctor with honors at the University of Texas School of Law, she served as Governor Rick Perry’s policy director before running the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) for 15 years. At TPPF, Rollins elevated a small policy organization to a national force and redefined the possibilities for a state-based think tank — setting the model and aspiration for AFPI. Rollins and her husband, Mark, currently reside in Fort Worth, Texas, and spend a large majority of their free time taxiing their four very active children to baseball games, cattle shows, piano lessons, and Aggie football games.
“The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. ”
Chad F. Wolf serves as AFPI’s Executive Director, Chief Strategy Officer, and the Chair for the Center for Homeland Security and Immigration at AFPI. Wolf is a Member of the Texas Public Policy Foundation Border Security Coalition, a Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and President and Founder of Wolf Global Advisors. Wolf has written and speaks frequently on border security, immigration, China, counterterrorism, domestic extremism, and maritime security. Prior to joining AFPI, Wolf served as the first Senate-confirmed Under Secretary for Policy and Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the third-largest federal department in the U.S. Government. During his time at DHS, he successfully navigated numerous global and domestic challenges to the nation’s security, including COVID-19, civil unrest, numerous border and immigration crises, historic natural disasters, and threats to global aviation security. Prior to his service at DHS, he spent over 10 years in the private sector helping clients manage risks and earlier in his career worked on Capitol Hill. He has received the U.S. Secretary of Transportation 9/11 Medal, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood ....”
Doug Hoelscher grew up on a farm near Williams, Iowa, and serves as the Chief Operating Officer at AFPI. He previously served as an Assistant to the President and Director of White House Intergovernmental Affairs under President Donald Trump, where he was the Administration’s primary liaison to the nation’s governors, lieutenant governors, attorneys general, and other state, local, and tribal leaders. In this role, he built relationships and solved shared challenges at each level of the government. He previously served as the Director of the Iowa Office of State-Federal Relations, as a workforce development advisor, and chaired the National Governors Association 2016 Summer Meeting Committee. Hoelscher previously worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers and held several positions within the George W. Bush Administration at the White House and at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He graduated from the University of Iowa. Hoelscher and his partner, Danny, enjoy traveling to Iowa and Florida to see family, watching college football (especially the Iowa Hawkeyes), dining out, and taking long walks with their loveable mutt, Kenny.
“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
Jason Allen is from rural Michigan and serves as Michigan Policy Advisor at AFPI. He also is a veteran and volunteers for many youth-related programs. Public service has been an important part of his life, and he has served at both the local level and as a State Senator. During his time in office, Allen chaired both the Michigan State Senate and the House Commerce Committee, and also chaired the Senior and Veterans Affairs Committee. Jason has aided Michigan’s Veterans as the Senior Policy Advisor for the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. Most recently, he assisted rural Michigan residents as a presidential appointee and State Director of USDA Rural Development. He is an avid hunter, pursuing deer, turkey, and pheasants.
“A nation that fails to honor its heroes, soon will have no heroes to honor.”
James Baehr grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but currently resides in New Orleans, Louisiana, and serves as AFPI’s Senior Fellow for the Center for 1776. He previously served as a Special Assistant to the President in the Domestic Policy Council (DPC) in the White House, where he coordinated and oversaw DPC’s policy portfolio across a number of agencies and issues, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and Department of Justice. Baehr serves as a Major in the Marine Corps Reserves, where he drills as the Reserve Regional Defense Counsel-East Coast and previously drilled as a Civil Team Commander with the 4th Civil Affairs Group. Previously, Baehr was a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans and an active-duty Marine judge advocate defense counsel at Camp Pendleton. Baehr received his Juris Doctor and master’s degree in History from the University of Virginia in 2008 and graduated from Dartmouth College with honors in History and Government in 2005. In his free time, Baehr enjoys writing war poetry and playing too much speed chess.
“Boldness, be my friend; arm me, audacity, from head to foot.”
Ge Bai is from Luoyang, China, and serves as a Member on AFPI’s Board of Academic Advisors. Bai is currently a Professor of Accounting at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and Professor of Health Policy & Management (joint) at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. An expert on health care pricing, policy, and management, Dr. Bai has testified before House Ways and Means Committee, written for the Wall Street Journal, and published her studies in leading academic journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, JAMA Internal Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, and Health Affairs. Her work has been widely featured in ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, Los Angeles Times, NBC, New York Times, NPR, PBS, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and other media outlets and used in government regulations and congressional testimonies. Dr. Bai has received the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award
Nick Barbknecht is originally from Michigan City, Indiana, and serves as the Chief Marketing Officer for AFPI. Barbknecht previously served as the Associate Director of White House Intergovernmental Affairs under President Donald Trump, helping build relationships with the country’s state, local, and tribal elected and appointed officials and identifying shared priorities. He also previously served as Senior Advisor for Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and in similar roles in state and local government. He has helped companies and officials at all levels deliver on their goals. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Purdue University and an accounting degree from Manchester University. He and his wife, Kenzie, enjoy traveling, fishing, and spending time with their dog, Jack.
“As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”
Lea Bardon is from Scottsdale, Arizona, and serves as Development Manager at AFPI. Prior to joining AFPI, Bardon served as Executive Assistant to Trump Victory Chairwoman, Kimberly Guilfoyle, on the Trump-Pence 2020 presidential campaign, and most recently as the Executive Roundtable Manager at the Republican Attorneys General Association. In this role, she handled Executive Roundtable membership, including member outreach, donor prospecting, and call time, and briefing preparation for various attorneys general. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from The Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University with degrees in International Relations and French and a minor in Business. Bardon speaks three languages, which she credits to her parents and having lived abroad for two years. She currently resides in Washington, D.C., and loves to visit her family and travel to new places whenever she can.
“Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.”
David Bernhardt grew up outside of a small western rural community, Rifle, Colorado, and serves as the Chair of the Center for American Freedom at AFPI. Bernhardt previously served as the 53rd Secretary of the Department of the Interior, where he furthered conservation stewardship, expanded opportunities for access to hunting and fishing on public lands, drove common-sense regulatory change, and enhanced our Nation’s energy independence. Bernhardt also led the effort to enact the Great American Outdoors Act, which established the most consequential dedicated funding for maintaining critical facilities and infrastructure at our national parks, wildlife refuges, and recreational facilities in history. He also developed and implemented sweeping regulatory changes that were estimated to reduce regulatory burdens by more than $5 billion. Bernhardt is active in numerous charitable and business endeavors, practices administrative law, and enjoys the spectacular outdoors with his spouse, Gena Rae Bernhardt, their two teenagers, and two yellow Labrador Retrievers.
Ken Blackwell is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, and serves as the Chair of the Center for Election Integrity at AFPI. Blackwell has an extensive career in public service and is widely regarded as a leading expert on elections and election security. Prior to joining AFPI, Blackwell served as the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, and was also elected to serve as the Treasurer and Secretary of State for the State of Ohio. Blackwell also currently serves as a Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at the Family Research Council. He is the Co-Chairman of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and serves on the Board of Directors for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, the Near East News Agency, and the Institute for Pension Fund Integrity. Blackwell was formerly the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. After receiving both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Xavier University, Blackwell became a professor there for many years. He enjoys Hermeneutics, hunting, and traveling the world with his wife of 53 years.
“A NATION OF SHEEP WILL BEGET A GOVERNMENT OF WOLVES!”
Edward R. Murrow
The son of a U.N. diplomat, Kweku Boafo was born in Ghana, reared in France, and currently resides in Virginia. He serves as Director of Policy and Research for AFPI’s Center for Election Integrity. As a Trump Administration political appointee, Boafo recently worked as a foreign service senior executive, serving as the Director of Peace Corps Response, where he was instrumental in revamping Peace Corps Response by positioning it as the avant-garde of strategic initiatives within the Peace Corps. Before joining the Trump Administration, Boafo spent most of his career in the private sector, looking after the interests of his clients by providing them with election, government relations and economic development strategies at multiple levels—local, state, federal, and international. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Oral Roberts University and holds a Master Certificate in Diplomacy and International Commerce from the Patterson School of Diplomacy at the University of Kentucky. In his free time, Boafo can be found in the weight room with his wife, on a soccer pitch with his daughters, or animatedly watching an Arsenal F.C. game. He speaks Spanish and French.
“...never give in, never give in, never in nothing, large or petty […] never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Sir Winston Churchill
Pam Bondi is from Tampa, Florida, and serves as the Chair for the Constitutional Litigation Partnership, and Co-Chair of the Center for Law and Justice at AFPI. A fourth-generation Floridian, Bondi spent more than 18 years as a prosecutor, trying cases ranging from domestic violence to capital murder. She served as Florida’s 37th and first female Attorney General. When Bondi took office, Florida was referred to as the pill mill capital of the United States, and in her first legislative session she successfully advanced reforms to eliminate unscrupulous doctors and clinics operating in Florida. Bondi served on the President’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission under President Donald Trump, where she worked alongside other national leaders in areas of drug prevention, interdiction, and treatment. Bondi was also a strong champion for the First Step Act, which helps formerly incarcerated inmates re-enter society safely and prevents recidivism. Bondi is a partner at Ballard Partners’ Washington, D.C. office, where she chairs the firm’s corporate regulatory practice. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from the University of Florida and her Juris Doctor from Stetson Law School. Bondi splits her time between Tampa and Washington, D.C, where she is on the Board of Trustees for the Kennedy Center. In Tampa, Bondi enjoys watching all the great Tampa Bay sports teams and spending time with her family and rescue dogs.
“Keep your heels, head and standards high”
Jack Brewer was raised in Grapevine, Texas, and serves as the Chair of the Center for Opportunity Now, and Vice-Chair of the Center for 1776 at AFPI. Recently, Brewer was an Advisory Board Member of Black Voices for Trump. In 2004, he started his own firm, the Brewer Group, where he serves as Chief Executive Officer and Portfolio Manager. His global charity efforts have delivered millions in emergency aid and currently provide programs to thousands living in extreme poverty. He is a White House appointee on the Congressional Commission for the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, and is currently a Professor at Fordham Gabelli School of Business, where he has created curriculum tailored for transitioning athletes and prisoners. Brewer was a team captain for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. Brewer attended Southern Methodist University where he was a two-sport athlete, breaking the Disney World Classic record in triple jump, and was an All-American candidate as a wide receiver in football. He later transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he continued as an All-Big Ten athlete in track and football and served as the team captain. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota by the age of 22. Brewer resides in Florida with his wife, Cortney, and has four children: Jared, Laesha, Jackson, and Zayah.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Beatrice Brooke was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and serves as a Policy Analyst in the Center for American Prosperity and the Center for Energy Independence for AFPI. Brooke recently finished her service at the United States Department of Commerce, where she served as a Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary on policy matters including international trade, economic development, weather operations, and commercial space enterprises. In this role, she supported the Deputy Secretary, who served as the Department’s Chief Operating Officer of a budget of more than $15.2 billion, 12 operating units, and over 47,000 employees. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she majored in Political Science and International Studies and also studied Spanish and Italian. Brooke grew up in Washington, D.C., and she enjoys reading about history, traveling, and studying languages—and has recently begun learning Korean.
“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”
Governor Bryant is originally from Mississippi and serves as a Senior Advisor at AFPI. He is a founding member of Bryant Songy Snell Global Partners, where he provides strategic advice and counsel and business development services to some of the world’s largest industry leaders. Governor Bryant served two terms as Mississippi’s 64th governor from 2012 to 2020 prior to opening his consulting firm. He also served as Mississippi’s lieutenant governor, as state auditor, and as a legislator in the Mississippi House of Representatives. While serving as governor, Bryant largely centered his efforts on creating new economic opportunities, among other things. Under Governor Bryant’s leadership, Mississippi saw its lowest-ever unemployment rate, its lowest-ever high school dropout rate, its lowest-ever teen pregnancy rate, its highest-ever number of jobs, its highest-ever number of graduating physicians, its highest-ever K-12 reading and math improvement scores, and its highest-ever high school graduation rate. Governor Bryant served as Chairman of the Education Commission of the States; Chairman of the Southern States Energy Board; Chairman of Jobs for America’s Graduates; and Chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society of the United States. A Moorhead native and former deputy sheriff, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master’s degree in Political Science from Mississippi College, where he also received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree. Before being elected governor, he served as an adjunct professor of government at Mississippi College. Governor Bryant resides in Hazlehurst, Mississippi with his wife Deborah. They have two children and three grandchildren.
Richard V. Burkhauser is from Austin, Texas, and serves as a Member on AFPI’s Board of Academic Advisors. In 2017, Burkhauser became Emeritus Sarah Gibson Blanding Professor of Public Policy in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. Between September 2017 and May 2019, he served as a Member of President Trump's Council of Economic Advisers. His professional career has focused on how public policies affect the employment and well-being of vulnerable populations. He has published widely in journals of demography, economics, gerontology as well as public policy. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, IZA Research Fellow, and NBER Research Associate. Previously, Burkhauser held tenured Professor positions in the Department of Economics at Vanderbilt University and Syracuse University as well as in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. In 2010 he was the President of the Association for Public Policy and Management. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago in 1976. Burkhauser served two years in the Peace Corps in Jamacia before entering the Ph.D. program in Economics at the University of Chicago.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
Alexandra Caro Campana is from Fort Collins, Colorado, and serves as AFPI’s Director of the Center for 1776. Campana most recently served three years in the White House under President Donald Trump, first at the Office of Management and Budget and later at the Domestic Policy Council (DPC). She led space policy and child welfare policy for DPC and helped coordinate various activities of the DPC team. She also acted as the liaison between DPC and the Office of the First Lady’s policy team and frequently helped coordinate policy rollouts for the two teams. Campana attended Pepperdine University, where she ran track and cross country and received a degree in Economics. She later earned master’s degrees in Political Economy from both Georgetown University and Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management. Campana has not stepped foot on a track since college but now enjoys running half marathons in different countries around the world.
““Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.””
Jeffrey Campbell is from Trenton, Michigan, and serves as a Member on AFPI’s Board of Academic Advisors. Jeffery currently serves as the Frances D. Rasmus and Jerome A. Castellini Professor of Economics at the University of Notre Dame (USA) and as Professor of Macroeconometrics at Tilburg University (NL). Campbell’s research covers macroeconomics, industrial organization, and econometrics. He also teaches a variety of courses at both universities, ranging from Adam Smith's social thought (for freshmen at Notre Dame) to Time Series Econometrics (for graduate students at Tilburg). Campbell received a Bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and a Doctoral degree from Northwestern University, both in Economics.
Josh Campbell is from Camilla, Georgia, and serves as an attorney for the Constitutional Litigation Partnership at AFPI. Most recently, Josh served as the Senior Advisor and Counselor to the Deputy Secretary of Energy, where he advised on a broad range of national and international litigation and energy law matters. Over the past 15 years, Campbell has handled over 100 civil or criminal trials or hearings. Campbell spent over a decade trying cases in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, litigating cases across not only the state, but also across the United States. He began his legal career working for the late G. Terry Jackson, the President of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. He has won numerous appeals in state and federal courts, including successfully obtaining a 3-0 decision after oral argument at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. While in law school, he published legal articles on a range of topics and received the Scholar of Merit award for earning the highest grade in his class in State Constitutional Law. He received his undergraduate degree from Liberty University and his Juris Doctor from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. Earlier in life, he was a collegiate athlete on the Men’s tennis team at Liberty and continues to enjoy the game today.
“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”
George Washington Carver
Jim Carter is from Kansas City, Missouri, and serves as Director of the Center for American Prosperity at AFPI. Previously, Jim was Vice President of Government Affairs at Emerson, a diversified global manufacturing and technology company. Mr. Carter also served in the Bush and Clinton Administrations, as a senior staff member on the Senate Budget Committee, and as an advisor to several U.S. senators. Jim has served in senior roles at the Department of Labor, Department of Treasury, and National Economic Council at the White House. He also received the Secretary of the Treasury’s “Exceptional Service Award.” Mr. Carter has written more than 140 articles on fiscal policy, economics, and other public policy matters for leading publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Business Daily, Politico, The Hill, and USA Today. He is a frequent speaker and has taught at The George Washington University and at Johns Hopkins University. Carter also serves on the board of the National Capital Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. He holds degrees from George Mason University and Truman State University. He appeared in season three of House of Cards, playing a U.S. Senator.
“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”
Cale Clingenpeel is from Anchorage, Alaska and serves as a Visiting Fellow at AFPI. Clingenpeel most recently served as the Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). Clingenpeel started at the CEA in 2018 and worked predominately on tax, energy, labor, international & domestic macroeconomic policy, and the economic response to the pandemic. Previously Clingenpeel helped lead an Alaska-based nonprofit organization focused on U.S. Arctic policy, worked on various Alaska political campaigns, conducted field research in East Africa for a development project, and even spent a summer training 70 Iditarod racing sled dogs on a remote Alaska glacier. Clingenpeel holds an M.A. in International Economics and Finance from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a B.S. in International Economics from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. Clingenpeel is an Alaskan through and through and is most at home among the mountains whether he’s skiing, running, fishing, camping, or mushing.
“If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”
Chad Connelly is originally from South Carolina and serves as a Senior Advisor for AFPI’s Center for Election Integrity. Connelly has a wide array of life experiences that contribute to his effectiveness as a highly sought-after speaker on various topics. He earned an engineering degree at Clemson University, served as an Armor Officer in the U.S. Army, led a national engineering firm in sales and revenue, and ran a multi-million-dollar business coaching, mentoring, and leading others into entrepreneurship. Chad also served as the South Carolina GOP Chairman, appearing on every national television network as a featured commentator, and was the Republican National Committee’s first-ever National Director of Faith Engagement, speaking in 43 states to over 85,000 pastors and faith leaders. He formed a non-profit organization called Faith Wins to continue inspiring, informing, and mobilizing pastors and faith leaders across America to fully engage the culture and leverage their influence for a Biblical worldview in the political arena. Faith Wins was responsible for registering nearly 750k new evangelical voters in the 2020 Election Cycle and continues to expand its reach with trusted relationships across America’s evangelical spectrum. He is passionate about America and Her true history but is most passionate about his wife Dana and their four children, who live in Prosperity, South Carolina.
Cate Crosbie is from Lexington, Kentucky, and serves as a Development Specialist at AFPI. She is currently completing a bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Washington and Lee University. In 2019, she served as an intern in the White House Office of American Innovation. Cate nurtured her passion for politics at a young age, volunteering for local, state, and federal campaigns. In her free time, Cate enjoys volunteering at local schools, teaching spin classes, and drinking obscene amounts of caffeine.
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”
Catharine Cypher is a Hilton Head Island, South Carolina native, but calls Fenton, Michigan, home and serves as Chief of Staff for the Constitutional Litigation Partnership and Advisor for the Center for the American Child at AFPI. Cypher most recently worked for First Lady Melania Trump as Special Assistant to the President and Director of Media Affairs. Cypher also spearheaded many policy projects, including the First Lady’s 19th Amendment Centennial Anniversary engagements and her “Be Best” policy engagements within the issue areas of foster care, opioids/neonatal abstinence syndrome, and children’s well-being. Previously, Cypher worked for Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, where she served as Special Assistant to the President and Director of External Affairs. Cypher also worked at the law firm Hogan Lovells, for U.S. Senator David Perdue, and served as the National Political Director at the College Republican National Committee. Cypher graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies from Grand Valley State University. Growing up, Cypher was a top-3 nationally ranked equestrian and a member of a multi-national championship water ski team. She has carried on those passions into adulthood and enjoys spending her free time riding horses and spending time with her family on the lake in Michigan.
“There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular, But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It Is Right.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jerry C. Davis, Ph.D. is from Hartwell, Georgia, and serves as a Senior Advisor for AFPI’s Center for 1776. He also serves as President of the College of the Ozarks. His tenure in the college presidency is among the longest in the United States. After graduating from the Mount Berry School for Boys in Mount Berry, Georgia, Davis attended Truett-McConnell University, received a bachelor’s degree from Mars Hill University, an master’s degree from the University of Tennessee, and a Ph.D. from Ohio State University. He is the recipient of the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship, as well as the Missourian Award, one of the state’s highest honors. Davis previously served as the President of the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities. The author of a dozen books, he has led the College of the Ozarks in emphasizing its goal of patriotic education. Additionally, Davis was a presidential appointee to the 1776 Commission. He and the College of the Ozarks have received many recognitions, such as the Above and Beyond Award for support of the Guard and Reserve and the Secretary of Defense Freedom Award. Davis is a recipient of the Lee Greenwood Patriot Award, presented by Helping a Hero. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education awarded Davis with the E. Burr Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant and lasting impact on the field of institutional advancement.
“Freedom is a fragile thing and it's never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people.”
Kaelan Dorr is from Ft. Stewart, Georgia, and serves as AFPI’s Senior Advisor for Communications. Dorr most recently served as the Chief Marketing Officer for the Trump-Pence 2020 presidential campaign. Previously, Dorr served under President Trump as a Senior Advisor at the Treasury Department and as Director of Congressional and Intergovernmental Communications at the White House. Dorr is a veteran of the Trump-Pence 2016 presidential campaign and before that worked at Jamestown Associates consulting for political candidates and issue advocacy groups at the state and federal levels. Dorr is a graduate of Elon University in North Carolina, and currently resides in Arlington, Virginia with his hound dog, Daisy.
“Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.”
Scott G. Erickson is originally from the San Francisco Bay area and serves as Senior Fellow at AFPI’s Center for Homeland Security and Immigration. Prior to joining AFPI, Erickson served at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), concluding his service as the Chief of Staff, where he oversaw all aspects of the Secretary’s Front Office operations. Previously, he also served as DHS Deputy Chief of Staff and as a Counselor to three Secretaries, where his portfolio included law enforcement, transnational criminal organizations, and human trafficking, among other issues. Earlier in his career, Erickson spent nearly twenty years as a uniformed police officer in San Jose, California. He was also the founder and president of a nonprofit organization, Americans in Support of Law Enforcement, that sought to add context and perspective to the public conversation on policing in America. In their free time, Scott and his wife, Lauren, enjoy visiting with friends and family, touring the many historical sites in the D.C. area, and rooting for the Giants, Warriors, and 49ers.
““The brave man inattentive to his duty is worth little more to his country than the coward who deserts her in the hour of danger.””
Alec Ernst is from Shillington, Pennsylvania, and serves as AFPI’s Digital Deployment Manager. Ernst most recently served as Deputy Email Director for the Republican National Committee and had the opportunity to serve as a member of the Trump-Pence 2020 digital team. In addition to serving as AFPI’s Digital Deployment Manager, Ernst has proudly served his hometown of Shillington, Pennsylvania, as Councilman since being elected to office in 2019 at the age of 18. Ernst also had the honor to serve as a White House Intern in the Office of Political Affairs during the Trump Administration. Ernst’s work within government and on political campaigns, coupled with his experience in digital marketing, has given him a unique perspective on strategy, campaigning, and policy. Ernst looks forward to continuing to put America first, always.
“You have to think anyway, so why not think big?”
President Donald J. Trump
Michael Faulkender is the Dean’s Professor of Finance at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, an institution where he also served from 2008 to 2017, and is an AFPI Visiting Fellow. Dr. Faulkender previously served as Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, advising the Secretary on domestic and international economic issues. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he assisted in negotiating the CARES Act and was the senior Treasury official who led the implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). He was awarded the Alexander Hamilton Award for Distinguished Leadership, the highest service award granted at the Department of the Treasury. His research areas include public policy, corporate capital structure, risk management, corporate liquidity, and executive compensation. His work has been published in top academic finance journals and has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications. Professor Faulkender teaches classes in the MBA and EMBA programs at the Smith School and previously served on faculty at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, and the Olin School at Washington University in St. Louis.
Fred Fleitz is originally from Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, and serves as Vice Chair of AFPI’s Center for American Security. He also is a Newsmax TV contributor. Fleitz served in 2018 as a Deputy Assistant to President Donald Trump and Chief of Staff of the National Security Council. From 2019-2021 Fleitz was President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy which he made into an influential player in policy circles and the media to keep our nation safe and free. Fleitz previously served in U.S. national security positions for 25 years with the CIA, DIA, the Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff. Fleitz is a prolific writer who has written extensively on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear program, the growing threat to U.S. security from China, the politicization of U.S. intelligence and many other national security topics. He is the author or editor of seven books. Fleitz’s last book, Defending Against Biothreats: What We Can Learn from the Coronavirus Pandemic to Enhance U.S. Defenses Against Pandemics and Biological Weapons, was published in 2020. Fleitz holds a B.A. in Politics from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and an M.A. in Political Economy from Fordham University in New York. He lives in Frederick, Maryland with his wife Julie, who he met at the CIA, and his daughter Marie.
“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.”
Virginia Chase Forrester is a native of Greenwood, South Carolina, and serves as AFPI’s Events Manager. Chase previously served as Operations Manager on the Trump-Pence 2020 presidential campaign, where she spearheaded all event operations for the Vice President of the United States and the Second Family. Most recently, Chase worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the Senate run-off races in Georgia and as a fundraiser for Members of Congress. Chase graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a double-minor in Spanish and Legal Studies. Growing up, Forrester was a competitive ballroom dancer and instructor, trained in swing with an emphasis on the South Carolina State Dance, the Carolina Shag. She holds four National and Grand National titles for the 15-21 age division. Forrester still loves to dance and teach in her spare time.
““There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.””
Drake Franklin is from Gainesville, Georgia, and serves as AFPI’s Southeastern Development Director & Policy Analyst. Drake most recently served as the Executive Director of Evangelicals for Trump for the Trump-Pence 2020 presidential campaign. In this role, he managed 62 prominent advisory board members and numerous national surrogate relationships. He also worked closely with national and state-level GOP campaign staff to implement several initiatives, including a targeted voter contact program and a robust digital presence while managing and executing over eighty in-person and online events all across the nation. Franklin previously served as a White House Intern in the Presidential Correspondence Office, where he assisted the writer’s team in researching, drafting, and dispatching proclamations, greetings, and letters on behalf of the president. Franklin currently resides in Washington, D.C. When he’s not studying, he enjoys running, boxing, and spending time with friends.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Joseph P. Kennedy
Hogan Gidley is from Columbia, South Carolina, and serves as AFPI’s Director of the Center for Election Integrity. Most recently, he served as National Press Secretary for President Trump’s Re-Election Campaign and Principal Deputy Press Secretary and Deputy Assistant to the President in the Trump Administration. Gidley is a communications, political, and marketing consultant with more than twenty years of experience. He was Director of Communications for Mike Huckabee, Elizabeth Dole, and Rick Santorum, to name a few, and served as Executive Director of the South Carolina Republican Party. In his free time, he enjoys duck and turkey hunting, going to the beach, and golfing with friends.
Martin Gillespie is a proud native of South Jersey and serves as the Chief Development Officer for AFPI. Gillespie previously served as Director of Donor Relations and Senior Advisor to the President for Corporate Relations at The Heritage Foundation. His over two decades in the conservative movement include serving as Deputy Director at the Republican National Committee, Executive Director of American Majority Action, Campaign Manager for Congressman Chris Smith, Political Director for Senator Sam Brownback, and service as a political appointee in the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush. He is a graduate with highest honors in political science from Rutgers University and also has a master’s degree in management and fundraising from Avila University. He is named after his immigrant grandfather and also married to an immigrant (Joana) and wants to preserve the promise of America for future generations, most especially his children Jimmy, William, and Martin. In his spare time, he loves playing golf (broke 70 twice in his life—with witnesses!), the Jersey shore, and Italian restaurants.
“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
Garrison Grisedale is from Morgan Hill, California, and serves as a Policy Analyst for the Center for Opportunity Now and the Center for Second Chances at AFPI. Previously, Garrison served as the Speechwriter to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson and as the Deputy White House Liaison for HUD. After his time in the Trump Administration, Garrison moved to Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, where he spent a season as a fly-fishing guide at a fly-out lodge located in Katmai National Park. Prior to his time in Washington, Garrison attended Hillsdale College in Michigan and majored in Political Science. Garrison currently lives in Arlington, Virginia, and can usually be found fly fishing (and teaching his friends!) in his spare time.
“What has been, will be again; what has been done, will be done again; There is nothing new under the sun.”
Dr. Kevin Hassett is from Greenfield, Massachusetts, and serves as Chair of AFPI’s Board of Academic Advisors. He previously served as the 29th Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 2017 through 2019. He also served as Senior Advisor to President Trump to support data-driven decisions in response to the Coronavirus. While working in the Trump White House, Hassett was a key force driving internal and external debate on virtually every economic topic, from taxes and trade, to substance abuse and deregulation. While at the White House, Hassett was the top public spokesperson for the White House on economic policy and the state of economy, appearing regularly on Fox News, Fox Business, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg, CNN, and more. He even was drawn upon at times to run the televised White House press briefings. He served as John McCain's chief economic adviser in the 2000 presidential primaries and an economic adviser to the campaigns of George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election and McCain in the presidential election of 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Dr. Hassett is currently Vice President of the Lindsey Group, a visiting distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution, an economic contributor at CNN, and senior advisor to Capital Matters, the economic web site of National Review. Dr. Hassett has a wife, two sons, and two dogs. A noted trash talker on the basketball court, his shots purportedly (by him) always go in.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Ashley Hayek is originally from the small agricultural town of Clovis, California, and serves as AFPI’s Chief Engagement Officer. Hayek is a political strategist with over 15 years of experience in political, non-profit, and organization consulting, most recently serving on the Trump-Pence 2020 presidential campaign as the National Coalitions Director. At the age of 22, she started her first company in the loft of her townhouse in San Diego and within five years became the premier political and non-profit fundraising firm in Southern California. Hayek attended the University of California, San Diego, where she received a degree in Political Science, and is the proud wife of a United States Marine and mom of four. Despite her relentless commitment to work, she is devoted to her family, juggling it all in her best stilettos.
“Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.”
Aaron Hedlund is from Wheaton, Illinois, and serves as AFPI’s Director of Research. Most recently, he served as the Chief Domestic Economist and Senior Adviser at the White House Council of Economic Advisers. In this capacity, Hedlund helped design and execute emergency economic measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping coordinate the nationwide health IT data modernization that supported the Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, and analyzing the impact of core domestic priorities ranging from school choice to the Opportunity Zones program for economically distressed areas. Hedlund received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and his undergraduate degree in economics and mathematics from Duke University. Hedlund, his wife, and their four kids live in Columbia, Missouri, where he is also an associate professor of economics at the University of Missouri. He and his family enjoy hiking, tennis, watching movies, and exploring the vast expanse that is America. His not-so-secret dream would be to attend a tennis match featuring Roger Federer.
“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”
Troup Calhoun Hemenway is a native Virginian and serves as a Policy Analyst for the Center for Homeland Security and Immigration, and the Center for Law and Justice at AFPI. He previously served in the Trump White House as Associate Director for National Security in the Office of Presidential Personnel, where his portfolio included the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, and the Intelligence Community. Hemenway was a Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering in the Pentagon and a member of the Senior Executive Service, serving previously as a Defense Fellow and a Special Assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He was a member of the Presidential Transition Team and the Trump campaign policy team. Hemenway earned his degree in cybersecurity from the University of Virginia, graduating with highest distinction. He is a founder of the Association of Republican Presidential Appointees and is a proud ancestor of veterans of Washington’s Continental Army.
“Never mistake motion for action.”
Lou Holtz is originally from East Liverpool, Ohio, and serves as the Chair of the Center for 1776 at AFPI. Holtz is considered one of the most successful college football coaches of all time. He earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Kent State in 1959, a Master of Arts in Arts and Education from the University of Iowa in 1961, and has received numerous honorary doctorate degrees. During his time at Kent State, Holtz enrolled in the Army ROTC and later served as an Officer in the United States Army Reserves. He played linebacker at Kent State for two seasons before an injury ended his career. In addition to his extensive career as head football coach for several universities, including Notre Dame, William & Mary, Minnesota, Arkansas, and North Carolina State, he was the head coach of the NFL’s New York Jets. He later was a college football studio analyst on ESPN and is currently in his second year with SiriusXM Radio as a co-host for two sports programs. In 1996, the Holtz Charitable Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization, was formed. The Foundation seeks to provide scholarships to trade schools. On Dec. 3, 2020 Lou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to our society by President Donald Trump. Holtz is the father of four children, grandparent to nine children, and he currently resides in Orlando, Florida.
Davis Ingle is from Lakeland, Florida, and serves as AFPI’s Communications Specialist. Ingle spent several years working in the federal government in both media affairs and communications. He served at the White House in the Office of Management and Budget, and, later, joined the White House Press Office under President Donald Trump, where he served as press wrangler. In that role, Ingle managed the White House Correspondents’ Association’s daily press pool, managed logistics for both domestic and international travel with the President, and helped produce press briefings and public events with the President. Before joining AFPI, Davis was an Account Executive at ATHOS PR. He also spent time in the U.S. Department of State, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. Mr. Ingle earned a Global Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He also earned certificates from the University of Oxford in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and the University of Cambridge in International Relations and Politics. Ingle currently resides in Washington, D.C., and in his free time you can find him on the golf course and basketball court.
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships. ”
Rachel Jag is a proud native of St. Louis, Missouri, and serves as Associate Attorney for AFPI’s Constitutional Litigation Partnership. Most recently, Jag served as a Legislative Correspondent to Congressman Jake LaTurner of Kansas. Prior to working on the Hill, Jag was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Missouri in their Litigation Division in Kansas City. Jag started her legal career at Evans & Dixon, LLC in St. Louis working as a Civil Litigation Associate. She received a dual degree in Political Science and Communications from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and her Juris Doctorate from Saint Louis University School of Law. While in law school, she gained valuable leadership experience as the President of the Student Bar Association and co-Chair of the Public Interest Law Group’s annual auction. Jag proudly served as the Legal Intern for the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Jag currently resides in Washington, D.C., and enjoys exploring the city, cheering on the St. Louis Blues and Cardinals, and making new friends wherever she goes.
“I love the United States, and I love the United States Constitution.”
Justice Amy Coney Barrett
Bobby Jindal is originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and currently serves as the Chair of the Center for a Healthy America at AFPI. Jindal has a well-earned reputation as one of America’s most successful public sector executives and one of the boldest innovators in the healthcare and education sectors. Jindal used his two terms as Governor of Louisiana to rebuild and diversify the state’s economy and financial footing in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Jindal’s agenda included top-to-bottom reformation and privatization of the state-run charity hospital and the state’s healthcare payer systems. Fiscally, Jindal reduced the state budget by 26%, reduced the state employee headcount by 30,000, and implemented the largest income tax reduction in state history. Despite being the Nation’s youngest governor when he was elected in 2007, Jindal was well-prepared thanks to stints as the head of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, President of the University of Louisiana System, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Executive Director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare – all before his thirtieth birthday. Jindal graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Public Policy, with honors, from Brown University, and received a Master of Letters in Politics from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.
Kendall Johnson is from Birmingham, Alabama, and serves as AFPI’s Digital Media Producer. Johnson most recently served as a member of the Trump-Pence 2020 presidential campaign’s digital team, producing a wide range of digital ads, national television commercials, and convention videos. In her work, Johnson has built a brand of working well under pressure and generating creative ideas with technical precision on time and under budget. Previously, Johnson was a Stunt Office Coordinator, Director’s Assistant, and Production Coordinator for STX Films and Up TV Entertainment, contributing to top film productions in Atlanta, Georgia. Johnson was a field representative for the Trump-Pence 2016 presidential campaign in South Carolina, Texas, and Georgia. Johnson enjoys spending time off with her husky, Snarls Barkley, who loves traveling and starring in commercials. In her free time, she enjoys watching college football, especially her beloved Auburn Tigers. Johnson is an avid believer that the best is yet to come!
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Miles Johnson is from Tupelo, Mississippi, and serves as AFPI’s Government Affairs Manager. Most recently, Johnson served as a Policy Advisor to Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, where he tracked and provided analysis on state and federal legislation and worked with local officials, state agencies and leaders, and federal partners to advance shared priorities. Johnson previously served in the White House under President Trump, first as the Confidential Assistant to the General Counsel at the Office of Management and Budget and then as the Executive Assistant to the Senior Advisor to the President for Policy. Johnson also has experience on Capitol Hill, having served as a Legislative Aide to U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Government from Hillsdale College in Washington, D.C. He received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Mississippi. In his free time, Johnson enjoys playing golf, rooting on the Washington Nationals, and anxiously following Ole Miss Athletics.
“Don’t just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference.”
General Keith Kellogg was born in Dayton, Ohio, grew up in California, and 23 global and stateside military moves later, settled in Virginia, where he serves as co-Chair of the Center for American Security at AFPI. Kellogg is a highly decorated, retired three-star Army General and has extensive experience in the military and international business. Most recently, he was the National Security Advisor to former Vice President Mike Pence. He also served as the Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. Kellogg has wide-ranging experience in Europe, the Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. He has served as an author and contributor on Fox News and CNN. Kellogg graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in Political Science and went on to receive his master’s degree in International Studies from Kansas University. Kellogg and his wife, Paige, have three children, and love nothing more than having their four grandchildren stay with them and spoil them with anything they want. It drives their parents nuts.
“There is only one duty, only one safe course, and that is to try to be right and not to fear to do or say what you believe to be right.”
Dr. Alveda C. King is from Atlanta, Georgia, and serves as the Chair of the Center for the American Dream at AFPI. She is the daughter of the late slain civil rights activist Rev. A.D. King and the niece of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King is the founder of Speak for Life, fighting for the sanctity and dignity of all life – from the womb to the tomb. She currently serves as a Fox News contributor and host of the Fox Nation show “Alveda King’s House.” Dr. King is a former college professor, served in the Georgia State House of Representatives, is a former presidential appointee, and a 2021 recipient of the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Martin Luther King, JR.
Jordan Kittleson is originally from Monrovia, California, and currently serves as the Western Regional Policy Director of The Center for Election Integrity at AFPI. Kittleson most recently served as National Field Director for the Club for Growth, where he recruited new conservative talent and secured political intelligence vital to the electoral decision-making needs of the organization. Kittleson previously served in congressional campaign management for several House races, as Director of Outreach for two Members of Congress, as a Regional Field Director for the Republican Party, and as North Texas Regional Director for Senator Ted Cruz’s re-election campaign in 2018. Kittleson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Public Administration from California State Polytechnic University. He enjoys dancing, wearing fresh suits, eating sushi and teppanyaki, playing poker, reciting movie lines, watching Dodger baseball, traveling with his wife, Norissa, and giving God the glory.
“Every battle is won before it's ever fought.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Bethany Kozma is originally from South Carolina, but currently calls Virginia home. Bethany serves as the Director of the Center for American Values at AFPI. She previously served in various senior executive roles in the Trump Administration at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), most recently as Deputy Chief of Staff overseeing operations and policy for the agency. At USAID, she played a pivotal role in ensuring that global investments aligned with National Security Strategy objectives. Representing America’s interests at the United Nations and globally, Bethany advanced the protection of family, life, and religious liberties around the world. Earlier in her career, Bethany served in a variety of public and private sector leadership capacities at the White House during the George W. Bush Administration, at the Department of Homeland Security, in the Intelligence Community, and in private industry, focusing on combating global terrorism, protecting our American homeland, and emergency preparedness and response. As an entrepreneur, Bethany championed innovative human resources approaches in the Intelligence Community to promote women’s work-life balance, enabling child and elder care and wounded warrior rehabilitation. Bethany is a graduate of Grove City College and earned her MBA from the College of William & Mary’s Mason School of Business.
Joseph Lavorgna was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and serves as a Senior Fellow at AFPI. Lavorgna is also the Chief Economist of the Americas at Natixis, a firm he joined after serving as Special Assistant to the President and Chief Economist of the National Economic Council during the Trump Administration. At Natixis, Lavorgna leads the firm’s economic research efforts, managing a team that analyzes trends in the equity, fixed income, foreign exchange, and commodity markets. Joseph has over 25 years of financial services experience. He previously worked at Deutsche Bank for 20 years, where he was the firm’s Chief U.S. Economist. He began his professional career at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as an economist in the Monetary Analysis & Projections Division. He was a Senior U.S. Economist at Lehman Brothers prior to joining Deutsche Bank. A native New Yorker, Lavorgna holds an economics degree from Vassar College. Lavorgna is an avid golfer, and his wife is from the great state of Michigan. In college, he used to wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch Larry Kudlow debate Bill Wolman on CNBC’s Strictly Business program.
““Do what is hard and life will be easy. Do what is easy and life with be hard.””
Mary Katherine LaCroix serves as AFPI’s Senior Director of Development Operations. She has worked in fundraising for more than 20 years at various organizations, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, The Philadelphia Orchestra, United Way, and, most recently, The Heritage Foundation. LaCroix is a graduate of the University of Scranton and holds a degree in History and English Literature. She enjoys visiting her large extended family and volunteering to support the special needs community in her spare time. LaCroix is a native of Long Island, New York, and now resides in South Jersey with her husband and two children.
“I was raised to believe that God has a plan for everyone and that seemingly random twists of fate are all part of His Plan.”
Former President Ronald Reagan
Dr. Chris Leader is from Atlanta, Georgia, and serves as the Chief Advisor for the Center for the American Dream at AFPI. He is also the Executive Director of Speak for Life and Chief of Staff to Dr. Alveda King. In addition to his work with the pro-life community, Chris serves as the President of Kids Against Hunger and Ignite Outreach, where he seeks to empower human dignity around the world.
“Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
Francis of Assisi
Robert Lighthizer is originally from Ashtabula, Ohio, and serves as the Chair of the Center for American Trade at AFPI. Prior to joining AFPI, Lighthizer served as the 18th United States Trade Representative (USTR) under President Donald Trump. Alongside President Trump, Lighthizer engineered a historic trade agreement with China that put American workers, farmers, and manufacturers first. An experienced trade negotiator and litigator, Lighthizer has dedicated his life working for equitable trade enforcement for the U.S. and has an impressive record of fighting for American workers, farmers, manufacturers, and businesses. Prior to joining the Trump Administration, Lighthizer was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP (Skadden), where he practiced international trade law for over 30 years. Before joining Skadden, Lighthizer served as Deputy USTR for President Ronald Reagan. During his tenure, Lighthizer negotiated over two dozen bilateral international agreements, including agreements on steel, automobiles, and agricultural products. As Deputy USTR, he also served as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Lighthizer earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center. He has two children and in his free time enjoys playing golf.
“Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality.”
Gloria McDonald is from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and serves as a Policy Analyst for the Center for American Security at AFPI. Gloria most recently interned with the State Department, serving two consecutive summers at the United States Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine in the Security Attaché division. In this role, she worked alongside American and Ukrainian security operators to develop intelligence and security policies on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Previously, Gloria interned with Congressman Dave Brat in Washington, D.C. McDonald is a graduate of Liberty University with a degree in International Relations specializing in Strategic Intelligence. She previously studied at Oxford Sixth Form College in the Advanced Studies Program with a concentration in International Affairs and Russian language. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Global Security at Johns Hopkins University. The youngest of five siblings, and an aunt to three, Gloria is most appreciative of her family.
““Acts of courage and acts of obedience shift history for nations.””
Pastor Russell Johnson
Ryann McEnany is a Tampa, Florida native and serves as the Digital Marketing and Brand Communications Strategist and Engagement Officer at AFPI. McEnany most recently worked for the Trump-Pence 2020 presidential campaign as a Social Media Strategist. During her time with the campaign, she managed President Trump’s Snapchat, reaching millions of daily users, and assisted in optimizing Team Trump’s digital presence. She spent the final months of the campaign interviewing everyday Americans at rallies around the country, capturing the heartfelt stories of people from all backgrounds, ideologies, and political beliefs, to highlight raw, unscripted reactions from the public. McEnany graduated from the University of Florida with a Master of Science in Sport Management, specializing in Athlete Development, and a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications. She was a member of University of Florida’s nationally ranked track and field program, where she competed in the 60-meter hurdles and 100-meter hurdles. McEnany currently holds the 8th fastest 60-meter hurdle time in the university’s history. Over the 15 years that McEnany spent in sports, she developed a unique set of skills and gained valuable experiences that she continues to carry with her into the political scene. In Tampa, McEnany enjoys cheering on all the outstanding Tampa Bay sports teams and spending time with her family.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Ashley Mocarski is from Shelton, Connecticut, and serves as AFPI’s Senior Director for Development. Ashley most recently served on the Trump-Pence 2020 presidential campaign as the Director of External Affairs and Development for the Trump Victory Finance Committee. Mocarski previously worked at the White House under President Trump in the Communications office, Cabinet Affairs, and Political Affairs, where she helped build communications and coalition-building strategies. She also worked on the Trump-Pence 2016 presidential campaign. Prior to her work in Washington, D.C., Mocarski worked at the Greater New York Hospital Association and served on the development teams at Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens. She attended St. John’s University, where she studied Health and Human Services. Mocarski grew up with a passion for absorbing copious amounts of information and enjoys skiing, traveling to Connecticut and New York City to see family, watching Broadway plays, and listening to music legends like Frank Sinatra.
“Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”
John F. Kennedy
Brian Morgenstern is originally from Sparta, New Jersey, and is a Senior Advisor at AFPI. Morgenstern previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury. There, he was a key liaison to the business community and media during the implementation of some of the most consequential legislation of the Trump Administration, including the CARES Act and the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. Most recently, he served at the White House under President Trump as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director and Deputy Press Secretary. Morgenstern advised and traveled with the President and other senior administration officials. He oversaw communications and messaging for Operation Warp Speed and the Coronavirus Task Force, and frequently appeared on national television and radio shows. Morgenstern graduated from Columbia Law School and was the first underclassman student body president at Georgetown University.
“With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a bit longer.”
Inscription on the Seabees Memorial to US Naval Construction Battalions, Memorial Bridge
Casey B. Mulligan is from Chicago, Illinois, and serves as a Member of the Board of Academic Advisors at AFPI. Casey is a Professor in Economics at the College at the University of Chicago; he received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago in 1993. Previously, he also served as Chief Economist of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and as a visiting professor teaching public economics at Harvard University, Clemson University, and the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. He is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research, the George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State, and the Population Research Center. Casey has received awards and fellowships from the Manhattan Institute, the National Science Foundation, Wolfram Research, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Smith-Richardson Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation. His research covers capital and labor taxation, the gender wage gap, health economics, Social Security, voting and the economics of aging. Mulligan has written widely on discrepancies between economic analysis and conventional wisdom. He wrote: Before You're Hired!, Chicago Price Theory, Side Effects and Complications, The Redistribution Recession, and Parental Priorities and Economic Inequality. He has also written numerous Op-Eds and blog entries for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Chicago Tribune, blogsupplyanddemand.com, and other blogs and periodicals.
Lee E. Ohanian is from Santa Barbara, California, and serves as a Member on AFPI’s Board of Academic Advisors. He is a Distinguished Professor of Economics, and Director of the Ettinger Family Program in Macroeconomic Research at UCLA, where he has taught since 1999. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Associate Director of the Center for the Advanced Study in Economic Efficiency at Arizona State University. Ohanian is an adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and previously has advised other Federal Reserve Banks, Foreign Central Banks, and the National Science Foundation. He has been an economic adviser to state and national political campaigns and has testified to the U.S. Senate and the California State Legislative Assembly. His research, which recently has been discussed in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and other media sources, focuses on economic crises, and has been published widely in several peer-reviewed journals. He is a frequent columnist for the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, and other media. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Rochester.
“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”
Jacob Olidort is from Queens and Manhattan, New York, and serves as AFPI’s Director of the Center for American Security. Olidort recently served in the Office of the Vice President, where he contributed to the federal response to COVID-19. Previously, Olidort served as the senior foreign policy advisor to Senator Josh Hawley and Senator Orrin Hatch, as well as in positions at the Department of Defense, the State Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Olidort previously was a Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and taught at George Washington University and American University. Olidort was a Fulbright Scholar in the United Arab Emirates, a non-resident fellow at the Modern War Institute at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and is a term member in the Council on Foreign Relations. Olidort received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, magna cum laude, from Brandeis University, his Master of Arts in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University, and his Master of Arts and doctorate in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. When Jacob is not writing, he enjoys visiting family in New York, browsing used book shops, and fishing on Long Island.
“I have a horror of living in Washington, and never intend to do it.”
General Ulysses S. Grant to his wife, Julia
Charlie O’Neill is from Swarta Township, Pennsylvania, and serves as Pennsylvania Policy Advisor at AFPI. Charlie has spent over a decade working in politics, public policy, and communications. He also works at the Leadership Institute and he previously worked as Deputy Executive Director for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. He also has served as a Legislative Liaison in Governor Tom Corbett’s Administration in two agencies, served as a staffer in the Pennsylvania State Senate, and managed campaigns for everything from school board to Congress seats across Pennsylvania. In 2009, he was a Congressional intern while attending Catholic University in Washington, D.C., in the office of the late Congressman Howard Coble. After a stint at the Republican Governor’s Association, Charlie returned to his home state of Pennsylvania, where he has lived since 2012.
“We are all here on earth to help others; what on the earth the others are here for, I do not know.”
Joshua Orlaski is from Temecula, California, and serves as a Policy Analyst in the Center for the American Worker and the Center for Education Opportunity at AFPI. Prior to joining AFPI, Orlaski served in the Trump administration as the Confidential Assistant and Briefing Book Coordinator for Secretary Ben Carson at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition, Orlaski spent several years in the private sector working in sales and business development, and he previously interned on Capitol Hill for Congressman Tom McClintock of California. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he majored in Financial Management. Orlaski currently resides in Arlington, Virginia, and he enjoys playing the guitar, baseball, and being involved in his church.
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Dr. Heidi Overton is from Gallup, New Mexico, and serves as AFPI’s Director of the Center for a Healthy America. Overton recently served as a White House Fellow in 2019-2020 in both the Office of American Innovation and the Domestic Policy Council and is a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Investigation at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Previously, Overton was a general surgery resident at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a physician advocate for price and quality transparency in healthcare through Restoring Medicine. During medical school, Overton was appointed by Governor Susana Martinez to serve on the University of New Mexico (UNM) Board of Regents, which included fiduciary and full-voting responsibilities for all business and clinical operations of the university and health system. Overton graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Health, Medicine, and Human Values from the UNM’s Combined BA/MD Program and received her medical degree from the UNM School of Medicine. Overton loves living in our nation’s capital and enjoys traveling to see family and friends around the country, especially going back home, where she gets her fill of New Mexico red and green chile and can improve her favorite new hobby – golf – in the bright blue skies and sunshine of the high desert.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people.”
Preston Parry is from Tucson, Arizona, and serves as AFPI’s Strategic Assistant to the President & CEO. Parry most recently served at the White House under President Donald Trump as the Executive Assistant to the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, Brooke Rollins. In this role, he assisted Rollins with the overall operations for over 40 members of the Council. In this role, he was also the Policy Coordinator for the team and was the primary liaison with the Office of the Staff Secretary. Parry previously was an Associate Director in the White House Visitors Office, facilitating tours, large scale events, and assisting the Office of the First Lady. Parry also served as a White House intern in 2017 in the Office of Digital Strategy. He attended Utah Valley University, where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. Parry recently moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he enjoys freedom, wearing his new cowboy boots and hat in the famous Stockyards, and being surrounded by the nicest people on Earth!
““Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius."”
Rick Perry was born in Haskell, Texas, and raised in Paint Creek, Texas. The son of dryland cotton farmers, he currently serves as the Chair of the Center for Energy Independence at AFPI. Perry previously served as the 14th Secretary of Energy under President Donald Trump, where he advanced America’s dominance in energy production to help American businesses, workers, families, and farmers. Previously, Perry served as the 47th Governor of Texas. As Governor of the Lone Star State, Perry championed conservative principles that helped Texas become America’s economic engine. Perry also served Texas as Lt. Governor, Agriculture Commissioner, and State Representative. Perry is a veteran of the United States Air Force, having flown C-130 tactical airlift aircraft in Europe and the Middle East and remains passionate about supporting the active duty and veteran community. Perry earned distinction early in his life as an Eagle Scout and he was one of the first in his family to go to college, earning a degree in Animal Science from Texas A&M University, where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets and a Yell Leader. Perry married his childhood sweetheart, Anita, in 1982. They have two children, two beautiful granddaughters, and a grandson, who was born on the 4th of July.
Javon Price is from Fairfax, Virginia, and serves as a Policy Analyst in the Center for Opportunity Now, the Center for Second Chances, and the Center for American Security for AFPI. Price most recently worked in the United States House of Representatives as a Staff Assistant for Congressman Byron Donalds of Florida, Previously, Price interned for the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Office of American Innovation. He also interned for the Republican Governors Association and the Republican Attorneys General Association. Additionally, Price is a graduate of Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, where he studied International Politics with a focus on Security. Price is a veteran of the United States Air Force, having served in the Reserves from 2017-2020. He left the Air Force as a Senior Airman (E-4). When Price is not focused on politics or his studies, he enjoys watching the Dallas Cowboys compete every Sunday. Outside of football season, he is a huge fan of the Georgetown Hoyas Basketball Team and the Washington Nationals.
“The future is for those who prepare for it today.”
Andrew Puzder is from Brentwood, Tennessee, and serves as a Senior Fellow at AFPI. Previously, he served as the Chief Executive Officer of CKE Restaurants, where he helped turn Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. into the fast-food powerhouses that they are today. He started his journey with CKE as founder Carl Karcher’s personal attorney in 1986; Puzder became CEO in 2000 and led the company out of serious financial difficulties. Under his leadership, CKE expanded to more than 3,800 restaurants globally. Puzder is a frequent lecturer on economics and politics for various groups and associations as well as at colleges and universities. He is a Senior Fellow at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, a Visiting Fellow for business and economic freedom at the Heritage Foundation, a member of the Reagan Institute’s National Leadership Council, and a director at the Job Creators Network. He is also a member of the Washington University Law School’s Board of Advisors, the State Financial Officers Foundation’s National Advisory Committee, and the Advisory Board at Prager University. In 2021 he was named Chairman of the Board at 2ndVote Advisers, an investment firm formed in response to the stakeholder capitalism and environmental and social governance movements. In 2010, he co-authored a book titled Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn’t Understand It. His second book, The Capitalist Comeback: The Trump Boom and the Left’s Plot to Stop It, was published in April 2018. As a teenager, he was expelled from high school in 1967 for long hair and took a couple of years off from college in the 1970s to play in rock & roll bands.
“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
John Ratcliffe grew up in Mount Prospect, Illinois, and serves as a co-Chair of the Center for American Security. Most recently, he served as the sixth Director of National Intelligence (DNI) under President Donald Trump. In that role, Ratcliffe served as the leader of the U.S. intelligence community and principal intelligence advisor to President Trump. As “America’s Top Spy,” Ratcliffe successfully deployed covert and clandestine intelligence assets to remove numerous designated terrorist leaders from the battlefield, led a shift in the U.S. intelligence community priorities to better position the U.S. for success in the great power competition with China, and designated space as a priority intelligence domain by adding the U.S. Space Force as the 18th member of the intelligence community. In recognition of his national security achievements, President Trump awarded Ratcliffe the National Security Medal, the nation’s highest honor for distinguished achievement in the field of intelligence and national security. Prior to his nomination and confirmation as DNI, Ratcliffe served in Congress for over five years as the U.S. Representative for the 4th Congressional District of Texas. As a Congressman, he was a leading policymaker on national security issues as a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees and as Cybersecurity Chairman on the Homeland Security Committee. The son of two schoolteachers and the youngest of six, John was born in Illinois but “got to Texas as fast as I could.” He and his family reside in Heath, Texas, where John previously served as mayor for eight years.
“A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”
President John Adams
Venetia Resciniti is from Binghamton, New York, and serves as a Staff Assistant in AFPI’s Constitutional Litigation Partnership. Resciniti previously interned at the White House in the Domestic Policy Council, where she assisted staff in policy research and drafting policy materials. Resciniti also interned at the State Department in the Policy Planning Staff, where she contributed to policy research, verifying facts for speech writers, and was responsible for aiding in office management. Resciniti received her Bachelor of Arts in public policy and Master of Public Administration from the University at Albany. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and exploring all D.C. has to offer.
“The more people tell you it’s not possible, that it can’t be done, the more you should be absolutely determined to prove them wrong. Treat the word “impossible” as nothing more than motivation.”
President Donald J. Trump
James Sherk was born in Ontario, Canada, and immigrated with his family to Midland, Michigan while in middle school. He serves as AFPI’s Director of the Center for American Freedom. Sherk previously served as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy on the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Donald Trump. James served as the Administration’s top civil service reform and labor policy advisor from 2017 to 2021. At the White House, he was the principal author of and/or policy lead for approximately two dozen executive orders and presidential memoranda. Sherk also served as a member of the President’s Council on Improving Federal Civic Architecture. Prior to his White House service, Sherk was a Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, where he was a nationally recognized expert on the civil service and labor policy. Sherk received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Economics from Hillsdale College and an Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Rochester. Sherk and his wife, Jill, live in Northern Virginia with three beloved children who teach their parents to ponder inscrutable questions like “how much drawing can go on the walls before we have to repaint them?”
“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”
Travis Shirkman is from Williamsburg, Virginia, and serves as the Director of Donor Relations at AFPI. Shirkman previously served as the Senior Assistant to the President for Donor Relations at The Heritage Foundation where he worked with major gift donors in the Northeast and Southwest regions of the country. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice and Strategic Intelligence from Liberty University, along with a master’s degree in International Relations. He is married to Juliana, a California native, and overly proud of his Golden Retriever, Maverick. He enjoys golfing and cycling in his spare time. Growing up in Williamsburg Virginia, Shirkman fell in love with the history of America and the founding principles that make this country great and worth fighting for every day.
“Politics ought to be a part time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Cliff Sims is from Birmingham, Alabama and serves as a Senior Fellow in AFPI's Center for American Security. He previously served as Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Strategy and Communications inside the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which oversees the 18 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community. In this role, Sims was awarded the Director’s Exceptional Achievement Award in recognition of superior accomplishment and valuable service to the mission of ODNI. Sims was previously Special Assistant to the President and Director of White House Message Strategy under President Trump. In this role, he led the White House’s messaging operation, advising the President and senior officials on communications strategy. Sims spearheaded the Administration’s messaging for some of its most notable accomplishments, including the successful passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. He also led the messaging and speechwriting team for the 2020 Republican National Convention. Sims graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Alabama with a degree in Political Science. Earlier in life, Cliff was a college basketball player and had songs featured on MTV and in major motion pictures.
“The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
Kiron K. Skinner is from Chicago, Illinois, and serves as a Member of the Board of Academic Advisors at AFPI. She is also the Taube Professor for International Relations and Politics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy. Previously, she founded and directed these entities at Carnegie Mellon University: the Center for International Relations and Politics, the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program, the Institute for Politics and Strategy, and the Institute for Strategic Analysis. Skinner is the W. Glenn Campbell Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Skinner was the Director of the Office of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State from September 2018 to August 2019. As Director, she reengaged the Department in red-team exercises on regional conflicts and fostered transatlantic partnerships through numerous strategic dialogues, including the first-ever Policy Planners Summit for NATO, held in April 2019. At various points in the past twenty years, Professor Skinner has served on the US Defense Department’s Defense Policy Board and Defense Business Board, the Chief of Naval Operations’ Executive Panel, the National Academies’ Committee on Behavioral and Social Science Research to Improve Intelligence Analysis for National Security, and the National Security Education Board. In U.S. presidential politics, Skinner served as a foreign policy surrogate for the Bush-Cheney 2004 reelection campaign, a senior foreign policy adviser to Speaker Newt Gingrich during his presidential campaign in 2011–12, a foreign policy adviser to Senator Rand Paul during his presidential bid in 2015-16, and a foreign policy surrogate for the Donald J. Trump presidential campaign in 2016. She was also a senior member of the Trump transition team in 2016. Professor Skinner has published extensively in American politics and international relations. Two of her co-edited books on President Ronald Reagan were New York Times best sellers, and one received the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Book Award. Professor Skinner holds MA and PhD degrees in political science from Harvard University and undergraduate degrees from Spelman College and Sacramento City College. She has an honorary doctor of laws degree from Molloy College, Long Island.
Rachael Seidenschnur Slobodien is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, and serves as AFPI’s Chief Communications Officer. Slobodien most recently served as the Chief of Staff for the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) under President Donald J. Trump. Prior to joining CEA, Slobodien served as Communications Director for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). She also worked at The Heritage Foundation, where she led communications strategy for Heritage’s Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Washington and Lee University, where she graduated cum laude and with honors. Slobodien also earned a Juris Doctor from the George Washington University Law School, where she graduated with honors and served as Editor-in-Chief of The Federal Communications Law Journal. A classically trained ballerina, Slobodien values precision and promptitude. She also enjoys spending time with her family and their beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Miss Winston Churchill.
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
Abigail Slagle lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Houston, Texas, Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina growing up and serves as a Policy Analyst in the Center for a Healthy America at AFPI. Previously, she was a Research Associate in Domestic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation. In this role, she authored research papers on a variety of health and welfare policies, including Obamacare individual exchange enrollment trends, single-payer health care, and COVID-19 response policies. Abigail also served as a government relations intern at Thermo Fisher Scientific, a Fortune-150 healthcare technology company. Slagle holds a master’s degree in Political Science and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, both from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Growing up, she was a competitive ice skater and competed overseas several times. When she is not working, Abigail enjoys cooking, museums, traveling, and watching movies at home with her cat, Quincy.
“The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”
Alexandra Smith is from Ithaca, New York, and serves as the Digital Marketing Coordinator for AFPI. Previously, Smith was a Media Affairs Associate for Virginia Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign. In this role, she drafted campaign correspondence, managed Youngkin’s social media profiles, and facilitated his media appearances, which ranged from local radio to national primetime TV. Additionally, she served as a Digital Media Coordinator on the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign, where she oversaw the production of the delegate nomination introduction videos for the Republican National Convention and managed the production of social media content. Smith attended the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, majoring in International Affairs and minoring in Arabic, with a regional concentration in the Middle East. In her free time, she enjoys traveling the world and trying new cuisines. Alex loves animals and when she is not in the office you can always find her with her adorable rescue dog, Max, by her side.
“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
Steve Smith is from Dayton, Ohio, serves as AFPI’s Chief of Staff and Director of the Center for New Frontiers. Smith recently served as a Special Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff of the White House Office of American Innovation and the Domestic Policy Council, where he developed, led, and managed the policy strategy of over 40 team members. Smith served on the team that passed the First Step Act, a historic bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, and was heavily involved in the successes of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, and the COVID-19 rapid response operations team. Steve previously spent 12 years in campaign management, leading and supporting political races from city, state, federal, and presidential levels, including service on Senator Mitch McConnell’s 2008 campaign and as the Special Assistant to the Republican National Committee’s co-Chairman during the 2016 cycle. Smith received a degree in Political Science from the University of Kentucky. Smith is daydreaming about the final frontier of space, playing saxophone to the detriment of his neighbors, hiking new trails, and rooting on the Cleveland Browns, Dayton Flyers, and the Kentucky Wildcats.
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Jessica Hart Steinmann is from Houston, Texas, and serves as AFPI’s General Counsel. Jessica most recently served as Elections Committee Clerk & Counsel of the Texas House of Representatives. During the Trump Administration, she was appointed by the President as the Director for the Office of Victims of Crime at the Department of Justice (DOJ) where she oversaw nearly $9 billion and awarded over $2.5 billion in funding in 2020 that helped victims in the aftermath of crime. Her office provided the largest federal funding to combat domestic human trafficking. Before this role, she served as the Intergovernmental and Public Liaison for the DOJ. In this role, she was the primary liaison with governors, state attorneys general, state elected officials, law enforcement officials, and key stakeholders. She previously worked for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the Harris County Republican Party, and was a commercial litigation attorney at Bracewell & Giuliani, LLP. She received a Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin and received a Juris Doctor from Baylor Law School. Jessica and her husband, Brandon, reside in The Woodlands, Texas, and she spends the majority of her free time traveling, hiking, doing yoga, or out at the lake.
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things”
Laurie Todd-Smith, Ph.D. is originally from Phoenix, Arizona, but has lived in Mississippi for over 25 years. She serves as AFPI’s Senior Fellow for the Center for Education Opportunity and Center for the American Worker. Dr. Todd-Smith was appointed by President Trump to serve as the Director of the Women’s Bureau at the United States Department of Labor. During her tenure at the Women’s Bureau, she focused the agency on issues of childcare, paid family leave, and grants to support women in apprenticeship. Prior to her work with the United States Department of Labor, Dr. Todd-Smith served as Senior Education and Workforce Policy Advisor to Governor Phil Bryant. She led numerous legislative efforts to help improve public education in Mississippi including: The Literacy Based Promotion Act, Early Childhood Education, Charter Schools, Special Needs Education Scholarship Account, and accountability models for school districts, all of which resulted in improved outcomes for Mississippi’s students. Dr. Todd-Smith is also the former executive director of the Mississippi State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) and the State Childhood Advisory Council (SECAC). Dr. Todd-Smith is a former elementary school teacher and holds a doctorate in education from Mississippi State University, a master’s degree from Western New Mexico University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona. Dr. Todd-Smith is a 2-year breast cancer survivor. She is an avid college football fan and enjoys boating at Lake Caroline, MS with her husband, Ron, and adorable Yorkie, Max.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Craig Trainor is originally from Brooklyn, New York, and serves as Senior Litigation Counsel for AFPI’s Constitutional Litigation Partnership. Previously, Craig was the Director of Judicial Education at the Law & Economics Center at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. For over ten years, Craig served as a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer in New York City, litigating cases in New York’s state and federal courts. He also served as a New York City prosecutor, an associate attorney at a white collar criminal defense firm, and as a law clerk to Chief Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. Craig is a member of the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a former United States Marine Corps Reservist. He received his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, and his Bachelor of Arts in Government, magna cum laude, from the City University of New York at John Jay College. In his free time, he and his wife enjoy taking their energetic toddler and French Bulldog around historic Virginia and Washington, D.C., and traveling to the Pacific Northwest to visit family.
“We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”
Sam Trippie is from Buffalo, New York, and serves as Development Specialist for AFPI. Prior to joining AFPI, Sam worked compliance and payables for various federal and state campaigns. Sam also had the pleasure of interning at the Heritage Foundation under their development team. In Buffalo, Sam braved the snowy winters at Niagara University, where he studied Political Science. Sam currently resides in Washington, D.C., and in his free time he likes to watch the Buffalo Bills win the AFC East and the Sabres avoid last place. He also enjoys Buffalo sports, golfing with friends, and cooking Sunday Sauce.
“When it is too tough for them, it’s just right for us.”
Thomas J. Tsaveras grew up in Massapequa, New York, and serves as Director of Operations of the America First Policy Institute (AFPI). Tsaveras most recently served as Associate Director of Operations & Facilities in the White House Management Office under President Trump. In this role, Tsaveras was responsible for overseeing operations and facilities for the entire White House complex and delivering direct operational and logistical support to the President, First Lady, and White House senior staff. He was a key player in project managing and large scale historic restoration and renovation projects in the White House Mansion, West Wing, and East Wing to help preserve the White House and its history for the American people. Tsaveras also served as the Facilities Manager for the West Wing & East Wing in the Office of Administration at the White House, running daily operations and providing logistical support to the President’s events and meetings in the West Wing Cabinet Room and Roosevelt Room. Prior to his time at the White House, Tsaveras served on the Presidential Transition Team in 2016, assisting First Lady Melania Trump and the First Family during inauguration and moving in to the White House. He was also the Office Manager for the 2016 Trump Campaign headquarters in Trump Tower, New York. He was the first volunteer on the Trump Campaign and was standing behind President Trump when he came down the escalator to announce his run for the presidency. Tsaveras received a degree in Political Science from Liberty University and is an Eagle Scout. In his free time, he enjoys reading about history, listening to music, hiking, and visiting historic landmarks and museums.
“Accomplishment will prove to be a journey, not a destination.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Scott Turner is from Richardson, Texas, and serves as AFPI’s Chairman of the Center for Education Opportunity at AFPI. Turner is a businessman, motivational speaker, and former professional football player, who previously served as the executive director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council. Turner formerly served as a Texas state representative for the 33rd District, which includes part of Collin County and all of Rockwall County. Before entering public service, Turner was an American football cornerback who played in the NFL for nine seasons with the Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers, and the Denver Broncos. He attended the University of Illinois, where he played as their starting cornerback and graduated with a degree in speech communications.
Mike Vallante is originally from Rhode Island and currently serves as a Senior Advisor for AFPI’s Center for Election Integrity. Mike has more than 40 years of experience in campaigns, public affairs, and business consulting. He has owned two small businesses in Rhode Island and California, working for clients around the country, including candidates, non-profit organizations, associations, and political organizations. In his first campaign, Mike helped elect the first Republican mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, in 40 years and went on to manage the campaign for the first woman elected to statewide office in Rhode Island. From 2003 to 2007, he served as the Chief Operating Officer/Executive Director of the California Republican Party for the successful recall of a California Governor. In 2011, he became the Chief of Staff to the co-Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Most recently, he served in the Small Business Administration as an Associate Administrator of Field Operations. Mike’s passion is dog rescue, especially older dogs that have medical conditions.
“Do Your Job.”
Paula White-Cain was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and serves as the Chair of the Center for American Values at AFPI. Currently, White-Cain serves as Senior Pastor at City of Destiny. For the past 37 years, White-Cain has worked across the world in almost 200 countries, ministering, fighting for religious freedom and humanitarian rights, and advocating for the voiceless. White-Cain also served as an advisor to President Donald J. Trump in the Office of Public Liaison’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Prior to her work at the White House, she co-founded one of the fastest growing and largest churches in the nation, which currently has over 28,000 members. She served as pastor of this church for 22 years, and during that time, Paula White Ministries was launched and became a global media and outreach ministry. She is married to legendary singer/songwriter Jonathan Cain of the iconic Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band Journey and recites his daily motto of Don’t Stop Believin’ while riding horses and having the time of her life with her family.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Andrew Wheeler is originally from Ohio and currently serves as the Chair of the Center for the Environment at AFPI. He previously served as the 15th Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 28, 2019, having previously served as the Acting Administrator and the Senate-confirmed Deputy Administrator. Under his leadership, EPA conclusively proved that they could reduce regulatory burdens while improving environmental indicators across the board. Wheeler oversaw a doubling of Superfund site cleanups, a seven percent reduction in air pollution, significant reductions in greenhouse gases, and the first update to the Lead and Copper regulations in drinking water infrastructure in over thirty years. Prior to his service at the EPA, Wheeler was a consultant and of counsel at Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP. There, he was the leader of the energy and environment consulting practice team and co-chair of the firm-wide energy and natural resources industry team. Wheeler also spent fourteen years working in the United States Senate, including six years as the Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, six years as the Clean Air, Climate Change, and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee Staff Director, and two years as General Counsel to Senator Jim Inhofe. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Case Western Reserve University, a Master of Business Administration from George Mason University, and a Juris Doctor from Washington University in St. Louis, after which he started as a career employee at the EPA in the Toxics Office, where he was awarded three bronze medals. Andrew Wheeler is an Eagle Scout.
Matthew G. Whitaker is from Des Moines, Iowa, and serves as a Co-Chair for the Center of Law & Justice at AFPI. Whitaker was the Acting Attorney General of the United States from 2018 to 2019. Prior to becoming Acting Attorney General, Mr. Whitaker served as Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He was previously appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa by President George W. Bush, serving from 2004 to 2009. Whitaker was also previously the managing partner of Des Moines-based law firm Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff, LLP from 2009 until rejoining the U.S. Department of Justice in 2017. He was also the Executive Director for FACT, The Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust, an ethics and accountability watchdog, from 2014 to 2017. Mr. Whitaker earned a Master of Business Administration, Juris Doctor, and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa. While at Iowa, Whitaker was a three-year letterman on the football team, where he received the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor. Mr. Whitaker is also of counsel with the Graves Garrett law firm.
“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”
HARRY S. TRUMAN
Alexander Wilgocki is from Schenectady, New York, and serves as a Policy Analyst for AFPI’s Center for 1776. Wilgocki most recently served as a press assistant for Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign in the Commonwealth of Virginia and as a Strategic Communications Writer for President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. In 2019, he served as a White House Intern in the Office of Speechwriting. Wilgocki graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Political Science. While an undergraduate, Wilgocki traveled to and studied contemporary issues abroad in Central Europe and the Middle East. Through many student organizations on campus, he helped cultivate productive political dialogue, where he spoke as a strong advocate of individual liberty and prioritizing national interests. Proud of both his Polish heritage and our shared history as Americans, Wilgocki tirelessly strives to defend our constitutional rights under threat today, with keen emphasis on the Second Amendment.
“Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily lives and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.”
John F. Kennedy
Gail Wilson hails from Dallas, Texas, and serves as an Engagement Officer for AFPI. Wilson most recently was the Deputy Executive Director for Black Voices for Trump during the Trump-Pence 2020 presidential campaign. There, she led the communication efforts for one of the fastest-growing coalitions on the President’s reelection campaign. Wilson used her unique skillset to cultivate relationships with key community stakeholders to bolster grassroots support for President Trump and crafted, staffed, and oversaw critical campaign events featuring these high-level supporters and leaders. Before focusing on domestic policies, Wilson traveled to Africa, Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America empowering women to participate in their political and economic environment to increase their leadership roles. Wilson graduated with a degree in Political Science from Texas Women’s University. Wilson is a first-generation American and truly loves this beautiful world, having visited 25 countries and counting. When she is not globetrotting, Wilson enjoys eating medium rare steaks and listening to music.
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bill Woolf is a native of Virginia, and currently serves as a Senior Fellow at AFPI. Prior to joining AFPI, he served as Director of Human Trafficking Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice and Acting Principal Deputy Director at the Office for Victims of Crime. During the Trump Administration, he also served as Special Advisor to the White House for Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation, where he coordinated with representatives from the President’s Interagency Task Force to Combat Human Trafficking. He previously served as the Executive Director of the Just Ask Trafficking Prevention Foundation, an internationally recognized leader in the prevention of human trafficking, as well as serving as the Director of the National Human Trafficking Intelligence Center. Woolf has also served as a law enforcement officer at both the local and federal levels. He led the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force and started the first human trafficking unit in his agency. Woolf is the recipient of the Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia (Wahoo-Wa). In his free time, Bill enjoys taking to the skies as a private pilot. Of all his accomplishments, he is most proud of his six incredible children who continue to amaze and surprise him every single day.
“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
John A. Zadrozny is originally from New York and serves as the Director of AFPI’s Center for Homeland Security and Immigration. Prior to joining AFPI, Zadrozny served in several roles in the Trump Administration, including most recently as Deputy Assistant to the President in the Office of the Senior Advisor for Policy. Prior to his service in the Trump Administration, he spent six years on Capitol Hill, which included service as counsel to both U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California. He also previously served in the George W. Bush Administration and as an Assistant District Attorney with the New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney’s Office. Zadrozny has a Bachelor of Arts in History and graduated magna cum laude from Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, and has a Juris Doctor from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. He lives with his family in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
Kristen Ziccarelli grew up in Germany, Slovenia, Boston, Chicago, and Virginia, and serves as a Policy Analyst at AFPI. She is also currently completing a master’s program in International Business. She was previously a White House Intern with the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs during the Summer of 2020, where she helped with coordination between state and local leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kristen also nurtured her passion for diplomacy working at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin for three summer terms. In 2021, she founded the media organization Respect Perspective to encourage people to see all sides of controversial issues. Kristen graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2021 with degrees in Political Science and Finance and enjoys classical music, volunteering, and finding new areas of the world to explore.
“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”
The America First Policy Institute (AFPI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan research institute. AFPI exists to advance policies that put the American people first. Our guiding principles are liberty, free enterprise, national greatness, American military superiority, foreign-policy engagement in the American interest, and the primacy of American workers, families, and communities in all we do.Careers