Meet Our Team


President & CEO

A seasoned veteran of policy and politics and a native of Greenville, Ellen worked for 12 years in a wide variety of roles in the operation of U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, both in Washington, DC and South Carolina. Her final assignment as State Director included responsibility for management of staff, communications, outreach and political strategy in the state. Her diverse portfolio has also included fundraising, speech-writing, state and national coalition-building as well as authorship of opinion editorials published both nationally and across the opinion pages of South Carolina. She serves as a Senate appointee on the SC Education Oversight Committee and is a member of the Columbia Rotary Club. In her spare time, Ellen is an avid reader and musician who loves to travel.



Senior Fellow

Born and raised in the beautiful Upstate of South Carolina, Oran Smith has developed a reputation as a trusted adviser and advocate for conservative policy during his many years of service in the Palmetto state. Most recently, he has spent 13 years as President of the Palmetto Family Council, as well as prior service with the SC Business & Industry Political Education Committee and in the office of Governor Carroll Campbell. Oran earned his PhD in political science at the University of South Carolina and has also studied at Clemson and George Washington University. A long-serving member on the Board of Trustees for Coastal Carolina University, he has authored numerous books and publications. He and his family now make their home in Batesburg-Leesville.

Research Partners


Visiting Fellow

Dr. Rebecca Gunnlaugsson is an economist specializing in public finance, with experience in strategic planning, project management, and firm-wide technology implementation. She served as Director of the Division of Research and subsequently Chief Economist at the South Carolina Department of Commerce. Dr. Gunnlaugsson received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Michigan.


Chris Jacobs

Visiting Fellow

Chris Jacobs, the Founder and CEO of Juniper Research Group, is a policy writer and analyst based in Washington, DC. He brings with him over a decade of policy experience in a variety of roles on and off Capitol Hill. Chris previously worked as a Senior Policy Analyst for the Heritage Foundation and the Joint Economic Committee’s Senate Republican staff. Before that, he worked as a Policy Advisor for the House Republican Conference under Chairman Mike Pence.

Jonathan Butcher

Visiting Fellow

Jonathan Butcher serves as Director of Education for the Goldwater Institute. Prior to joining Goldwater, Jonathan served as the Director for South Carolina Public Charter School District. He earned his B.A. in English from Furman University and his M.A. in Economics from the University of Arkansas.