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.


Elisabeth W. Kines

Executive Vice President

Elisabeth studied Journalism at The University of South Carolina and put her degree to good use in the publicity department at Atlantic Records in Los Angeles, CA. From there she combined her passions for music and technology through positions in operations and business development at Universal Music Group, VEVO and Beats Music. After more than a decade in California and a year in Northern Ireland, Elisabeth is delighted to call South Carolina home again. In her role as Executive Vice President at PPI, Elisabeth partners with the President & CEO to implement Palmetto Promise Institute’s strategic plan. Elisabeth oversees the development, communications and operations departments.


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.

Jessi Knight Blake

Development Director

Originally from Columbia, Jessi and her family now make their home in Greenville. She is a graduate of Furman University and brings with her an extensive background in communications, non-profit fundraising, grant making, event planning, and program development. She served in a variety of capacities for U.S. Senator Jim DeMint over a 7 year period including state scheduling and managing his competitive funding outreach and policy work. Most recently, she managed a regional accounting firm’s 4-state 20-campus college recruitment program as well as media and marketing for a statewide hunger relief organization. She is a graduate of Leadership Greenville Class 37 and a member of the Greenville Chamber Singers.


Adam M. Crain

Research Assistant

A native of Rock Hill, SC, Adam is a graduate of Wofford College where he studied Government and History. While an undergrad, Adam served on various political campaigns, interned in the South Carolina Senate, and was part of the South Carolina Washington Semester Program, which allowed him to work for U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on Capitol Hill. Most recently, he completed a post-graduate fellowship at the John Jay Institute for Faith, Society, and Law in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he furthered his studies in political thought, philosophy, jurisprudence, theology, and culture. Adam began his work at PPI as an intern, but now serves as Research Assistant helping to promote conservative public policy and educate others on the opportunities those policies bring.