Darcy Olsen is President of the Goldwater Institute, a research and legal center that Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will heralded as “simply in the liberty business and there’s no institution in the country that performs that business better.”
Olsen’s leadership has been critical to the Institute’s success, including the development and enactment of nearly 200 reforms and the protection of multiple constitutional rights in state and federal courts.
When Olsen took the helm of the Goldwater Institute in 2001, it was struggling to stay afloat. She revamped the Institute’s organizational structure to parallel a private-sector company focused on results. Shortly after, her colleagues presented her with a life-size replica of Darth Vader, symbolizing her willingness to terminate non-performers and face down critics.
Olsen’s vision has made the Goldwater Institute a national leader in the movement to restore America as a compound republic, where states exercise their constitutional authority to check and limit federal power.
Under Olsen’s direction, the Goldwater Institute developed the Save Our Secret Ballot initiative, a successful nationwide effort to protect businesses from labor union card-check. Despite strong-arm tactics from the federal government, the Institute beat back a legal challenge brought by the National Labor Relations Board against Save Our Secret Ballot. “These aren’t merely symbolic victories,” hailed the Wall Street Journal. “States can protect their economies from the NLRB with initiatives like [Save Our Secret Ballot].”
The Goldwater Institute also designed the nation’s first education savings accounts. Parents use the accounts to pay for a range of education expenses, including private school tuition, educational therapies, and even college. The New York Times highlighted the accounts as a national model for states as they reform public education. When the education unions sued over the program, the Goldwater Institute stepped in and won, paving the way for children nationwide to benefit.
The Goldwater Institute is currently spearheading the Right to Try initiative, a state-level measure that will give terminally ill patients access to potentially life-saving medicines. Under the current system, terminally ill patients have to wait to gain access to new treatments, which can take over a decade to make it to market. This lifesaving measure is moving through several states with more lined up for 2015.
An authority on education reform, economic policy, and government reform, Olsen is a regular guest on national media programs. Her opinions have been widely published in outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Review.
Olsen has received numerous awards and recognitions including the national Roe Award for achievement in public policy. One of her most unexpected awards was when Hockey Magazine named her the “64th most powerful person in hockey” for her leading role in blocking a multimillion-dollar subsidy to an NHL team.
A graduate of Georgetown University and New York University, Olsen unofficially started her public policy career at 11 years old, when she went door-to-door gathering signatures on a homemade petition to stop animal abuse. Born in Vermont, raised in Utah, Olsen resides in
Arizona. She is a foster mother and an adoptive mother of two, and counting.