The Badger Institute, formerly the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit institute established in 1987 working to engage and energize Wisconsinites and others in discussions and timely action on key public policy issues critical to the state’s future, growth and prosperity. The institute’s research and public education activities are directed to identify and promote public policies in Wisconsin that are fair, accountable and cost-effective.
Through original research and analysis and through public opinion polling, the institute’s work focuses on such issue arenas as state and local government tax policy and spending, including related program accountability, consequences and effectiveness. It also focuses on health care policy and service delivery; education; transportation and economic development; welfare and social services; and other issues that have or could have a significant impact on the quality of life and future of the state.
The institute is guided by a belief that competitive free markets, limited government, private initiative and personal responsibility are essential to our democratic way of life.
Mike Nichols, President
Mike Nichols is president of the Badger Institute. From 2009 to 2013, he was a senior fellow at the institute, syndicated newspaper columnist and communications consultant. A graduate of Boston College and the University of Chicago, Nichols is the author of numerous papers and articles focusing on public policy, including an analysis of data-driven policing, failures in special education funding and accountability, problems and misspending in the Milwaukee Public Schools’ parental outreach program, the high cost of technical college labor contracts, public campaign financing, fraud in the FoodShare program, problems with discord and lack of productivity on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, rampant expansion of the School Lunch Program, the limitation of public subsidies of business, union influence on school boards, positive environmental impacts of the frac sand industry and conservatism in central Wisconsin.
Nichols is also the author of "The Waking," a mystery published by HarperCollins, and "Just a Few Sleeps Away," a work of non-fiction focusing on the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He spent almost 20 years as an award-winning newspaper reporter and columnist for newspapers in Illinois and for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where he often wrote about Wisconsin policy, politics and people. He lives in Cedarburg with his wife and three children.
Michael Jahr, Vice President of Outreach and Special Projects
Michael Jahr is vice president of outreach and special projects at the Badger Institute. Jahr is an experienced communications strategist who uses storytelling and networking to build movements, inform public opinion and improve lives. From 2012 to 2015, he served as communications director at The Kern Family Foundation. Prior to that, he was vice president for communications at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based, free-market think tank. He spent 10 years as a communications director and press secretary on Capitol Hill working for a U.S. congressman who championed limited government and constitutional fidelity.
Jahr’s work in the policy arena spans a wide array of issues. He has written on subjects ranging from corrections reform to school collective bargaining, and his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Detroit News and other outlets.
Mabel Wong, Editor
Mabel Wong joined the Badger Institute as editor in 2015. She grew up in Milwaukee, attended Milwaukee Public Schools and graduated cum laude from Marquette University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. She was a journalist at the Milwaukee Sentinel and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for over 30 years, most recently as a member of the Editorial Board and as editor of the Perspectives (op-ed) page.
Sue Ettmayer, Office Manager
Sue Ettmayer, SPHR, is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to joining the Badger Institute in 2008, Ettmayer spent 15 years in human resource management and recruiting.
Project for 21st Century Federalism
Dan Benson, Project Editor
Dan Benson has been an award-winning reporter and editor for over 30 years in California and Wisconsin, including lengthy stints with the Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sheboygan Press and Gannett Wisconsin. A native of Iowa and a graduate of Iowa State University, Benson has lived for over 25 years with his wife, Vicki, in Port Washington, where they reared their four children.
Dave Daley, Reporter
Dave Daley has been a reporter for over 30 years at newspapers in Rockford, Ill., Dayton, Ohio, and Minneapolis, and he covered the state Capitol in Madison for The Milwaukee Journal and legal affairs in Milwaukee for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Daley, who served as a combat infantryman in Vietnam, lives on a small farm outside Waterford with his wife and their teenage son.