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 Badger 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.

Board of Directors

Tom Howatt, Board Chairman

Tom Howatt served as chairman of the board of directors of Wausau Paper Corp. from 2012 to 2014; he was president and chief executive officer from 2000 to 2011. He joined Wausau Paper in 1980, having previously worked at Wisconsin Electric and Miller Brewing Co., and served in various executive roles at the company prior to being appointed president and CEO.


David Baumgarten

David Baumgarten serves as president of Bank Mutual. He has held the position of executive vice president for Associated Banc-Corp overseeing Associated’s eight banking regions within Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota, president of Southeast Wisconsin Associated Bank, president and CEO of US Bank, Wisconsin, president and CEO of US Bank, Colorado, and senior vice president of First Bank, Minneapolis.


Ave Bie

Ave Bie is a partner in the public utilities and corporate practice groups of Quarles & Brady in Madison, Wis. Bie works on state and federal issues for clients at the firm’s six offices nationwide.


Catherine Dellin

Catherine Dellin is president of the Camp 5 Museum Foundation in Laona, Wis. The foundation operates the Laona & Northern Railroad, the "Lumberjack Steam Train," which runs to the Wisconsin Forestry Museum and attractions on the site of an old logging camp and lumber company farm. The complex is on the Register of National Historic Places.


Jon Hammes

Jon Hammes is the managing partner of Hammes Company, a private investment and real estate development firm. Headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., with 15 regional offices, Hammes Company provides strategic planning, facility development, project management and real estate acquisition and advisory services to its clients in the health care and sport-facilities sectors.


Corey Hoze

Corey Hoze is senior vice president of government relations and regulatory affairs for Associated Banc-Corp, one of the top 50 financial services holding companies operating in the United States, with total assets of $26 billion and approximately 270 banking locations serving more than 150 communities in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.


Jason Kohout

Jason Kohout is a partner and business lawyer practicing with Foley & Lardner LLP. Kohout is very involved in the community and serves as secretary for the Harvard Club of Wisconsin and secretary of the Badger Institute.


David Lubar

David Lubar is president of Lubar & Co., a private investment firm founded in 1977 whose investment activities include acquisitions of middle market operating companies as well as growth financing for emerging businesses.


Bill Nasgovitz

Bill Nasgovitz is chairman and CIO of Heartland Advisors Inc. and portfolio manager of the Heartland Value Fund and its corresponding Small Cap Value Strategy. He is also president and director of Heartland Funds. Value investing has been a lifelong passion for Nasgovitz, a seasoned small-cap value investor with nearly 50 years of experience. He has been recognized by Morningstar as “a veteran micro-cap stock-picker.”


Jim Nellen

Jim Nellen is a lawyer in private practice. Previously, he was counsel to Smithfield Foods Inc., general counsel to Smithfield Beef Group and president of Smithfield’s Delaware Holding Companies.


Maureen Oster

Maureen Oster is one of the female pioneers in the financial investment industry, having spent over 35 years managing a diverse range of funds and fund managers. As president of a small family of funds in a period of explosive industry growth, she kept her funds competitive in investment performance and shareholder communications.


Ulice Payne Jr.

Ulice Payne Jr. is managing member of Addison-Clifton, LLC, an advisor regarding global trade compliance solutions. He is responsible for day-to-day operations. He previously served as managing partner of the headquarter office of the Foley & Lardner LLP law firm and also served as chair of the International Business Team at the firm, where he represented global and domestic companies in cross-border transactions.


Tim Sheehy

Tim Sheehy is president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, a 148-year-old organization whose mission is to support its business membership through strategies that develop the region as a world-class place to invest capital, develop business and create jobs.


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.


Badger Institute team

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.