In 2019, former Speaker of the House and American Idea Foundation President, Paul Ryan sought the guidance, advice, support, and expertise of a small group of volunteers to ensure his Foundation was launched properly. Speaker Ryan believed that having the input of individuals from a diverse set of backgrounds and with an equally diverse set of skills would help the Foundation and its staff in developing its mission, fine-tuning its strategic approach, and raising awareness for its efforts.
This group, called the “Advisory Council,” has remained involved with the Foundation since that time and its members have served as helpful sounding boards and invaluable resources as our mission has been actualized. Among the members of the American Idea Foundation’s Advisory Council are…
Hushang Ansary is the Chairman of Stewart & Stevenson, LLC in Houston, Texas. Stewart and Stevenson designs, manufactures, and provides specialized equipment and after-market parts and service for the oil and gas industries. As a philanthropist, he has been active in the fields of education and medicine, including projects at the Weill Cornell Medical College, the James Baker Institute for Public Policy, the Texas Heart Institute, and fellowships at Harvard and Texas A&M Universities.
He is a trustee of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation and sits on the board of Overseers of the Weill Cornell Medical College. In his native Iran, Ansary served as Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance and Ambassador to the United States before settling in the US in 1979.
Brendan is a partner at Seven Letter, a strategic communications firm in Washington, DC. Brendan has been recognized as one of Washington’s top communicators and has been at the center of the biggest policy and political battles of the last decade.
Brendan served as a senior advisor to two Speakers of the House and spent more than a decade on Capitol Hill, helping drive the enactment of landmark tax, trade and budget legislation.
He was counselor to House Speaker Paul Ryan and the communications director at the House Ways and Means Committee, where he shepherded enactment of bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority legislation.
Brendan also worked as the vice president for communications at America’s Health Insurance Plans, as a press secretary to House Speaker John Boehner, and as the press secretary to the Vice-Presidential nominee during the Romney-Ryan campaign. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia
Ed Conard is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Previously, he was a founding partner of Bain Capital and director at Wasserstein Perella & Co. He is also the author of Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy is Wrong. Prior to business school, Conard worked as an automotive engineer at Ford Motor Company.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.
Johnny DeStefano is President and Founder of Utility Strategic Advisors, where he helps a diverse set of clients navigate an increasingly complex Washington.
DeStefano has had a front seat for each tectonic shift in Washington over the last two decades. DeStefano served most recently as one of President Trump’s closest advisors. As Counselor to the President, he oversaw personnel appointments across the entire federal government and managed the White House political team.
Prior to the White House, DeStefano was President and CEO of Data Trust, a right-of-center voter file and political data company. DeStefano helped grow Data Trust to become the premier data organization on the right. In addition, DeStefano served as a Senior Advisor to House Speaker John Boehner, and has had leadership roles at the National Republican Congressional Committee and the House Republican Conference. In 2006, DeStefano managed the campaign of then House Conference Chair Deborah Pryce, re-electing the most vulnerable member of House Republican leadership by 1,062 votes in a Democratic wave election year.
In 2001, Ms. Anne Dias started Aragon Global Management, LLC. Prior to starting Aragon, Dias worked as an analyst for Viking Global Investors, a Portfolio Manager at Soros Fund Management, and a Financial Analyst at Goldman Sachs and Fidelity Investments Limited.
Dias is a member of Harvard Business School’s Board of Dean’s Advisors, a Director of the Museum of Modern Art, and a Trustee of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the Civic Federation of Chicago. Dias is also on the Advisory Board of WomenOnCall.org.
Dias is a former trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where she headed the Investment Committee. She was also a Trustee of the Children’s Memorial Medical Center and Foundation which is part of the Lurie Children’s Hospital at Northwestern University. Dias is a former director of Friends of Island Academy.
Dias graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and earned her MBA from Harvard Business School.
Paul Edgerley joined Bain Capital Private Equity in 1988. He is a Senior Advisor to the firm. During his time at Bain Capital, Mr. Edgerley played a senior leadership role in the firm, co-leading the private equity business, overseeing the firm’s expansion into Asia, and serving as the co-head of the firm’s investment committee. He was a Managing Director from 1990 – 2016.
Prior to joining Bain Capital, Mr. Edgerley spent five years at Bain & Company where he worked as a consultant and a manager in the healthcare, information services, retail and automobile industries. Previously, he worked at Peat Marwick Mitchell & Company.
Mr. Edgerley received an MBA, with Distinction, from Harvard Business School and is a Certified Public Accountant. He received a BS from Kansas State University.
Ms. Cynthia A. Fisher co-founded ViaCell, Inc. in 2000 and is its beneficial owner. Ms. Fisher Founded WaterRev, LLC in 2011, focused on opportunities in water conservation and potability.
She is also an independent investor and consults to corporate boards and executive management teams, primarily in the life sciences. In 1992, she founded ViaCord, Inc., a cord blood stem cell banking company, and served as Chief Executive Officer of Viacord, Inc. from 1993 to 2000. Ms. Fisher served as ViaCell’s President from 2000 to 2001 and as a Member of the Board of Directors until 2002.
She has been an Independent Director of Easterly Government Properties, Inc. since February 6, 2015. She serves as a Member of the Advisory Council of Harvard Medical School for Systems and Cell Biology. She serves as a Member of the Board of Trustees of Ursinus College. She has been a Non-Executive Director of Boston Beer Co., Inc. since 2012.
She holds an MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. Ms. Fisher received her B.S. degree in Biophysics and an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Ursinus College.
Ed Gillespie is a business owner, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and a Republican candidate for Virginia Governor in 2017 and the U.S. Senate in 2014.
The son of an Irish immigrant, Ed started his career as a Senate parking lot attendant and eventually worked his way up to become Counselor to President George W. Bush. He was the Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and a lead author of the 1994 Contract with America. He also served as a long-time policy and communications aide to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and was the general chairman of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s campaign.
Ed was one of the founders of the bipartisan lobbying firm, Quinn, Gillespie & Associates, and currently serves as a senior executive Vice President for External and Legislative Affairs at AT&T. He is a graduate of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.
Mr. William Charles Kunkler, III, serves as an Executive Vice President of Operations at CC Industries, Inc. Mr. Kunkler has served in a number of other officer positions with CC Industries since 1994. He has over 30 years of manufacturing industry experience.
He serves as the Chairman of Chicago Zoological Society and Brookfield Zoo. He has been an Independent Director of Sears Holdings Corporation since September 14, 2009. He serves as a Director for Envestnet Asset Management, Inc., and Nibco Inc.
He serves as a Director of the Northwestern Memorial Foundation. He serves as a Trustee of The Field Museum of Natural History, and Loyola University Chicago.
Mr. Satter manages Satter Investment Management (SIM), a private investment firm and family office. Mr. Satter is a retired partner of Goldman Sachs, where he was a partner of the firm for sixteen years.
He spent his career in the Merchant Banking Division, which manages the firm’s private investments. Mr. Satter joined Goldman Sachs in 1988 and moved to London in 1992 to start up and Co-Head the firm’s Merchant Banking Group in Europe. He later returned to New York and was the Global Head of the Mezzanine Group, where he raised and managed over $30 billion of assets. He was also a senior member of the Investment Committee and Chairman of the Risk Committee for the Merchant Banking Division, which at the time had over $80 billion of assets under management.
He is Vice Chairman of the Board of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and GS Gives, where he is also Chairman of the Investment Committee overseeing $1.2 billion of assets. He is on the Board of the Nature Conservancy where he is Chairman of the Finance Committee overseeing a $1.6 billion endowment. He is a member of the Board of Northwestern University. Additionally, he is on the Board of Advisors of the American Enterprise Institute and the Board of World Business Chicago (chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel). He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Dan Senor is a columnist, author, and political adviser to leading conservatives. Dan has long been a thought-leader in Republican politics, working for Senator Spencer Abraham, Connie Mack III, and AIPAC before serving a White House Advisor during the George W. Bush Administration. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, he served as the chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and as an advisor to Ambassador Paul Bremer. He went on to serve as a top foreign policy advisor on the Romney-Ryan presidential campaign.
Dan is the author of Start-Up Nation, a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and the Washington Post, and is a graduate of Harvard Business School
Most recently, Austin Smythe served as the Policy Director for the Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan. In 2015, Austin was the Policy Director at the Ways and Means Committee and from 2007 through 2013, he was the Staff Director at the House Budget Committee
Previously, Austin was the Executive Associate Director at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from 2001 to 2007. His other experience includes being a Vice President in Lehman Brothers’ Washington, DC office from 1999-2000 and nearly 16 years on the staff of the Senate Budget Committee. Austin earned his BA in Government from the University of Texas. He received his MA from the L.B.J. School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.
Professor Jim Sullivan is the Gilbert F. Schaefer College Professor of Economics at Notre Dame. He has been a visiting scholar at the National Poverty Center and a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, Harris School.
His research examines the consumption, saving, and borrowing behavior of poor households, and how welfare and tax policy affects the well-being of the poor. In 2012, with fellow Notre Dame Professor William Evans, Professor Sullivan founded the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO).
LEO is a research center that works with service providers to identify effective and replicable solutions to reduce poverty in America. Sullivan received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University.
Conor Sweeney currently serves as an advisor to Elliott Advisors and is based out of London, England. Prior to that, Conor served as a top strategist for the American Opportunity Alliance.
He spent almost a decade working in senior positions on Capitol Hill for Speaker Paul Ryan. Sweeney served as Ryan’s Press Secretary, the Communications Director of the House Budget Committee, and as an advisor to the Vice-Presidential nominee on the Romney-Ryan campaign. He is a graduate of Marquette University and a Wisconsin native.
Bob Wood is the current President and CEO of BGR Group. Since joining BGR, Bob has used his political campaign knowledge and policy skills to grow BGR’s health care, state, international, commerce, and financial services practices.
Bob moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as Chief of Staff for Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). At HHS, Bob managed the daily operations of one of the largest departments in federal government, with oversight of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration, and the National Institutes for Health. Bob previously served as Chief of Staff to Thompson while he was Governor of the state of Wisconsin.
Bob Wood honed his political campaign knowledge and organizational skills during the decade he ran statewide and congressional campaigns in the battleground state of Wisconsin. During that time, he served as a key campaign organizer for the only Republican challenger to unseat an incumbent Congressman in 1990, worked as Gov. Tommy Thompson’s 1998 campaign manager, and led the state’s George W. Bush presidential campaign in 2000.
J.D. Vance is an investor, commentator, and author of the #1 NYT Bestselling Hillbilly Elegy.
Raised by his working-class grandparents in Middletown, Ohio, J.D. graduated from Middletown High School in 2003 and then immediately enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. During his time in the Marines, he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
When he finished his four-year enlistment, J.D. moved back to Ohio and enrolled at The Ohio State University, where he studied Political Science and Philosophy, and helped coordinate the university’s bipartisan voter education drive in 2008.
After graduating from college, he studied at Yale Law School. During his time at law school, J.D. worked at Yale’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic, providing free legal counsel to veterans of our nation’s wars in Vietnam and Iraq. J.D. earned his law degree in 2013.
After a stint at a large corporate law firm, J.D. moved to San Francisco to work in the technology industry. He serves as a principal at the leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm Mithril Capital.
In early 2017, J.D. returned home to Ohio to found “Our Ohio Renewal,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the state’s opioid crisis and bringing high-quality employment and educational opportunities to Ohioans.
ROBERT WOODSON, SR.
Bob Woodson is the Founder and President of the Woodson Center, which helps residents of low-income neighborhoods address the problems of their communities. A former civil rights activist, he has headed the National Urban League Department of Criminal Justice, and has been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Foundation for Public Policy Research.
Referred to by many as “godfather” of the neighborhood empowerment movement, for more than four decades, Woodson has had a special concern for the problems of youth. In response to an epidemic of youth violence that has afflicted urban, rural and suburban neighborhoods alike, Woodson has focused much of the Woodson Center’s activities on an initiative to establish Violence-Free Zones in troubled schools and neighborhoods throughout the nation.
He is an early MacArthur “genius” awardee and the recipient of the 2008 Bradley Prize, the Presidential Citizens Award, and a 2008 Social Entrepreneurship Award from the Manhattan Institute.
Spencer Zwick founded Solamere Capital in 2008 with Tagg Romney and Eric Scheuermann. Spencer has spent over a decade building the Solamere network while working directly with Governor Mitt Romney in both the public and private sectors. As the Finance Chairman for both the 2008 and 2012 Romney for President Campaigns, Spencer led an effort that raised more money than any other GOP campaign in history.
In 2004, Spencer served as Deputy Chief of Staff and COO to the Office of Governor Romney in Massachusetts. In that position, he oversaw all operational and financial activity of the Office of the Governor. He also served as the executive liaison to five of the twelve cabinet agencies.
Previously, Spencer worked in the Executive Office of the Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee for the Winter Games of 2002, where he worked to help erase a $379 million deficit and restore credibility to the 2002 games. Spencer served as the National Finance Chairman of Speaker Paul Ryan’s political organization and is on the advisory board of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases. Spencer is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and Thai. Spencer and his wife, Jenny, reside in Wellesley, MA with their four children.