The Pelican Institute fulfills its mission by:
The Pelican Institute Team
Daniel Erspamer is the Chief Executive Officer of The Pelican Institute, having been appointed in May of 2017. Prior to joining the Pelican Institute, Daniel served as Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at State Policy Network, the service organization for America’s free-market, state-based think tanks, of which the Pelican Institute is an affiliate member. Prior to that, he served a variety of leadership and development roles at the national office of Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Prosperity Foundation. He received a B.A., with honors, in Political Economy and Communication from Tulane University. Daniel and his wife, Emily (a graduate of Tulane University School of Law), have four children and reside in New Orleans.
Aly Rau is the Chief of Staff at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. In her role, Aly drives the development strategyand advances the Pelican Institute’s mission through facilitating partnerships and guiding annual program planning to ensure short-term goals, projects, and activities are in alignment with the Pelican Institute’s vision. Prior to joining the Pelican Institute, Aly served as the Grassroots Director and Finance Director for Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor, Billy Nungesser. Her skills include building and implementing strategic plans, establishing standards to optimize performance, managing complex projects, and making the perfect seafood gumbo. Aly also serves as the Chapter Leader of America’s Future Foundation New Orleans, an organization that cultivates a network of young professionals and partners with the Policy Circle to provide opportunities for professional women to engage in thoughtful policy discussion.
Renee Amar is vice president for government affairs for Pelican Institute of Public Policy. Amar crafts the Pelican Institute’s legislative strategy and directs its government affairs activities. She collaborates with lawmakers to develop and advance free-market legislation and public education initiatives.
Previously she served as director of LABI’s Small Business and Healthcare Councils and deputy director of Political Action. As small business council director, Renee gave Louisiana small and independent businesses a voice in government policy making. As health care council director, she encouraged a cost-effective, competitive health care market for Louisiana’s employers. She is passionate about the free enterprise system and free market principles. In her role as deputy director of political action, Renee fundraised for LABI’s four PACs—NORTHPAC, EASTPAC, SOUTHPAC and WESTPAC – recruited candidates for office, and developed endorsements.
Prior to joining LABI in November 2013, Renee spent eight years identifying and building relationships with legislators who work diligently to protect small business and the free enterprise system as the state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. She also worked for the Louisiana Hospital Association for four years in the governmental affairs department.
Renee holds a bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University and pursued her master’s degree at Louisiana State University. She lives in Baton Rouge with her husband Randy and their dogs Maggie and Winston. She’s also a proud mom three children, Damon, Brandt and Chloe.
A native of Louisiana, John Kay was born and raised in Shreveport. A graduate of LSU Shreveport, John served as the SGA President, College Republicans President, and was a national champion debater. During his time in college, John worked on numerous political campaigns including John Kennedy’s 2008 campaign for Senate and John Fleming’s congressional campaign.
Following college, John worked in Congressman John Fleming’s congressional office as well as numerous political campaigns. In 2013, John moved to Alabama to work as Political Director for the Alabama Republican Party. John returned to Louisiana in 2014 to become Americans for Prosperity’s Deputy State Director, and he took over as State Director in 2016. While at AFP, John led the organization through multiple elections and steered the organization’s leading policy work to advance transparency in government, reform to Louisiana’s burdensome system of occupational licensing, criminal justice reform, and tax reform.
John and his wife Amanda reside in Walker, LA with their daughter Jewel.
Sarah Harbison joined the Pelican Institute as General Counsel in January 2020. At the Pelican Institute, Sarah serves in the vital role of defending Louisianians’ First Amendment rights, as well as their right to earn a living. Prior to joining the Pelican Institute, Sarah’s civil defense practice focused on products liability litigation. Because politics is her first love, Sarah left full-time law practice in December 2015 to join a Presidential primary campaign. From there, she subsequently advised candidates running for statewide office, including U.S. Senate, treasurer, secretary of state, and governor. A Lafayette native, Sarah is a summa cum laude graduate of Loyola University and Loyola Law School, where she served as a member of the Moot Court staff. She and her husband, Medlock, live in the Garden District in New Orleans with their handsome orange tabby, Beauregard. Sarah and Medlock enjoy hiking in our country’s national parks, exploring Civil War battlefields, and renovating their 100-year-old home.
Morgan Wampold joined the Pelican Institute as Director of Communications in January 2020. With a strong background in public and community relations, Morgan has spent his career developing and implementing strategic plans to move his clients’ communications and business priorities forward. Morgan previously served as public relations account leader at nationally renowned advertising agency People Who Think, LLC. While there, Morgan managed public relations and communications efforts for state and national political candidates, as well as for issue advocacy and ballot initiative campaigns. During his time at People Who Think and in his prior position as account executive at The Ehrhardt Group, a New Orleans-based public relations firm, Morgan also worked with many corporate clients, helping local businesses, national franchises and Fortune 500 companies to develop their internal and external communications efforts. Morgan is a Baton Rouge native and graduate of the Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications.
Ethan J. Melancon joined the Pelican Institute as Education Policy Director in February 2020. He previously worked for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) as the Policy and Research Project Manager, serving as the staff lead for all education and workforce development policies and initiatives. At BRAC, Ethan led numerous STEM initiatives for students, educators and business leaders in the Baton Rouge Area. He also worked closely with state leaders, career and technical education (CTE) supervisors, and postsecondary institutions to ensure the Capital Region continues cultivating its most valuable asset – it’s people. Prior to working at BRAC, Ethan worked in both public relations and public policy, through roles at New Orleans public relations firm The Ehrhardt Group and in the Office of Congressman Charles W. Boustany, Jr. Ethan is a proud graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he double-majored in public relations and political science.
Eric Peterson is the Director of Policy for the Pelican Institute, joining the team in February of 2019. Prior to Pelican, Eric worked on state policy for a variety of organizations including Americans for Prosperity and the Institute for Free Speech. At these organizations, Eric cultivated a passion for tax policy, occupational licensing reform, and of course, free speech. Eric’s writings have appeared in numerous outlets including the Washington Post, National Review, and Forbes.
A native of the Land of Lincoln, Eric was fortunate to attend Tulane University where he majored in political economy and cheering on the olive and blue. He looks forward to attending his adoptive home and being in the stands for Tulane football once again.
Marcus Maldonado is a development associate with the Pelican Institute. In this role, Marcus supports senior staff in executing the Institute’s development strategy by aiding in donor communications and research, database management, grant-writing, and donor stewardship. Before joining the Pelican Institute in June of 2018, Marcus filled a variety of leadership roles within youth politics, serving as state chairman for Young Americans for Liberty in Louisiana and as a regional director for Students for Liberty. Marcus received his B.A. in Political Economy from Tulane University in May 2020, and during his time at Tulane, he founded the university’s student-led thinktank, the Wave Center for Policy and Enterprise. Marcus lives in New Orleans, and in his free time, you will find him listening to podcasts and defending Drew Brees’ status as the best quarterback of all time.
Chris Jacobs is a Senior Fellow at The Pelican Institute. He has over a decade of experience in a variety of policy roles on and off Capitol Hill. He previously worked as Policy Director for America Next, a new start-up think tank, and as a Senior Policy Analyst for the Heritage Foundation and the Joint Economic Committee’s Senate Republican staff. Before that, Chris worked as a Policy Advisor for the House Republican Conference under then-Chairman Mike Pence during the debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and as a Health Policy Analyst for the Senate Republican Policy Committee during the first two years of the law’s implementation. He got his start on Capitol Hill as an intern for then-Congressman Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. While serving as Policy Director for America Next, Chris contributed to the Wall Street Journal‘s Think Tank policy blog. He has taught part-time on health policy at The American University, where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and History Phi Beta Kappa
Margaret Mire is a Senior Fellow at The Pelican Institute, most frequently called upon to discuss issues like criminal justice reform, taxation, and budgetary excess. She currently works with American for Tax Reform in Washington D.C. while helping to steer Louisiana policy conversations in a liberty-friendly direction.
Board of Directors
Stephen M. Gele, Chairman
Daniel J. Erspamer, CEO
In Memoriam: Kevin Kane
The Pelican Institute was founded in 2008 by Kevin Kane, who led the organization until his untimely death in October of 2016. A well-respected leader on free-market public policy, his work, alongside other partners in the state, led to the passage in 2017 of landmark criminal justice reforms. Many individuals and organizations celebrated Kevin’s accomplishments and noted his passing, including The Times-Picayune, State Policy Network, The Advocate, and Gambit.