Darcy A. Olsen

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Darcy A. Olsen
Darcy Olsen.jpg
Residence Phoenix, Arizona
Education Bachelor of Science, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service; Master of Art, New York University
Employer Goldwater Institute
Home town St. George, Utah
Title President and Chief Executive Officer
Board member of
Arizona School Choice Trust
Goldwater Institute

Darcy A. Olsen is the president and chief executive officer of the Goldwater Institute.[1][2][3] Phoenix-based media have cited Olsen’s leadership,[4] which has resulted in major policy reforms including private school scholarships for foster children,[5] more transparency in government and legal cases vindicating individual rights protected by the Arizona Constitution.[6] She has written columns for national newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and USA Today and appeared on public affairs television programs across the country including The O'Reilly Factor, the Dennis Miller Show and Inside Politics. Glenn Beck included Olsen's thoughts[7] in his 2009-10 American Revival Tour.[8]

Early years[edit]

Darcy Ann Olsen was born in Bennington, Vermont, which provided the nearest hospital to her family’s home town of Hoosick Falls, New York. When Olsen was 10 years old, her family moved to Richfield, Utah. Olsen attended high school in St. George, Utah, where she was active in student groups.[9]


In 1989, Olsen received a scholarship to attend the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. While attending classes, Olsen also worked as a drug counselor and transition house manager for the Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C.[10][11]

In 1993, Olsen earned a bachelor of science degree from Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Then she enrolled in graduate school at New York University. She earned a master’s degree in international education[12] in 1995 after studying foreign educational systems with an emphasis in developing countries of North Africa.

Professional career[edit]

After her graduation from NYU, Olsen moved back to Utah and worked as a copywriter and editor for Weber State University. A year later, she returned to Washington, D.C. in a similar role for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank that focuses on the promotion of limited government and economic freedom.

Cato Institute[edit]

In 1997, the Cato Institute promoted her to entitlements policy analyst to examine Social Security, health care subsidies and other types of support from the federal government. Her first report for Cato[13] focused on an anticipated proposal from President Bill Clinton’s administration to significantly expand the federal government’s role in providing child care for American families.[14]

Two years later, Olsen wrote a new report[15] about proposals in a variety of states to provide universal preschool because of claims that at-risk children need a stable instructional environment at earlier ages to be successful in school as they get older.[16] In her review of the available scientific research, Olsen claimed that government-sponsored early childhood education provides no lasting improvement in the average student’s learning skills or chances for success later.[17]

Goldwater Institute[edit]

Olsen came to Phoenix in 2001 to lead the Goldwater Institute, established in 1988 with the blessing of the late Senator Barry Goldwater.[18] She oversees all of aspects of the Institute’s operations including policy research, litigation, fund-raising, outreach and administration. Designated as a 501(c3) non-profit,[19] the Goldwater Institute reported a budget of $3.5 million in 2010 and has been awarded the highest possible rating for a charity.[20] Reporters and media outlets regularly seek out Olsen’s analysis on the state budget,[21] proposed tax increases[22] and strengthening the economy.[23]

Under Olsen’s direction, the Goldwater Institute has evolved from a purely academic research institution into a taxpayer watchdog.[24] In 2003, the Institute started an annual Legislative Report Card[25] which reviews hundreds of votes by the Arizona Legislature and assigns letter grades to individual lawmakers based on whether their votes adhere to the Arizona Constitution.

Many observers say changes initiated by Olsen have elevated the Goldwater Institute into a premier catalyst for public policy reform. In 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, the Arizona Capitol Times and its readers selected Goldwater as the “Best Capitol Watchdog” in Arizona,[1] in 2009 as “Leader of the Year” in Policy Development, and in 2011 as hosting the "Best Political Fundraiser" for its 2010 Gala Dinner featuring New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.[26] Washington Post and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will described the Institute as "America's most potent advocate of limited government."[27]

Honors and awards[edit]

She was named one of Arizona’s top Women in Public Policy[28] and one of the Phoenix Business Journal’s Power Players in 2006,[29] and one of Phoenix’s Forty Under 40 in 2009.[4] She also received the Roe Award, offered by the State Policy Network for outstanding achievements in advancing free-market philosophies.[30]

Charities and other activities[edit]

Darcy Olsen frequently competes in races to raise money for charities such as breast cancer prevention, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Pat Tillman Foundation. She serves on the board of directors for Arizona School Choice Trust,[31] a tuition scholarship organization for low-income children.[32] She also served on the board of directors for Independent Newspapers/newszap.com.[33]


  1. ^ a b 2010 Best of the Capitol awards recipients: Capitol Watchdog Group, Arizona Capitol Times
  2. ^ "Spring 2010 Arizona FOI Award Winners", Society of Professional Journalists
  3. ^ "2008 Templeton Freedom Award Winners"[dead link], Atlas Economic Research Foundation
  4. ^ a b "Forty Under 40, Class of 2009", Phoenix Business Journal
  5. ^ Teegarden, Robert (Alliance for School Choice); Ladner, Matthew (Goldwater Institute). "Arizona Case Study: A Model for the Nation", State Policy Network.
  6. ^ "The Goldwater Institute's Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation", Goldwater Institute
  7. ^ "The Importance of Limited Government Power (Special for Glenn Beck's American Revival), Goldwater Institute
  8. ^ "Glenn Beck's American Revival", glennbeck.com
  9. ^ "People, Power, Politics and Leadership in the State of Arizona"[dead link]
  10. ^ "The Coalition for the Homeless"[specify]
  11. ^ "Ms. Darcy A. Olsen, Entitlements Policy Analyst", Calvert Experts Sourcebook, Calvert Institute for Policy Research
  12. ^ "International Education Program Information"[specify]
  13. ^ "The Advancing Nanny State: Why the Government Should Stay Out of Child Care", Cato Institute
  14. ^ "Hillary Rodham Clinton: Address to the White House Conference on Child Care", Britannica.com Inc.[unreliable source?]
  15. ^ "Universal Preschool Is No Golden Ticket: Why Government Should Not Enter the Preschool Business", Cato Institute
  16. ^ Chen, Grace. "Pros and Cons of Public Preschool: The Debate", Public School Review, 21 October 2008.
  17. ^ Guthrie, Julian. "Plan for universal preschool: State schools chief calls bill 'moral imperative'", San Francisco Chronicle, 20 April 1999
  18. ^ "The Institute". Goldwater Institute. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  19. ^ Image of Goldwater Institute's 2008 Income Tax Return (Form 990), Foundation Center
  20. ^ Charity Rating: Goldwater Institute, Charity Navigator
  21. ^ Katterhenry, Jason. Darcy Olsen, Arizona Public Media, 31 January 2008
  22. ^ "Darcy Olsen explains why increasing the state sales tax by 18 percent is a bad idea", YouTube[unreliable source?]
  23. ^ "Strengthening the Economy", YouTube[unreliable source?]
  24. ^ Viewpoints: "The Goldwater Institute: 20 years later", The Arizona Republic, 28 September 2008.
  25. ^ "2003 Legislative Report Card", Goldwater Institute
  26. ^ King, James. "Goldwater Institute Named "Leader of the Year" in Policy Development; Too Bad it Can't Run For Office", Phoenix New Times, 31 August 2009
  27. ^ Will, George F. "Unlawful health reform?", The Washington Post, 19 November 2009
  28. ^ "Women in Public Policy", Goldwater Institute
  29. ^ "The Business Journal Power Players: Darcy A. Olsen", Goldwater Institute, 5 December 2006
  30. ^ "The Roe Awards", State Policy Network
  31. ^ "Board of Directors", Arizona School Choice Trust
  32. ^ "About Arizona School Choice Trust", Arizona School Choice Trust
  33. ^ "About Independent Newspapers, Inc.", newszap.com

External links[edit]