State Policy Network is pleased to announce the Commonwealth Foundation’s Charles Mitchell and Commonwealth Partner’s Matthew Brouillette are the winners of the 2023 Thomas A. Roe Award.
The Roe Award pays tribute to those in the state public policy movement whose achievements have greatly advanced free-market philosophy and policy solutions. It recognizes leadership, innovation, and accomplishment in public policy.
Charles Mitchell is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Foundation in Pennsylvania. He became a Commonwealth Foundation investor in 2006, joined the staff as Chief Operations Officer in 2010, and became CEO in 2016. Matthew Brouillette was president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation from 2002 to 2016—when he stepped down to establish Commonwealth Partners.
Under Mitchell and Brouillette’s leadership, Commonwealth diverged from the traditional state think tank approach to public policy. Unlike the traditional think tank model that focuses on churning out white papers, Commonwealth stepped out into their communities—meeting with and talking to thousands of people across the state.
Brouillette noted: “As we looked at ourselves as just a think tank, we recognized that a think tank was important, but not sufficient. “Our friends at State Policy Network have been telling us for a few years now—that on it’s own is not enough,” added Mitchell. “There has to be a freedom movement.”
By traveling across the state and talking to Pennsylvanians from all different backgrounds, Mitchell and Brouillette discovered the need for a more holistic approach to political and policy change. They started to build out that capacity, starting with the creation of Commonwealth Partners in 2016, an organization led by Brouillette that helps elect principled people to office. Commonwealth Partners encourages a better caliber of legislators to be in the statehouse—so those lawmakers, once in office, would endorse good public policy ideas that help Pennsylvanians thrive.
Mitchell and Brouillette also realized the need for a resource for public sector workers in Pennsylvania who want to leave their union. That led to the launch of Americans for Fair Treatment, an organization that educates public employees about their rights in a unionized workplace and connects these employees with all available resources to defend those rights.
Through their interactions with these workers, Mitchell and Brouillette discovered many workers were struggling to find a lawyer that would represent them if their union was undermining their rights. That’s why Mitchell and Brouilette started the Fairness Center, an independent law firm that holds union officials accountable and defends public employees’ rights.
Commonwealth’s holistic approach to policy change has led to criminal justice reform, pension reform, union reform, defeating tax increases, and even expanding school choice in the Keystone State.
Mitchell and Brouillette credit this success to focusing on building a state-based freedom movement—one that begins with reaching out and getting to know the people you are trying to help.
Mitchell added: “We have to do more. And we can. But we couldn’t if not for making that big jump from building a think tank to building a movement.”
When he accepted the award at State Policy Network’s 31st Annual Meeting in Chicago, Mitchell encouraged the Network to “get out”—into their communities to start building their own movement in their respective states.
Congratulations to Charles Mitchell and Matthew Brouillette! Your leadership, entrepreneurship, and dedication to improving lives is inspiring and serves as an example for other Network leaders working to make an impact in their state.