State Policy Network


Expand your knowledge, engage with peers across the country, and establish connections within the free-market Network


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State Policy Network’s InternNet is a national speaker series that equips the next generation of state-based leaders for the freedom movement. The InternNet connects policy experts, liberty visionaries, and free-market leaders to interns at state-based think tanks and allied organizations in the states. In this virtual forum, interns learn from thought leaders they would rarely have the opportunity to engage with directly outside of Washington, DC.

Launched in 2017 by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the inaugural season consisted of 10 sessions attended by student interns from 18 think tanks, including Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin. In 2019, 84 students participated, representing 32 states and 41 organizations.

Who is eligible to participate?
Interns at all free-market, state-based organizations are encouraged to register and attend.

The 2019 InternNet series has finished. If you participated in our series and would like to have access to the recordings, please contact Heather Pfitzenmaier at

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2019 Program

SESSION ONE: The Moral Case for Liberty

Speaker: Christina Sandefur, Executive Vice President, Goldwater Institute

Campuses across the country are becoming even more hostile towards conservative and libertarian ideas. How can we make the positive case for liberty? What are the best ways to talk about how the individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise? Learn practical ways to talk about how these timeless principles result in more opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. Hone your framework on how you approach discussions on public policy and strengthen your foundation to be a positive ambassador for our ideas. Grow your confidence about what you believe and why you believe it. Leave this session ready to get more of your peers thinking about other points of view.


SESSION TWO: Why Liberty and Justice is Good for All Americans

Speaker: Honorable Clint Bolick, Associate Justice, Arizona Supreme Court

Whether or not you are considering law school, it is important to understand the rule of law and how individuals’ understanding affects their perception of liberty and justice. Hear the Honorable Clint Bolick share about his legal philosophy, his path to becoming a justice, and the most interesting case he has encountered on the bench. Justice Bolick will answer all of your questions on everything from business regulations to property rights to immigration policy. Hear why he is passionate about focusing to remove government barriers to economic opportunity so all Americans can prosper.


SESSION THREE: The Siren Sound of Socialism

Speaker: Patrice Onwuka, Senior Policy Analyst, Independent Women’s Forum

Why is socialism making a popular comeback? How can we make capitalism appealing to all Americans? Come hear from leading fiscal and economic expert, Patrice Onwuka. She will explore the philosophy and workings of socialism versus capitalism. Onwuka will discuss why many young people are drawn to its appeal, when in reality, it leads to so much suffering. Learn how to better articulate to your peers which system is best to enable human flourishing (spoiler alert: it is the free market!).


SESSION FOUR: Why (Almost) Everyone is for Criminal Justice Reform

Speaker: Derek Cohen, Director, Center for Effective Justice and Right on Crime, Texas Public Policy Foundation

Criminal justice reform has become the unexpectedly hot bipartisan issue of our day. Everyone from the American Conservative Union and the Koch Foundation to the ACLU, to Donald Trump and even Kim Kardashian are pushing for reform. While the United States is home to about 4.4% of the world’s population, it houses around 22% of the world’s prisoners. Our incarceration rate is the highest in the world. Hear Derek Cohen give an overview of the system from criminal laws and law enforcement to prosecution, incarceration, and reentry. Learn more about how to evaluate reform ideas by understanding how the system works. Deepen your knowledge so you can share about the importance of criminal justice reform and why we should come together for positive reforms. Leave this session ready to talk about an issue that brings people together and can connect through to the broader principles of liberty.


SESSION FIVE: Move the Needle, Make a Difference

Speaker: Joe Lehman, President, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy

All politics is local. That is what is often said, but how does that translate in reality? How do you get positive free-market solutions advanced at the local and state level? How do you move the needle and make a difference? Learn from the leader of one of the largest state-based think tanks on how to effectuate change and advance positive policy solutions. Hear how the Mackinac Center led the charge to pass right to work in the state of Michigan.


The 2019 InternNet series has finished. If you participated in our series and would like to have access to the recordings please contact Heather Pfitzenmaier at

About the Speakers

Christina Sandefur, Executive Vice President, Goldwater Institute

Christina Sandefur is Executive Vice President at the Goldwater Institute. She also develops policies and litigates cases advancing healthcare freedom, free enterprise, private property rights, free speech, and taxpayer rights. Sandefur has won important victories for property rights in Arizona and works nationally to promote the Institute’s Private Property Rights Protection Act, a state-level reform that requires government to pay owners when regulations destroy property rights and reduce property values.

She is also a co-drafter of the 41-state Right to Try initiative, now federal law, which protects terminally ill patients’ right to try safe investigational treatments that have been prescribed by their physician but are not yet FDA approved for market. Sandefur is the co-author of the book Cornerstone of Liberty: Private Property Rights in 21st Century America (2016). She is a frequent guest on national television and radio programs, has provided expert legal testimony to various legislative committees, and is a frequent speaker at conferences. She is the recipient of the 2018 Buckley Award in recognition of her leadership in the freedom movement. Sandefur is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Law and Hillsdale College.


Honorable Clint Bolick, Associate Justice, Arizona Supreme Court

Clint Bolick was appointed by Governor Doug Ducey in January 2016 to serve on the Arizona Supreme Court and in 2018 was retained by Arizona voters for a six-year term. Prior to joining the Court, Justice Bolick litigated constitutional cases in state and federal courts from coast to coast, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Among other positions, he served as Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute and as Co-founder and Vice President for Litigation at the Institute for Justice.

Justice Bolick received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of California at Davis, and his Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude from Drew University. He serves as a research fellow with the Hoover Institution. Among other honors, he was named one of the 90 Greatest DC Lawyers in the Last 30 Years by Legal Times in 2008, received a Bradley Prize in 2006, and was recognized as one of the nation’s three lawyers of the year by American Lawyer in 2002 for his successful defense of school vouchers in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. Justice Bolick is a prolific author of a dozen books and hundreds of articles. Bolick is an adjunct professor of constitutional law at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law and has served as a lecturer at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.


Patrice Lee Onwuka, Senior Policy Analyst, Independent Women’s Forum

Patrice Onwuka has worked in the advocacy and communications fields for more than a decade. Prior to joining IWF, Onwuka served as national spokeswoman and communications director at Generation Opportunity, and worked at The Philanthropy Roundtable and the Fund for American Studies in policy and media roles. She also held consulting roles as a speech writer for a United Nations spokesman and a manager for a student travel program to South Africa. Born in the Caribbean, Onwuka immigrated with her family to Boston where she grew up and completed her education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Tufts University and a master’s degree in international relations from Boston College. Onwuka’s unique background fuels her passion to defend freedom and faith in America.


Derek Cohen, Director, Center for Effective Justice and Right on Crime, Texas Public Policy Foundation

Dr. Derek Cohen is the director of the Center for Effective Justice and Right on Crime at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Dr. Cohen graduated with a B.S. in criminal justice from Bowling Green State University, and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati. His academic work can be found in Criminology and Public Policy, the Oxford Handbook on Police and Policing, the Encyclopedia of Theoretical Criminology, and has scholarly articles currently under review.

He has presented several papers to the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the American Evaluation Association on the implementation and outcomes of various criminal justice policy issues. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Cohen worked as a researcher with the University of Cincinnati’s Institute of Crime Science and completed three advanced statistical trainings at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan. He also taught classes in statistics, research methods, criminal procedure, and corrections.


Joe Lehman, President, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Joseph G. Lehman is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, an independent, nonprofit research and educational institute in Michigan. Lehman first joined the Mackinac Center in 1995. He later became vice president for communications at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., before returning to the Mackinac Center as its executive vice president. He became president in 2008.

He is vice chair of the National Taxpayers Union and a member of the board of directors of the Atlas Network. In 2013, the State Policy Network recognized him with its Roe Award for leadership, innovation, and accomplishments in public policy. Prior to his public policy career, Lehman was an engineer and project manager for nine years at The Dow Chemical Co. He graduated from the University of Illinois College of Engineering and is a registered professional engineer. Lehman and his wife, Karen, are the founders of Midland County Habitat for Humanity. He twice received the Dow Chemical Vice President’s Award for Community Service. He is an ordained deacon in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

SPN Contact

For questions or additional information, please contact Heather Pfitzenmaier at