About

The Rio Grande Foundation remains dedicated to meaningful reform. New Mexico deserves better, and we work every day for a brighter future.

We are building a New Mexico where liberty, opportunity, and prosperity flourish.

The mission of the Rio Grande Foundation is to increase liberty and prosperity for all of New Mexico by informing citizens of the importance of individual freedom, limited government, and economic opportunity.

The Rio Grande Foundation is an economic policy think tank located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Foundation is affiliated with the U.S. nationwide State Policy Network. It was founded in 2000 by Hal Stratton, a former state representative and Attorney General of New Mexico, and Harry Messenheimer, an economist then at George Mason University. Paul Gessing became president in 2006.

The Rio Grande Foundation is a gold-level GuideStar participant, demonstrating its commitment to transparency.

The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable, tax-exempt, non-profit organization.

The Foundation maintains a blog Errors of Enchantment, a podcast Tipping Point New Mexico, and regularly contributes opinion pieces to local newspapers, as well as publishing reports on state economic policy. Gessing has been featured on local talk shows and radio programs to discuss economic issues facing New Mexico as a whole and the greater Albuquerque area, as well as other rural communities throughout the state.

New Mexico is among the poorest states in the country. We are plagued with the lowest or near-lowest outcomes in primary education—despite the fact that we lead the Southwest region in spending per student. Progressive, big-government interests have been pouring money into our government but have been resistant to any real change in the way they operate. Transparency, accountability, and innovation have been stifled. Unsurprisingly to anyone outside the far left, spending massive amounts of money without real accountability has led to creating the most broken state government in the country.

Despite these issues, we believe that New Mexico represents the single greatest opportunity from a policy development perspective—and not just because the only way to go is up. We truly believe that what happens in New Mexico matters everywhere. We believe that New Mexico is Exhibit A of the “high cost of good intentions”—how progressive policies designed, in theory, to help the poorest among us end up disproportionately hurting low-income and minority citizens.

We believe that reform to the education system, by following both established best practices, including school choice, and innovative programs, is the key to enhancing both the short-term and long-term welfare of those who can benefit most from improved education. New Mexico represents a rare opportunity from a policy development standpoint—an impoverished, progressive state ruined by its own policies, where there is a clear path upwards if the principles of liberty, choice, transparency, and accountability are followed.

Our ultimate goal is to help every state become one in which the principles of school choice, liberty in education, and the best interests of families are at the forefront of educational design, and to ensure that families are strengthened and supported by public policy, not attacked or weakened. In fulfilling a dramatic improvement to the most basic tenet of educating our children, the Rio Grande Foundation is continuing to further the study, defense, and practice of the individual initiative and ordered liberty that lead to prosperity, strong families, and vibrant communities.

New Mexico is among the poorest states in the country. We are plagued with the lowest or near-lowest outcomes in primary education—despite the fact that we lead the Southwest region in spending per student. Progressive, big-government interests have been pouring money into our government but have been resistant to any real change in the way they operate. Transparency, accountability, and innovation have been stifled. Unsurprisingly to anyone outside the far left, spending massive amounts of money without real accountability has led to creating the most broken state government in the country.

Despite these issues, we believe that New Mexico represents the single greatest opportunity from a policy development perspective—and not just because the only way to go is up. We truly believe that what happens in New Mexico matters everywhere. We believe that New Mexico is Exhibit A of the “high cost of good intentions”—how progressive policies designed, in theory, to help the poorest among us end up disproportionately hurting low-income and minority citizens.

We believe that reform to the education system, by following both established best practices, including school choice, and innovative programs, is the key to enhancing both the short-term and long-term welfare of those who can benefit most from improved education. New Mexico represents a rare opportunity from a policy development standpoint—an impoverished, progressive state ruined by its own policies, where there is a clear path upwards if the principles of liberty, choice, transparency, and accountability are followed.


Regulatory Economist and Independent Consultant
Kenneth W. Costello

Mr. Kenneth W. Costello is a Regulatory Economist/Independent Consultant. He has conducted extensive research and written on a wide variety of topics related to the energy industries and public utility regulation. His research has appeared in books, technical reports and monographs, and scholarly and trade publications. He has provided training and consulting services to several countries. Mr. Costello is the Recipient of the 2017 Crystal Award for Distinguished Contribution to Public Utility Regulatory Policy, sponsored by the Financial Research Institute, University of Missouri – Columbia. He received BS and MA degrees from Marquette University and has done doctoral work in economics at the University of Chicago.


Policy Analyst
Paige McKenzie
pmckenzie@riograndefoundation.org

Paige McKenzie is a policy analyst for the Rio Grande Foundation, and has been working with RGF since 2008. A published writer and public speaker, she has 18 years of experience working in policy organizations, campaigns, state government and other areas related to politics and government policy. She has analyzed thousands of bills in various states and in all areas of government.

In 2008 Paige began serving as the Government Transparency Project Manager for the Rio Grande Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At that time New Mexico was one of only three states in the country that did not have its legislative floor sessions accessible via live video or audio web streaming. The legislature did not even post its House floor votes online. During Paige’s tenure, the Foundation launched an unprecedented transparency site giving the public free electronic access to the payroll and all other spending by the state’s 10 largest school districts. After the site’s launch, the legislature passed a law requiring all school districts to submit their payroll and spending information to the state’s Sunshine Portal transparency site for the public. The New Mexico legislature not only began complying with both of the above transparency standards, but also passed bills requiring the state to post all state contracts over $20,000 on the Internet, as well as the salaries of all state employees. In addition, the state now requires all state and local government agencies to provide information to the public electronically when so requested.

Paige has written and edited for various local and national magazines, including American Cowboy, Nashville Life and Business Nashville magazines, the New Mexico Business Journal, Albuquerque The Magazine and NewsMax, where she also served on the company’s editorial board. She has interviewed John Fund, John Stossel, David Horowitz, Michael Deaver, Mary Matalin, and various congressmen, senators, authors and celebrities.

Her experience includes television reporting and production, political and communications consulting, public relations, event planning, and public speaking in New Mexico and in Washington, D.C.

Paige has a bachelor’s degree in communications from David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, with a minor in business and the French language.


leonard_wpSenior Fellow
William Patrick Leonard, PhD
WPatLeon@gmail.com

Dr. William Patrick Leonard is Advisor on Higher Education Policy at the Rio Grande Foundation. He serves as Vice Dean SolBridge International School of Business in Daejeon, Korea. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Communication from the University of Pittsburgh, MBA Loyola University of Chicago and master and bachelor’s degrees from Indiana University, Bloomington. He has served in an array of senior academic leadership posts-dean library and learning resources, associate provost, vice chancellor, campus executive dean and college president. Leonard as has served in Guatemala, Germany, United Arab Emirates and currently Korea. His research interest focuses on assessment, economics, governance and policy issues in higher education. His 170 essays and reviews have appeared in an array of professional journals and popular press.


Senior Fellow in Legal Studies
Rebecca Ralph, Esq.
RRalph2@gmail.com

Rebecca Ralph has worked as a writer, prosecutor, and major gifts officer. She attained her B.A. from George Mason University in Government and International Politics, and her J.D. from the University of New Mexico. She first came to New Mexico to attend New Mexico Military Institute and returned after college to complete law school.


Adjunct Fellow
Trent England
Trent@SaveOurStates.com

Trent England is the Executive Vice President and a Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he also directs the Save Our States project and hosts The Trent England Show podcast. Trent previously served as Executive Vice President of the Olympia, Washington-based Freedom Foundation. He was a candidate for the Washington State House of Representatives in 2006 and earlier served as a legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation.

Trent is a contributor to two books-“The Heritage Guide to the Constitution” and “One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty.” His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Times, and other newspapers.

Trent earned a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and their three children, and they all enjoy visiting their neighboring state of New Mexico for hiking and camping.


Adjunct Fellow
Katie McAuliffe
KMcAuliffe@atr.org

Katie McAuliffe joins the Rio Grande Foundation as an Adjunct Fellow focused on connectivity.

Her expertise in telecom and technology issues spans more than 10 years and includes topics such as: net neutrality, privacy, internet taxes, automated vehicles, future of work, broadband, tech/telecomm reform, etc.

She has testified before Congress and her commentary has been published in The Hill, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Townhall, and the Daily Caller. In addition to appearing on One America News Network, Blaze TV’s Reel News, CSPAN, and Huffington Post Live; she frequently speaks to audiences around the United States about federal and state policy surrounding the tech and telecom industry.

She also serves as Executive Director of Digital Liberty and Federal Affairs Manager at Americans for Tax Reform, and worked for Congressman Cliff Stearns? (R-Fla.). She received a Master of Mass Communications with a Telecommunications Policy focus from the University of Florida and her B.A. from Virginia Tech.


moody_sAdjunct Fellow
J. Scott Moody, M.A.
JSMoody@PubChoiceAnalytics.com

J. Scott Moody has worked as a Tax Policy Economist for over 13 years. He is the author, co-author and editor of over 100 studies and books. He has testified twice before the House Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. Congress as well as various state legislatures. He has been interviewed by countless newspapers and radio and television stations. His work has appeared in Forbes, CNN Money, State Tax Notes, Portland Press Herald, New Hampshire’;s Union Leader, Hartford Courant, the Oklahoman and Albuquerque Journal.

His professional experiences includes a positions as Senior Economist at the Tax Foundation, Senior Economist at the Heritage Foundation, Vice President of Policy and Chief Economist at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, Senior Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and Research Fellow at several other free-market think tanks.

Scott received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Wingate University (Wingate, N.C.). He received his Master of Arts in Economics from George Mason University (Fairfax, VA).

Major policy contributions include:

  • Developed policy program for SPN think tank as former Vice President of Policy and Chief Economist at The Maine Heritage Policy Center.
  • Developed the tax Foundation’s first Federal Individual Income Tax Micro-Simulation Model.
  • Developed framework for state-level Individual Income Tax Micro-Simulation Models.
  • Co-developer of the Tax Foundation’s “State Business Tax Climate Index.”
  • Operationalized the Tax Foundation’s statistically matched database between IRS and CPS data — results published in the “Putting a Face on America’s Tax Returns” report series.
  • Author of the Tax Foundation’s “Tax Freedom Day” for five years.
  • Editor of the Tax Foundation’s “Facts and Figures on Government Finance” for four years.

rgf_todd_myersAdjunct Fellow
Todd Myers
TMyers@washingtonpolicy.org

Todd Myers is the Director of the Center for the Environment at Washington Policy Center. He is one of the nation’s leading experts on free-market environmental policy. Todd is the author of the landmark 2011 book Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism is Harming the Environment and is designated a Wall Street Journal Expert Panelist for energy and the environment. Todd’s research on the failure of “green” school mandates has stirred a reassessment of those requirements in school districts across the country. He currently sits on the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council and served on the executive team at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Todd also served as Director of Public Relations for the Seattle SuperSonics and Director of Public Affairs for the Seattle Mariners, and he holds a Master’s degree from the University of Washington.


Adjunct Fellow
Kyler Nelson

Kyler Nerison joined the Rio Grande Foundation as an adjunct fellow in November 2018 and is the executive director of New Mexicans for Economic Prosperity, a statewide economic advocacy coalition. As assistant chief of staff for Governor Susana Martinez, he oversaw various reform initiatives and is an expert on New Mexico’s occupational licensing laws and regulations. He has held a wide variety of positions in state governments, political campaigns, and on Capitol Hill.


Adjunct Fellow
Deane Waldman
DWaldman@thesystemmd.com

Deane Waldman, MD, MBA was educated and trained at: Yale, Chicago Medical School, Mayo Clinic, Northwestern, Harvard, and Anderson Management Schools. He has been Chief of Section at San Diego Children’s, University of Chicago and University of New Mexico, as well as a practicing pediatric cardiologist for over 35 years. He has authored over 100 academic publications as well as numerous lay articles and blogs on the practice of medicine as well as the management of and strategy for health care delivery. In his book – Uproot U.S. Healthcare – Deane shares insights into the root causes of why the healthcare system consistently fails patients, providers, and our country alike. Most important, the book shows why the public and only the public can and must fix healthcare.


warcholik_wAdjunct Fellow
Wendy P. Warcholik, Ph.D.
WendyWarcholik@PubChoiceAnalytics.com

Dr. Wendy P. Warcholik has worked as an Economist in public policy settings for over 13 years. She has extensive experience in applying statistical and econometric tools in public policy paradigms.

Her professional experience includes positions as Economist at the Bureau of Economic Analysis in Washington, D.C., Chief Forecasting Economist for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services, Adjunct Scholar with the Tax Foundation, and Research Fellow at The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. In addition, she is a Research Fellow at several U.S. free-market think tanks. She has taught numerous economics classes to MBA students.

She received her Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University. While pursuing her Ph.D., she was a Bradley research fellow and affiliated scholar with Nobel Laureate James Buchanan’s Center for the Study of Public Choice. Her dissertation required the creation and analysis of a panel dataset for 30 variables for all Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) over a ten-year period.

Major policy contributions include:

  • Principal architect of the Tax Foundation’s first edition of the State Business Tax Climate Index.
  • Rebuilt the State of Virginia’s Medicaid forecasting models.
  • Led efforts to use the Tax Foundation’s matched IRS/Census database to produce a stream of reports as part of the Putting a Face on America’s Tax Returns project.