Grassroot Scholars

Grassroot Institute Scholars are recognized experts who consult with and advise the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii staff on a number of different policy initiatives. They are drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds, and include academics, noted authors, business owners and more. Their qualifications vary depending on their areas of expertise, but all are recognized as authorities in their chosen fields.


Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President/CEO, Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, is a recognized scholar, public policy spokesperson and community leader in Hawaii. In 2016, Dr. Akina was elected to statewide public office as trustee-at-large for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs. He is an expert in East-West philosophy and ethics, has taught at universities in China and the United States, and continues as an adjunct instructor at Hawaii Pacific University. He holds advanced degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Hawaii.

 

Malia Blom Hill, JD
Director of Policy, Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i

Malia Hill comes to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii with a background in law, politics and communications. She completed her undergraduate studies at Mount Saint Mary’s University and obtained her J.D. from the Catholic University of America. After working in Hawaii politics at the state level, including a brief period with the Office of Rep. Mark Moses, she went on to work for several advocacy groups based in Washington, D.C., where she currently resides. As policy director for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, she works on both national and state issues affecting the future of Hawaii.

 

Douglas Bandow
Senior fellow, Cato Institute

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties. He worked as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and was editor of the political magazine Inquiry. He writes regularly for leading publications such as Fortune magazine, National Interest, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Times. Bandow speaks frequently at academic conferences, on college campuses, and to business groups. Bandow has been a regular commentator on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. He holds a J.D. from Stanford University.

 

John Fund
Columnist, National Review

John Fund is national-affairs columnist for National Review. He worked for the Wall Street Journal for more than two decades, starting in 1984, and was a member of the newspaper’s editorial board from 1995 to 2001. Fund has written for Esquire, Reader’s Digest, Reason, and the New Republic. He co-wrote “Cleaning House: America’s Campaign for Term Limits” with James Coyne. In 2004, he wrote “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.” He has written two books with Hans von Spakovsky: “Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk” and “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department.”

 

Tom Giovanetti
President, Institute for Policy Innovation

Tom Giovanetti is president of the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a public policy research organization based in Dallas, Texas. Prior to joining IPI in 1992, he was a freelance policy writer and director of product development for a small manufacturing company in Dallas, where he designed several patented products and gained real-world experience in how taxes and regulations affect small business.

 

Michael Hansen
President, Hawaii Shippers Council

Since the late 1990’s, Mike has been the president of the Hawaii Shippers Council, and is actively involved with the Jones Act and other issues affecting island shippers (i.e., the cargo owners). He has written widely about these issues.

 

Michael Lilly, J.D.
Former Hawaii attorney general

Michael A. Lilly was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. His parents were Capt. P.A. “Tony” and Ginger Lilly. An honor graduate of the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law, he served as Hawaii’s attorney general and first deputy attorney general, and is a partner in the Honolulu law firm Ning Lilly & Jones. He is a retired Navy captain and decorated Vietnam War veteran who served three years on active duty and 27 in the reserve.

 

Merrill Matthews, Ph.D.
Resident scholar, Institute for Policy Innovation

Merrill Matthews, Ph.D., is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation. He is a health policy expert and contributor to Forbes.com. He also serves on the Texas Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

 

James Marsh
Professor emeritus, University of Hawaii

James Marsh, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus of international business at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Shidler College of Business.

 

 

Neil Mellen
Founder, Access Opportunity South Carolina

Neil Mellen is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and a former Peace Corps volunteer (Yap Outer Islands 2002-05). Mellen successfully led the statewide advocacy for a special needs private school scholarship program in South Carolina. He also served as a member of South Carolina’s Educational Broadband Service Commission. He has a master’s degree in philosophy and is the founder of Access Opportunity South Carolina.

 

Randal O’Toole
Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

Randal O’Toole is a Cato Institute senior fellow working on urban growth, public land and transportation issues. O’Toole’s research on national forest management, culminating in his 1988 book, “Reforming the Forest Service,” has had a major influence on Forest Service policy and on-the-ground management. His analysis of urban land-use and transportation issues, brought together in his 2001 book, “The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths,” has influenced decisions in cities across the country.

 

Greg Rehmke
Program director, Economic Thinking

Gregory F. Rehmke is program director for Economic Thinking. He has directed educational programs for high school, homeschool and college students, and published articles on international- and technology-related topics. Rehmke has directed educational programs at the Center for the American Idea, the Reason Foundation and the Foundation for Economic Education. Since the 1980s, Rehmke has published annual study guides and held workshops on the economics of annual high school debate topics.

 

Erik Root, Ph.D.
Associate, Heartland Institute

Erik Root teaches college courses at Lewis University and West Liberty University. He is also the chair of economic philosophy at West Liberty University, where he manages a generous grant from BB&T that aims to expose students to the value of free markets.

 

Ken Schoolland
Associate professor, Hawai’i Pacific University

Ken Schoolland is an associate professor of economics and director of the Entrepreneurship Center at Hawaii Pacific University. Previously he was director of Chaminade University of Honolulu’s the master of science degree program in Japanese Business Studies, and head of the Business and Economics Program at Hawaii Loa College. Schoolland is a member of the Mont Pelerin Society and president of Liberty International.

 

Ilya Shapiro, J.D.
Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review. Before joining Cato, he was a special assistant/adviser to the Multi-National Force in Iraq on rule-of-law issues and practiced at Patton Boggs and Cleary Gottlieb.

 

Robert Thomas, J.D.
Managing attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation’s Hawaii Center

Robert H. Thomas is a director with the law firm Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert in Honolulu, Hawaii. He specializes in property and land-use issues, including eminent domain, inverse condemnation, regulatory takings, property rights, water rights and voting rights. He has tried cases and appeals in Hawaii, California and the federal courts, including the Court of Federal Claims. On behalf of landowners in Hawaii and nationwide, Robert appears as counsel for amici curiae (“friends of the court”) before state appellate courts, state supreme courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Robert serves as the chair of the Condemnation Law Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section on State & Local Government Law. He is the managing attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Hawaii Center, a public interest legal foundation dedicated to defending private property rights and individual freedom.

 

Tom Yamachika
President, Tax Foundation of Hawaii

Tom Yamachika is the president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, a private, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to informing the taxpaying public about the finances of our state and local governments in Hawaii. This means the foundation looks at how government raises the money it spends, be it taxes, user fees or through the use of debt. Most of the foundation’s attention is focused on state government, but it also keeps a watchful eye on Hawaii’s county governments, as they annually set real property tax rates in order to fund their respective budgets.

 

Kate Zhou, Ph.D.
Professor, University of Hawaii

Kate Xiao Zhou received her bachelor’s degree in English from Wuhan University, a master’s degree in sociology from Texas A&M University, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University. She is a professor of comparative politics and political economy of China in the Department of Political Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Her research interests include the dynamics of transition from central planning to markets, Chinese economic development, Chinese business, globalization in East Asia, comparative studies of businesses, and Asian entrepreneurship.