Leadership and Staff

Susan A. Carleson, Chairman/CEO

carleson_sSusan A. Carleson, ACRU Chairman/CEO, began her career in public policy in 1981 as an advisor on health care financing policy during the Reagan transition and then as a senior advisor to the Greenspan Commission on Social Security Reform. She joined the staff of the House Republican Conference in 1982 and later served as Legislative Director for Jack Kemp. During the 2nd Reagan term, she was a Special Assistant to the Deputy Undersecretary of Education and Special Assistant to the Assistant Attorney General for Justice Programs. From 2002 until 2006, she served as Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the Social Security Administration.

Following the passing of her husband Robert B. Carleson in 2006, she assumed the leadership and day-to-day management of the ACRU.

Morton C. Blackwell, Director

blackwell_m Morton C. Blackwell, Director, founded the Leadership Institute, a nonpartisan educational foundation, in 1979. After decades of work in politics, Blackwell served as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1984. Blackwell is one of the nation’s most influential conservative figures, and through his Leadership Institute training programs he has helped to prepare thousands of politicians, journalists, and activists.

Wendy Borcherdt LeRoy, Director

borcherdtWendy Borcherdt LeRoy, Director, is a former special assistant to the President for Public Policy and associate director of Presidential Personnel in the White House under President Reagan. She also served as acting Deputy Under-Secretary of Education in the Reagan administration. Mrs. LeRoy is on the board of overseers, trustee emeritus, at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and she serves on the executive committee of the Parents Television Council. In addition, she is a board member and executive committee member of the Trinity School for Ministry in Pittsburgh and a board member at the School for Public Policy at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Mrs. LeRoy holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Stanford University.

Edwin Meese III, Director

meeseEdwin Meese III served as the seventy-fifth Attorney General of the United States from February 1985 to August 1988. Before serving as Attorney General, he was counselor to President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1985. In this capacity he functioned as the president’s chief policy adviser and had management responsibility for the administration of the cabinet, policy development, and planning and evaluation. During the time he held both these positions, Meese was a member of the president’s cabinet and the National Security Council.

Mr. Meese served as Governor Reagan’s executive assistant and chief of staff in California from 1969-1974 and as legal affairs secretary from 1967-1968. Before joining Governor Reagan’s staff in 1967, he served as deputy district attorney of Alameda County California.

Mr. Meese is a distinguished fellow and holder of the Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation; a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University; a member of the Board of Regents of the National College of District Attorney; and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute of United States Studies, University of London. He has authored many scholarly books on American government, most recently The Heritage Guide to the Constitution.

He earned his B.A. from Yale University and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

David A. Leedom, Director

leedomDavid A. Leedom, Director, was trained as an engineer at the University of California. He has been a government employee, small-business owner, and large-business vice president, and he currently works in consulting and project management. He has a background of working with the military and is active in community and military affairs. He has worked for many conservative causes and has supported the American Civil Rights Union since its founding.

Robert H. Knight, Senior Fellow


Robert H. Knight, Senior Fellow and Policy Expert, was a journalist for 15 years, including seven as an editor and writer at the Los Angeles Times. A regular weekly columnist for the Washington Times, and, he has a B.S. and an M.A. in Political Science from American University, and was a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He held senior positions with the Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Media Research Center, and Coral Ridge Ministries (now D. James Kennedy Ministries). He has authored five books, co-authored another, and written hundreds of reports and articles, and appeared on nearly all major TV and radio news and talk programs.

Christopher Coates, General Counsel

coatesChristopher Coates, General Counsel, is the former Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice. He worked in the Voting Section from 1996 through 2009 and while there was involved in numerous voting rights suits on behalf of black, American Indian, and Hispanic voters. He was also the lead attorney in U.S. v. Brown, the first case ever filed by the Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act that successfully challenged racial discrimination by minority election officials against white voters. He was also the supervising attorney in U.S. v. New Black Panther Party, a case that challenged the voter intimidation practices of a black racist organization and that was dismissed in large part by the Obama administration after it took office. In 2007, he was awarded the Walter W. Barnett Memorial Award, the Civil Rights Division’s second highest award for excellence in advocacy.

In 2012 and as an attorney in private practice, Mr. Coates was one of the attorneys who successfully represented the State of South Carolina in its defense of its voter photo ID law. As an attorney with the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1976 through 1984, he represented numerous minority plaintiffs in voting and other civil rights cases. From 1985 to 1996, he was in private practice in Milledgeville, Georgia where he continued his voting rights and other civil rights practice as well as participation in representation of local governments. In 1991, he was awarded the Thurgood Marshall Decade Award by the Georgia NAACP for his work in voting rights and civil rights law.

Over his 42 year legal career, he has spoken to various organizations of both conservative and liberal perspective, including bar associations, on the subject of voting rights. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1967 and from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1972. He presently resides in Charleston, SC.