Jennifer McDonald

Assistant Director of Activism Special Projects


California State University San Marcos, B.A., 2010
London School of Economics and Political Science, M.P.A., 2014

Jennifer McDonald is the Assistant Director of Activism Special Projects at the Institute for Justice, where she engages with policymakers, regulators, and activists to achieve needed reforms.  Through research, legislative advocacy, coalition building, and working with the media, she defends property owners’ rights to keep what is rightfully theirs and every entrepreneur’s right to earn an honest living.

Jenny is also IJ’s Cities Work Director, where she partners with cities across the country to make it cheaper, faster, and simpler to start a small business by identifying and rectifying regulatory barriers facing small business owners. She also speaks at national conferences on topics such as the power of entrepreneurship, reducing red tape for small businesses, and organizing coalitions of activists to advocate for themselves in City Hall.

Prior to joining the Activism team, Jenny was an IJ senior research analyst, where she authored IJ reports on topics such as civil forfeiture, municipal fines and fees, government transparency, occupational licensing, and home-based businesses. Her work has appeared in multiple academic journals and her research results have been cited in national media outlets such as the Washington PostNew York TimesPolitico, and Los Angeles Times. She holds a Master of Public Administration from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a bachelor’s degree in history from California State University San Marcos.


Jennifer's Research & Reports

New Data Show Homemade Food for Sale is Incredibly Safe

Food Freedom

New Data Show Homemade Food for Sale is Incredibly Safe

Is buying homemade food safe? New data from the Institute for Justice (IJ) show the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” IJ contacted the seven states with the broadest homemade food laws (California,…

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Frustrating, Corrupt, Unfair

Victims of civil forfeiture call it frustrating, corrupt and unfair. This first-of-its-kind survey describes the experiences of victims of one civil forfeiture program, Philadelphia’s.

Other Property Rights Abuses | Private Property

A Case Study of Municipal Taxation by Citation

This study examines taxation by citation—local governments using code enforcement and the justice system to raise revenue rather than solely to advance public health and safety. It does so through a detailed case study of…

Civil Forfeiture

Policing for Profit

Nationwide, civil forfeiture is a massive threat to property and due process rights. So finds the third edition of Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture. The report presents the largest ever collection…


Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Jetway Robbery?

Law enforcement agencies routinely seize currency from travelers at airports nationwide using civil forfeiture—a legal process that allows agencies to take and keep property without ever charging owners with a crime, let alone securing a…

cover of fines and fee report

Fines and Fees | Private Property

The Price of Taxation by Citation

Taxation by citation is when local governments use their power to enforce traffic and other ordinances to raise revenue rather than solely to protect the public. This report explores the phenomenon via case studies of…

Economic Liberty | Food Freedom

The relationship between cottage food laws and business outcomes

The increasing popularity of cottage foods in the United States requires that state laws regulating the industry be given careful consideration. However, little is known about cottage food producers or their businesses. This article discusses…

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Civil Forfeiture Hurts America’s Poor

In 2014, Tyson Timbs sold $400 worth of drugs to undercover police in an effort to support his addiction. Tyson, a first-time offender, was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years of…

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Forfeiture in Arizona

In 2017, Arizona adopted incremental but important bipartisan reforms of the state’s civil forfeiture system. These reforms included new transparency requirements for forfeiture, obliging agencies to report the value, type and date of a property…

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Civil Forfeiture, Crime Fighting and Safeguards for the Innocent

In 2017, the Department of Justice revived a controversial federal forfeiture program the previous administration had sharply curtailed. In defense of these “adoptive forfeitures” or “adoptions,” as well as of civil forfeiture in general, the…

Economic Liberty | Food Freedom

Ready to Roll

Most states have “cottage food laws,” which regulate the sale of homemade foods. The specifics vary from state to state, but most such laws restrict the types of homemade foods that may be sold. Research…

Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing

The Continuing Burden of Occupational Licensing in the United States

This study follows up an earlier study in which we examined the scope and burden of 102 occupational licensing laws in the United States for low‐ and moderate‐income occupations. Using data collected in 2017, findings…

Economic Liberty | Food Freedom

Flour Power

All across the country, thousands of Americans are making food at home to sell in their communities. Together, they form the small but growing “cottage food” industry. With renewed interest in this age-old industry, laws…

Economic Liberty | Private Property

Finding the American Dream at Home

Across the country, millions of enterprising people are running businesses out of their homes. This report outlines the myriad benefits of home-based businesses and suggests that government regulations curtailing them are short-sighted. It details how…

License to Work 2

License to Work 2

License to Work, 2nd Edition Published in 2017, this is an older edition of IJ’s landmark License to Work report. You can download the report and read about data improvements we made between the first…

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Forfeiture Transparency & Accountability

Every year, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies across the United States seize and keep billions of dollars in cash, cars, homes and other property using a legal tool called forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture requires…

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Policing for Profit: Second Edition

Policing for Profit, 2nd Edition Published in 2015, this is an older edition of IJ’s landmark Policing for Profit report. You can download the report here, but please see the third and current edition for the most up-to-date…

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Jennifer's News, Articles & Publications

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