Whether it’s men and women or Democrats and Republicans, former Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., has experience bridging gaps. Elected in 1990 to succeed her father in the House, she joined the slim ranks of GOP women in Congress. Molinari says that succeeding in a male-dominated Congress prepared her well to work in the male-heavy tech sector, where she was named Google’s vice president of public policy and government relations for the Americas in March.
Molinari, 54, brought conservative credentials to Google, but tech issues rarely break down along party lines. “I have good friends in the Democratic Party, and I don’t think I would have gotten this job if that wasn’t my reputation,” she says. Scott Segal, who worked with Molinari at the public-affairs firm Bracewell & Giuliani, praised that ability to build bridges and Molinari’s “superb strategic sense” for how Washington operates. “When you are a Northeastern Republican, it comes naturally to build coalitions on both sides of the aisle,” he says.
Now at the helm of Google’s growing policy shop in D.C., Molinari sees herself as a mediator between Silicon Valley innovators and Washington regulators. She wants to make sure that policymakers appreciate what Google can offer in terms of job growth and technological innovation. Job creation is a message with a receptive audience, she says, but it is often overshadowed: She joined the company as Google’s dominance online began to draw greater scrutiny from antitrust regulators and as congressional leaders grilled company executives about privacy concerns. But Molinari, who is “cautiously optimistic” about the future of government tech policies, isn’t backing down. And neither should other women who are in the business of government, she says. “If you believe in yourself and your capabilities, then gender should have nothing to do with it.”
By Josh Smith
Lisa Murkowski, 55, has charted one of the most unconventional careers in Senate history, yet her nepotistic ascension and untraditional reelection to the world’s most exclusive club perhaps only enhances her position as one of its most pivotal members. The Ketchikan, Alaska, native entered the upper chamber in 2002 through a highly controversial and unique appointment made by her father, Frank Murkowski, who had just become governor. She was elevated to her seat above more-senior state Republicans to serve out his Senate term. Since then, Murkowski has alternately followed in her father’s footsteps by focusing on the Last Frontier and deviated from his example by bucking the state and national party.
She has raised the hackles of antiabortion groups by advocating to retain funding for Planned Parenthood; disappointed conservative activists by voting to raise taxes while in the state Legislature (she also defeated one of their darlings as a write-in candidate after losing the 2010 GOP primary, and voted to give undocumented students a path to citizenship); broken with party leadership by refusing to filibuster some judicial nominees; and proven to be an ally of gay-rights activists on some issues, including voting to end “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Most recently, Murkowski sided to some degree with the Obama administration in warning fellow lawmakers not to go too far in correcting course after the Solyndra bankruptcy. “We are focusing right now on the failures instead of also recognizing that we have done good things for the loan-guarantee program. We need to make sure it does what it is supposed to be doing,” the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking member told The Hill last month.
For all of these reasons, Murkowski has become a “must-watch” vote on major issues. But her share of the limelight wasn’t earned just by being a maverick on key votes: She has proven to be a deft dealmaker, a dogged advocate for Alaska, and a resourceful lawmaker who finds uncommon paths to success.
By Nicole Duran