Cynthia Hogan is the new senior vice president of government affairs for the National Football League.
National Journal
Add to Briefcase
Laura Ryan
Dec. 12, 2014, midnight
Cynthia Hogan (Chet Susslin) National Journal

Cyn­thia Hogan Cyn­thia Hogan (Chet Suss­lin)The NFL’s new top lob­by­ist brings an out­sider’s per­spect­ive to a sports league in crisis.

Cyn­thia Hogan is nosh­ing on toast and lox — a new fa­vor­ite — at the W hotel and talk­ing about Ray Rice. It’s the day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing, a hol­i­day on which Amer­ic­an fam­il­ies are now more likely to watch foot-ball than talk to each oth­er. “You know, the NFL is a mir­ror on so­ci­ety, right? I mean it’s not that we’re dif­fer­ent from so­ci­ety. We get more at­ten­tion than most people,” Hogan says. “But everything that you see re­flec­ted in the NFL ex­ists across the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion.”

Of course, your av­er­age mem­ber of the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion isn’tfilmed in an el­ev­at­or punch­ing his or her ro­mantic part­ner. Just months earli­er, the rising out­cry over the way the Na­tion­al Foot­ball League handled do­mest­ic-vi­ol­ence and sexu­al-as­sault cases had the league on its heels — es­pe­cially in Wash­ing­ton, a place where, un­til re­cently, it al­most al­ways got its way. That’s when the NFL asked Hogan to be its first fe­male top lob­by­ist. She was part of a team of wo­men re­cruited by Com­mis­sion­er Ro­ger Goodell to help re­think the league’s policies after the Rice in­cid­ent.

Far from be­ing scared off by the con­tro­versy, Hogan, 57, found that the scan­dal made the job more ap­peal­ing. She real­ized the NFL’s policy agenda was much more than TV black­out rules. But she wor­ried that her fam­ily and friends would think she was crazy for wad­ing in­to the tur­moil. In­stead, they were ec­stat­ic. “It was al­most to a de­gree that you would’ve thought that I had nev­er quite made it in my ca­reer or had a good job be­fore,” Hogan says with a laugh.

Hogan is ap­proach­ing her task with a pos­it­ive out­look. “The re­sponse to the is­sue around Ray Rice and some of the things the NFL is deal­ing with are ac­tu­ally un­be­liev­able signs of the pro­gress that we’ve made,” she says. “I’ve been try­ing to get people to pay this much at­ten­tion to vi­ol­ence against wo­men for 20 years, right? And … this is one of those mo­ments where you hope that this will be an op­por­tun­ity for our so­ci­ety to really un­der­stand more about the is­sue.”

It’s an is­sue that Hogan is deeply con­nec­ted to; she helped shape the Vi­ol­ence Against Wo­men Act in 1994 as a seni­or aide to Joe Biden in the Sen­ate. Now it’s con­sum­ing most of her time once again. Dur­ing her first three months on the job, Hogan has toggled between her two roles as am­bas­sad­or and ad­viser. One day she’s blitz­ing Cap­it­ol Hill with news of the NFL’s edu­ca­tion ef­forts; the next day she’s in the league’s New York City of­fice help­ing to re­vise its per­son­al-con­duct policy. She also at­ten­ded the Bal­timore Ravens’ do­mest­ic-vi­ol­ence edu­ca­tion sem­in­ar last month.

But the NFL has a host of oth­er is­sues that Hogan is eager to tackle, such as TV black­out rules, on­line gambling, and leg­al­ized sports bet­ting. It seems like an odd match: the 94-year-old, highly tra­di­tion­al, testoster­one-fueled league and the clas­sic­ally trained dan­cer with an art his­tory de­gree from Ober­lin, who re­reads Pride and Pre­ju­dice each year. But Hogan sees her back­ground as an as­set. She says she of­fers a fresh point of view and hands-on policy ex­per­i­ence that she hopes will help open up the league’s long­time echo cham­ber.

“I am not a foot­ball in­sider, and I can bring a per­spect­ive of the way people — wheth­er it’s people in Con­gress, or people sort of more gen­er­ally from out­side the foot­ball fam­ily — per­ceive is­sues and un­der­stand some of the chal­lenges,” she says.

Dur­ing her years at Biden’s side, first as chief coun­sel when he chaired the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee and then again in the White House, after a 12-year hi­atus to raise her two kids, Hogan be­came adroit at nav­ig­at­ing Con­gress and the White House. But she learned about sports at home in Cin­cin­nati, where she grew up. Base­ball was the fam­ily fa­vor­ite be­cause her dad worked in ad­vert­ising for the Reds, but that is already chan­ging: Thanks­giv­ing week­end for the Hogan fam­ily this year in­volved a new tra­di­tion — the Ravens versus the Char­gers.


Rebecca Mark (Chet Susslin) Chet Susslin

It all leads back to Sil­ic­on Val­ley. At least it did for Re­becca Mark, seni­or ad­viser to House Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence Chair­wo­man Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers on tech­no­logy and wo­men’s is­sues. Mark, 31, taught her­self to code while grow­ing up in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area, but she put that hobby on the shelf to study Eng­lish and psy­cho­logy at the Uni­versity of Michigan. “Be­ing an en­gin­eer or get­ting a CS de­gree was the fur­thest thing from my mind,” Mark says. After gradu­ation, she worked at MySpace in Los Angeles un­til it dawned on her that tech policy was her heart’s de­sire. And so, without a job or a place to live, she moved to Wash­ing­ton. Fast-for­ward sev­en years, and Mark is edu­cat­ing Re­pub­lic­an law­makers about one of the hot­test (and most com­plex) policy top­ics. It all worked out for Mark, but she says her ex­per­i­ence il­lus­trates a crit­ic­al ques­tion fa­cing the tech com­munity: how to get more wo­men in­volved in sci­ence and en­gin­eer­ing — and keep them there.


Mary Ellen Callahan (Richard A. Bloom) ©2014 Richard A. Bloom

Mary El­len Cal­la­han is di­li­gent about her di­git­al pri­vacy. She is scru­pu­lous about the con­trols on her iPhone, turns off its geo­loca­tion track­er, and car­ries around her own se­cure Wi-Fi router. You’d ex­pect that from someone who has been prac­ti­cing pri­vacy law since 1998 — al­most as long as the In­ter­net has been around. Cal­la­han, 46, left her post as chief pri­vacy of­ficer at the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment in 2012 — the “best pri­vacy job in gov­ern­ment” — to build the pri­vacy and in­form­a­tion-gov­ernance prac­tice at Jen­ner & Block from the ground up. She works with a broad range of cli­ents in the private and pub­lic sec­tors, to help them un­der­stand the law and pro­tect them­selves against data breaches and cy­ber­at­tacks. Be­cause the hol­i­days are a prime sea­son for data theft, Cal­la­han of­fers a few bytes of wis­dom: Edu­cate your­self about pri­vacy con­trols, don’t sign up for free con­tests, and check your cred­it re­port an­nu­ally.


Mark Agrast (Richard A. Bloom) ©2014 Richard A. Bloom

Mark Agrast’s fa­vor­ite place in Wash­ing­ton is Thomas Jef­fer­son’s lib­rary in the Lib­rary of Con­gress. “It’s sort of like walk­ing in­to his mind,” Agrast says. His fas­cin­a­tion with the Founders’ polit­ic­al philo­sophies led him to study law, and he has fre­quently re­turned to their writ­ings for “in­spir­a­tion and re­new­al” throughout his long ca­reer, he says. That ca­reer has now come full circle, from Agrast’s early days as the ed­it­or-in-chief of the Yale Journ­al of In­ter­na­tion­al Law to his new role as ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Amer­ic­an So­ci­ety of In­ter­na­tion­al Law. Agrast, 58, is giv­ing up ne­go­ti­at­ing with poli­cy­makers — in his former job as deputy as­sist­ant at­tor­ney gen­er­al for le­gis­lat­ive af­fairs at the Justice De­part­ment — to be­come what he calls an “hon­est broker” of in­form­a­tion. A long line of dip­lo­mats and chief justices served at the head of the 100-year-old schol­arly so­ci­ety be­fore Agrast. That con­nec­tion to his­tory made it an easy de­cision for him.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.