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.
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.
AT THE BAR
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.
IN THE TANKS
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.