From hanging chads to hanging out in D.C.

Jun 18, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Kevin Martin may look like a fresh-faced staffer, but make no mistake about it: This 34-year-old policy wonk, who’s preparing to begin a new career as a regulator at the Federal Communications Commission, has been in the trenches and then some.
As deputy general counsel for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, Mr. Martin was on the first plane out of Austin, Texas, carrying GOP officials to Florida in November to sort out the mess over who had won the state and, therefore, the presidency.
“I’d gone to work that day and never went back home,” he said.
He would remain in the Sunshine State for three months, supervising ballot recounts in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and relying on an endless string of rental cars, motels, take-out food and Banana Republic clothes to make it through the crisis.
“I never set foot on the beach,” he said. He even left his car sitting for months at an airport in Austin because he was too busy to pick it up. It sat so long the battery was dead when he finally retrieved the vehicle.
When the Florida fiasco ended, he moved to Washington, first heading the FCC transition team and then accepting the position of special assistant to the president for economic policy, taking up digs in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.
He works with Larry Lindsey, chief economic adviser to the president, on telecommunications and technology issues, such as Internet privacy and the digital divide.
Mr. Martin has been so busy with work, he hasn’t had a chance to unpack several boxes from his Austin days that are piled on the floor of his office. He’s leaving them packed because he will soon relocate across town to the FCC, where he has been confirmed for a GOP commissioner seat. His start at the agency was delayed until July 1 by a paperwork snafu, but he’s not upset, he said.
“I’ve got plenty of things to keep me busy,” he said, noting that he will still have a full five-year term.
Has anyone ever mistaken the boyish-looking attorney for a low-level aide?
“People have certainly commented that I do look a little younger,” he said. “I don’t remember anything in particular, but I’m sure it’s occurred.” He said his knowledge of the issues and his extensive experience will overcome any doubts about his age.
That experience includes a stint as a legal adviser to former Republican FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth from 1997 to 1999, in which Mr. Martin tackled a host of phone- and broadband-related issues.
Unlike his former boss, whom he described as a “mentor and a good friend,” Mr. Martin owns television sets at his home-three to be exact, but one is on loan to a friend-and subscribes to digital cable. He enjoys watching sports, particularly college basketball, and movies. And he uses the Internet often.
“I certainly think that one of the advantages someone younger can potentially bring over to the commission is familiarity with-and certainly not being afraid of-new technologies,” he said. “But I’m not a technophile by any stretch.”
Mr. Martin worked for several years as a communications attorney with various Washington law firms, including Wiley, Rein & Fielding, one of the more prominent shops in town. He has learned a few lessons about the Washington merry-go-round over the years.
“I think it is important that you have an open process,” he said of crafting regulations. And he thinks the FCC needs to make decisions more quickly: “Oftentimes a delay in a decision becomes no decision.”
Mr. Martin is among the youngest individuals to become an FCC regulator. FCC Chairman Michael Powell was also 34 when he was first confirmed as a commissioner.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard Law School, Mr. Martin lives in the Georgetown section of Washington with his wife, Catherine. He is a native of North Carolina and a big Tar Heels fan. He enjoys golf and shooting hoops.