2006 Hot List: Catherine Bohigian

Jun 26, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Catherine Bohigian, 34, has a lanky title at the Federal Communications Commission. But the long and short of it is that she is one of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s closest advisers.

“I have relied on her judgment since I first came to the commission, and it is still invaluable to me today,” Mr. Martin said.

For Ms. Bohigian, chief of the FCC’s Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, the door to the FCC’s top decisionmaker originally opened in 1990, when she met the chairman-to-be through her sister.

Mr. Martin was a student at Harvard Law School at the time and was dating Ms. Bohigian’s sister’s roommate. That roommate is now Mr. Martin’s wife, Cathie. At the time Ms. Bohigian was an undergraduate at Duke University.

“We had similar policy interests,” said Ms. Bohigian. “We were both public policy geeks.”

After graduating from college in 1994 Ms. Bohigian moved to Washington to work in IBM’s lobbying office.

She credits Mr. Martin, who was also in Washington then, with persuading her to go to law school to advance her career.

“I really didn’t want to go to law school,” she said. “But he convinced me that I really had to go.”

After her first year at Harvard, she said, Mr. Martin also persuaded her to get a job as a summer associate at the Washington law firm Wiley, Rein & Fielding, where he was then working as a lawyer.

She joined the firm after she graduated, and worked on telecommunications issues and eventually moved to the firm’s London office.

In 2001, after Mr. Martin-by then working at the White House-was originally nominated to be an FCC commissioner, Ms. Bohigian flew back from London to help him prepare for his Senate confirmation.

She subsequently joined him at the FCC as a legal adviser and has been at his side ever since. When he was promoted to chairman last year she became his senior legal adviser.

Ms. Bohigian’s role at the FCC sometimes requires her to serve as Mr. Martin’s bearer of bad news to industry lobbyists.

A critical part of her job, she said, is to listen with an open mind to outside parties.

“But at the end of the day, if you do have a disagreement, then it is part of my job to explain why the chairman disagrees,” she said.

Though she officially took her current position last November, she still spends three days a week in an office next to his on the agency’s eighth floor.

One of the higher-profile projects she has overseen for Mr. Martin was the FCC report earlier this year finding that a la carte cable programming-allowing subscribers to choose and pay for only the cable programming they want-could benefit consumers. That finding contradicted an agency study issued during the chairmanship of Michael Powell, Mr. Martin’s predecessor. The report caused a major stir in the industry and on Capitol Hill.

Ms. Bohigian, whose husband, David Bohigian, is an assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce, said she has no plans to leave the agency to return to the private sector anytime soon.

But if she does, she said, it would have to be for an interesting job that would allow her to fulfill her role as mother to her two young children.

As long as she’s at the FCC, she’ll be hovering near Mr. Martin’s side.

“She’s Kevin’s eyes and ears,” said Dick Wiley, the former FCC chairman who heads the law firm where Mr. Martin and Ms. Bohigian previously worked. “She’s a wise head he relies on a lot.”

The Lowdown

Title: Chief, FCC Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis

Date of birth: May 3, 1972

Place of birth: Dallas

Big break: Met FCC Chairman Kevin Martin through her sister while he was a law student in 1990.

Who knew?

The highlight of her day is after-dinner dance sessions with her kids, Kate, 2, and Charlie, 1. Their favorite tune: “YMCA.”