By Megan R. Wilson - 09/16/14 10:03 AM EDT
The National Football League (NFL) has hired a former White House staffer who helped write the Violence Against Women Act to head up its Washington lobbying operation.
The addition of Cynthia Hogan comes amid mounting criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the league's handling of a domestic abuse incident involving former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice, who punched out his now-wife in a casino elevator.
Hogan could help the league deal with the criticism, given her background in writing one of the strongest domestic violence laws on the books.
She most recently served as a deputy assistant to President Obama and counsel to Vice President Biden, from 2009 to 2013. Back in the 1990s, she worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee with then-Sen. Biden (D-Del.) to craft the Violence Against Women Act, which bolsters funds for investigating and prosecuting charges of violent crime against women.
She begins on Sept. 22 as the NFL’s senior vice president of public policy and government affairs.
“Cynthia’s broad experience on a wide range of public policy issues will help advance our initiatives in Washington and around the country,” said Paul Hicks, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs.
The NFL has faced widespread public pressure — including from government officials — for its treatment of Rice.
The league initially suspended Rice for two games after security footage emerged that showed him dragging an unconscious Janay Palmer from an elevator.
The league was forced to take stronger action last week after a security video surfaced that shows Rice punching Janay unconscious inside the elevator. Rice was cut from the Ravens and indefinitely suspended from the league.
Now, questions are swirling about whether the NFL had seen the graphic video when it gave Rice a two-game suspension.
In response, the NFL hired former FBI Director Robert Mueller III, now a partner at WilmerHale, to investigate how the league handled the Rice investigation.
Goodell's office denied knowledge of the video, but many are skeptical.
Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandClinton releases plan for military families Overnight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo Dems discuss dropping Wasserman Schultz MORE (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell she is “furious” at the way the NFL handled the case.
“He admitted to beating his wife. We saw the video of him dragging her out of an elevator,” Gillibrand said. “There was nothing left to be discussed. He should have been fired right there and then.”
With members of the House Oversight Committee considering holding a hearing on the case, the NFL is seeking to quell the controversy.
The NFL on Monday said it has brought on a team of advisers to work on domestic violence issues, and Goodell indicated that there would be more additions to come.
“Our goal is to make a real difference on these and other issues,” Goodell said. “We know that we will be judged by our actions and their effectiveness.”
Those new advisors — Anna Isaacson, Lisa Friel, Rita Smith and Jane Randel — are tasked with implementing stronger domestic violence policies at the league.
Since 2000, 83 NFL players have been arrested on domestic violence charges, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis of player arrest records kept by USA Today.
The league has been dealing with a slew of other issues in Washington recently, including the controversy over the Washington Redskins name and a move by federal regulators to nix the sports blackout rule.
A lobbyist for the NFL, Adolpho Birch, recently told The Hill that the Rice incident would not change how the league interacts with Capitol Hill.
“We’ve always had issues that matter to the NFL, and we’ve always tried to make sure that we have a voice and that we are good partners with the administration and our congressional partners,” said Birch, NFL senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs.
— This story was last updated at 11:24 a.m.