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When Jane Mago graduated from law school, she had a five-year plan. She would join the Federal Communications Commission as an honors attorney, do her time, then cash in at a law firm. Except it has been 23 years, and Mago is still at the FCC, where she was named general counsel by Chairman Michael Powell in May. Her career is something of a road map to advancing through the agency ranks, from lowly staff attorney in the Common Carrier Bureau — one of the least exciting places at the FCC when she arrived in 1978 — to general counsel, a post that has been a springboard to the chairman’s office for predecessors like William Kennard and Richard Wiley. Along the way, Mago, 48, cut her teeth as a litigator in the GC’s office, served as a legal adviser to Powell and two previous commissioners, and held senior posts in the Enforcement Bureau and the Private Radio Bureau (now part of the Wireless Bureau). “I’ve dealt with all the subject areas from spectrum management to licensing issues to enforcement issues to straight rule-making type of proceedings,” says Mago, at ease in her unassuming eighth floor office, decorated with pictures painted by her 12-year-old daughter. (She also has two sons, ages 15 and 17.) “That helps me, because I now have that overview. As the general counsel, that’s one of the things I have to understand, how it all fits together.” But one major area is largely off limits to Mago — common carrier, or telephone, issues. That’s because she’s married to Robert Blau, the BellSouth Corp.’s vice president for executive and regulatory affairs. As a result, Mago hands off cases where BellSouth has an interest at stake to Deputy General Counsel John Rogovin, a former partner at O’Melveny & Myers. So far, she says, the arrangement has worked well. “There’s so much we’re doing that it hasn’t been a problem at all,” she says. “It’s a very good division of work that we have in the office.” Laughing, she adds, “It surprises me someone could do this job and have that part of it, too.” Still, BellSouth conflicts have sidelined Mago on one of the FCC’s biggest cases, the convoluted fight with NextWave Telecom Inc. over spectrum ownership. The government recently asked the Supreme Court to take up the case. But even FCC watchdogs like Andrew Schwartzman, president of Media Access Project, don’t see a problem with Mago in the role of general counsel. “Everyone knows who her husband is,” says Schwartzman. “But in this day and age, I don’t see how you can have an absolute rule that precludes people from dealing with things where their spouses are involved.” He adds, “I’d have a problem if she didn’t recuse herself.” Schwartzman characterizes Mago as “a close adviser to the chairman, someone he relies on a great deal,” and notes that as a career staffer, she has been recusing herself from common carrier issues “for years and years and years.” Indeed, Mago has numerous fans in the telecom bar. “Jane Mago is smart, charming, and she has endless patience to listen to all of us who come to the FCC,” says Mary McDermott, senior VP for legal and regulatory affairs at Waynesboro, Va.’s NTELOS Inc. “I admire Jane for many things, but among them is the fact that she works so hard in the public sector when she could have her choice of private sector jobs.” As general counsel, Mago supervises 47 lawyers directly and serves as the chief legal adviser to the commission. She is in almost daily contact with Powell, whom she got to know when he was first appointed an FCC commissioner in 1997. From 1997 to 1999, Mago served as his senior legal adviser. When Powell became chairman in January 2001, he promptly elevated her to acting general counsel before making the appointment official four months later. “He was most interested in getting somebody who had the kind of knowledge of the agency who could help him with thinking about reform,” says Mago. “I can help him with this because I understand the agency, I can understand the legal ramifications that go with it, and can give him the advice that he needs.” Also on her plate is litigation over open access issues, the Satellite Home Viewers Improvement Act, and FCC ownership rules, including newspaper cross-ownership and cable horizontal ownership. The GC’s office has the authority to defend the agency in federal courts of appeal and handles about 30 appellate cases a year as lead counsel. Mago says she wants to focus on “making sure our litigation is as strong as possible, that we’re presenting the best defense in court.” She also plans to revitalize the FCC’s attorney honors program — her initial entree into the agency upon graduation from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law in 1978. “I think that it’s very important to get new people into the agency at an entry level,” she says. “There’s a real difference between starting at a government agency and starting at a law firm. The level of exposure and experience you get at an agency is amazing.”

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