Ambassador to Czech Republic: Who is Norman Eisen?
Thursday, December 30, 2010
President Barack Obama selected White House ethics lawyer Norman Eisen to be ambassador to the Czech Republic in June 2010, and his Senate confirmation hearing was held on August 5. However, Republican objections, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, blocked a vote on his confirmation. Finally, on December 29, Obama gave Eisen a one-year recess appointment. The position of U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic had been vacant since the day Obama took office.
Eisen has no diplomatic experience to speak of, but he does have other qualities going for him—including knowing Barack Obama since law school, and raising substantial sums of money for the president’s 2008 campaign.
The son of Eastern European Jewish refugees who survived the Holocaust, Eisen is a first-generation American who grew up in Los Angeles. His mother was born in Czechoslovakia and his father in Poland. In 1975, when Eisen was 14 years old, his father died, and Eisen was forced to drop out of high school to help support his family. Two years later, he returned to school and graduated from Hollywood High School.
Eisen went on to Brown University and graduated in 1985. Then he became a civil-rights organizer for the Anti-Defamation League, which focuses on combating anti-Semitism. He later attended Harvard Law School, where he first met Obama.
After graduating from law school in 1991, Eisen took a job in Washington with the law firm of Zuckerman Spaeder. During his 17 years with the firm, he handled white-collar criminal cases and congressional investigations. He eventually made partner. In 1998, he co-founded the Kids Computer Workshop to teach computer skills to children in disadvantaged neighborhoods of Washington, DC.
In 2003, Eisen co-founded Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government watchdog organization that targets corrupt officials.
During the 2008 presidential race, Eisen bundled between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama. He also personally donated more than $40,000 to political campaigns, including $4,600 to Obama, $2,300 to Joseph Biden, and $27,350 to the Democratic National Committee.
Aside from fundraising, Eisen worked on education policy for the Obama campaign, before turning his attention to ethics reform. He crafted a broad ethics reform plan during the transition and submitted it to Obama for his approval the day after the inauguration. The plan became best known for provisions banning registered lobbyists from taking positions in the administration. It also earned him the nickname “Mr. No.”
Eisen’s first official post in the Obama administration was Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform.
Eisen is married to Lindsay Kaplan, an associate professor of English at Georgetown University, and the couple has one daughter, Tamar.
Norman Eisen (WhoRunsGov)
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