Norman L. Eisen
Early life and education
Eisen's parents were immigrants to the United States and he grew up working in his family's hamburger stand in Los Angeles. He received his B.A. from Brown University in 1985 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1991, both with honors. While at Harvard, he first met President Barack Obama, also a first-year law student.
From 1985 to 1988, between college and law school, Eisen worked as the Assistant Director of the Los Angeles office of the Anti-Defamation League. He investigated anti-semitism and other civil rights violations, promoted Holocaust education and advanced US-Israel relations.
After graduating from Harvard in 1991, Eisen practiced law in Washington, D.C. for over 18 years with the Zuckerman Spaeder law firm. He was named as one of Washington's top lawyers by Washingtonian Magazine. He specialized in investigations of complex financial fraud, including Enron, Refco, the ADM antitrust case, and the subprime financial collapse.
In 2003, Eisen co-founded Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government watchdog organization.
From 2007 to 2009, Eisen was active in the presidential campaign of his law school classmate Barack Obama before joining the transition team of then-President-elect Obama as deputy counsel. On January 20, 2009, Obama named him Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform in the White House.
He earned the nickname "Mr. No" for his stringent ethics and anti-corruption efforts and became known for limiting registered lobbyists from taking positions in the administration. He is credited for helping compile President Obama's ethics-related campaign promises into an Executive Order the President signed on his first day in office.
During 2009 and 2010, Eisen also contributed to the administration's open government effort, including putting the White House visitor logs on the internet; its response to the Citizens United campaign finance decision; and its financial regulatory plan, which is the basis for Dodd-Frank. His other activities included reviewing the background of potential administration officials, and expanding the application of the Freedom of Information Act.
Eisen became the first Ambassador to the Czech Republic nominated by President Obama. As ambassador, he developed a “three pillars” approach to the U.S.-Czech relationship, emphasizing (1) strategic and defense cooperation; (2) commercial and economic ties; and (3) shared values.
Eisen has visited Czech and U.S. troops serving side-by-side in Afghanistan. He advocated for U.S. business, and has increased trade with the Czech Republic by 50 percent (more than three times the average for U.S. embassies in Europe during his tenure). He has also spoken out against corruption and in defense of civil rights. Eisen has been credited with helping to deepen U.S.-Czech relations. He has also supported the Middle East peace process, including posting the first investment conference on the "Kerry Plan" in Prague together with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright."
Eisen's ambassadsorship has also been noteworthy because his mother was a Czechoslovak Holocaust survivor who was deported by the Nazis from that country to Auschwitz. As Senator Joseph Lieberman noted in introducing Eisen at a Senate hearing: "It is indeed a profound historical justice...that the Ambassador's residence in Prague, which was originally built by a Jewish family that was forced to flee Prague by the Nazis, who... took over that house as their headquarters, now 70 years later, is occupied by Norman and his family....The story of Norm Eisen and his family and their path back to Europe is a classic American story, a reflection of what our country is about at its very best. And that is also precisely why the Ambassador has proven such an effective representative of our Nation, our interests, and our values."
U.S. Senate Confirmation
President Obama initially gave Eisen a recess appointment. The appointment was good for only one year, until the end of 2011, unless the full U.S. Senate confirmed him. The recess appointment was required because of a hold on Eisen’s nomination. Eisen’s nomination received bipartisan support, including from Republican Senators and conservative foreign policy scholars. The Senate ultimately confirmed Eisen on December 12, 2011.
Representation In Film
Director Wes Anderson has credited Ambassador Eisen as an inspiration for the character of Deputy Kovacs in his 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson told Jeff Goldblum, who played Deputy Kovacs, "that he should go to Prague and see Norm; this is your man….The character of the lawyer Kovacs in the film maintains the awareness of law and justice…the character is actually a kind of ethics czar for the whole film." This is a reference to another one of Eisen's White House nicknames: The Ethics Czar.
Eisen is married to Lindsay Kaplan, an associate professor at Georgetown University. The couple have one daughter, Tamar.
- "New U.S. ambassador Eisen takes up office in Prague". Czech News Agency. 28 January 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
- Saslow, Eli (13 March 2009). "When White House Has Queries About Ethics Rules, Adviser Norm Eisen Answers the Call". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- Goldman, T.R. (14 October 2013). "The world of Norm Eisen, U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- "Norman Eisen". The Washington Post. 25 July 2012.
- "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 6/28/10". White House. 28 June 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- Greenberg, Richard (12 January 2011). "An appointment with history Bootstraps and all, diplomat comes full circle". Washington Jewish Week. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- Shapiro, Ari (18 February 2014). "For U.S. Ambassador, Ties To Prague That Transcend Diplomacy". NPR. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- Ornstein, Norman J (12 December 2011). "The Senate Vote on Norm Eisen". American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- O'Sullivan and Weinstein, John and Kenneth (8 December 2011). "Confirm Eisen Now". The National Review. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- Anyz, Daniel (14 March 2014). "Wes Anderson and Norman Eisen: Two Americans In Prague". HN Weekend Magazine. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
- Bogardus, Kevin (13 January 2011). "Departing White House ethics czar sees no let-up in drive for transparency". The Hill. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- Bio of Ambassador Eisen from the homepage of The U.S. Embassy In The Czech Republic
- Ambassador Eisen's blog
- The world of Norm Eisen, U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic (from The Washington Post)
- Washington Post article on Eisen's time at The White House
- NPR article on Eisen's Ambassadorship
- HN Weekend article about Eisen's influence on Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel"
- White House press release announcing Eisen as the new Ambassador to the Czech Republic
- Media related to Norman L. Eisen at Wikimedia Commons