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Norman Eisen

Senior Fellow - Governance Studies

Norman Eisen, a senior fellow with Governance Studies, joined Brookings after almost six years of service in the Obama administration, most recently as U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and before that as President Obama's ethics czar.

As Ambassador, Eisen emphasized three pillars of the U.S.-Czech relationship in leading over 225 dedicated colleagues at Embassy Prague. First, Ambassador Eisen broadened our two nations’ strategic and defense relationship. He helped advance the first new NATO Smart Defense proposal to be adopted by the U.S., a Multilateral Aviation Training Center in the Czech Republic. He secured continued Czech commitment to the fight against terrorism, including through traveling to Afghanistan to study the situation on the ground with senior Czech policy makers. He also partnered with the Czechs to support U.S. policy on Israel; for example, during his tenure they were the only one of the 27 EU members to vote with the U.S. against the UN’s 2012 Palestine resolution.

Second, the Ambassador deepened U.S.-Czech commercial and economic ties. He led his Embassy team in working closely with U.S. and international business leaders at Fortune 100 companies and small and medium-sized enterprises alike. During Ambassador Eisen’s time at post, U.S.-Czech bilateral trade  increased by over 50%, more than three times the average for U.S. Embassies in EU countries. The Ambassador also helped level the playing field for American companies by developing an innovative anti-corruption strategy in cooperation with U.S. and Czech law enforcement and other stakeholders. The State Department now uses the Embassy Prague approach as a model for U.S. posts around the world.

Third, Ambassador Eisen championed our two nations’ shared values. He is an outspoken advocate against all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism as well as discrimination against the Roma, the LGBT community and other minorities in the Czech Republic. He and his Embassy colleagues achieved concrete successes in this area, including helping to revitalize the European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI) headquartered in Prague; supporting the launch of a successful annual Prague Pride event; and starting an internship program for Czech Roma to gain work experience in U.S. companies.

Prior to coming to Prague, the Ambassador served in the White House from January 2009 to January 2011 as Special Counsel to the President and Special Assistant to the President. In that capacity, he helped lead the Obama administration’s initiatives on government ethics, lobbying regulation and open government. He was dubbed “Mr. No” by the media for the tough compliance program he helped implement. His portfolio also included campaign finance law, whistleblower protection, and other reform issues. He served as the White House Counsel representative on the interagency group that produced the Obama administration’s blueprint for the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform.

Before entering the administration, Ambassador Eisen was a litigation partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Zuckerman Spaeder. He joined the firm in 1991 and spent almost two decades there. He launched and co-chaired the firm’s Public Client Practice, representing governmental entities on an array of matters, and he also handled white-collar investigations and complex commercial litigation. His cases included Enron and Refco, the ADM antitrust case, and the subprime financial collapse. He maintained an active pro bono practice, including civil rights litigation, and was named by Washingtonian as among the city’s top lawyers.

Ambassador Eisen had experience in the non-profit sector. In 2001, he co-founded Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government watchdog group and is now also the co-chair. He was also the co-founder of Kids Computer Workshop, an after-school program for at-risk children in D.C. which began operations in 1997. From 1985 to 1988, the Ambassador launched his professional career by serving as an Assistant Director of the Pacific Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a national civil rights organization.

Starting in his ADL days, Eisen was frequently quoted in print media, appeared on radio and television, and been an in-demand public speaker. The Ambassador was the subject of profiles in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and on National Public Radio (NPR), as well as in other U.S. and international publications.

Ambassador Eisen was born in Los Angeles, California on November 11, 1960. He received his J.D. degree in 1991 from Harvard Law School and his B.A. from Brown University in 1985, both with honors. He is married to Lindsay Kaplan, an Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University. The couple has a daughter, Tamar. Ambassador Eisen’s service in the Czech Republic is, finally, notable because his mother was born in the former Czechoslovakia and survived the Holocaust. The Ambassador’s Residence was a Nazi military headquarters in occupied Prague during World War II. It is now the scene of the Ambassador’s weekly Sabbath dinners featuring food prepared in his kosher kitchen. As Senator Joseph Lieberman said in introducing Ambassador Eisen at his Senate confirmation 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."

Norman Eisen, a senior fellow with Governance Studies, joined Brookings after almost six years of service in the Obama administration, most recently as U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and before that as President Obama’s ethics czar.

As Ambassador, Eisen emphasized three pillars of the U.S.-Czech relationship in leading over 225 dedicated colleagues at Embassy Prague. First, Ambassador Eisen broadened our two nations’ strategic and defense relationship. He helped advance the first new NATO Smart Defense proposal to be adopted by the U.S., a Multilateral Aviation Training Center in the Czech Republic. He secured continued Czech commitment to the fight against terrorism, including through traveling to Afghanistan to study the situation on the ground with senior Czech policy makers. He also partnered with the Czechs to support U.S. policy on Israel; for example, during his tenure they were the only one of the 27 EU members to vote with the U.S. against the UN’s 2012 Palestine resolution.

Second, the Ambassador deepened U.S.-Czech commercial and economic ties. He led his Embassy team in working closely with U.S. and international business leaders at Fortune 100 companies and small and medium-sized enterprises alike. During Ambassador Eisen’s time at post, U.S.-Czech bilateral trade  increased by over 50%, more than three times the average for U.S. Embassies in EU countries. The Ambassador also helped level the playing field for American companies by developing an innovative anti-corruption strategy in cooperation with U.S. and Czech law enforcement and other stakeholders. The State Department now uses the Embassy Prague approach as a model for U.S. posts around the world.

Third, Ambassador Eisen championed our two nations’ shared values. He is an outspoken advocate against all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism as well as discrimination against the Roma, the LGBT community and other minorities in the Czech Republic. He and his Embassy colleagues achieved concrete successes in this area, including helping to revitalize the European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI) headquartered in Prague; supporting the launch of a successful annual Prague Pride event; and starting an internship program for Czech Roma to gain work experience in U.S. companies.

Prior to coming to Prague, the Ambassador served in the White House from January 2009 to January 2011 as Special Counsel to the President and Special Assistant to the President. In that capacity, he helped lead the Obama administration’s initiatives on government ethics, lobbying regulation and open government. He was dubbed “Mr. No” by the media for the tough compliance program he helped implement. His portfolio also included campaign finance law, whistleblower protection, and other reform issues. He served as the White House Counsel representative on the interagency group that produced the Obama administration’s blueprint for the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform.

Before entering the administration, Ambassador Eisen was a litigation partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Zuckerman Spaeder. He joined the firm in 1991 and spent almost two decades there. He launched and co-chaired the firm’s Public Client Practice, representing governmental entities on an array of matters, and he also handled white-collar investigations and complex commercial litigation. His cases included Enron and Refco, the ADM antitrust case, and the subprime financial collapse. He maintained an active pro bono practice, including civil rights litigation, and was named by Washingtonian as among the city’s top lawyers.

Ambassador Eisen had experience in the non-profit sector. In 2001, he co-founded Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government watchdog group and is now also the co-chair. He was also the co-founder of Kids Computer Workshop, an after-school program for at-risk children in D.C. which began operations in 1997. From 1985 to 1988, the Ambassador launched his professional career by serving as an Assistant Director of the Pacific Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a national civil rights organization.

Starting in his ADL days, Eisen was frequently quoted in print media, appeared on radio and television, and been an in-demand public speaker. The Ambassador was the subject of profiles in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and on National Public Radio (NPR), as well as in other U.S. and international publications.

Ambassador Eisen was born in Los Angeles, California on November 11, 1960. He received his J.D. degree in 1991 from Harvard Law School and his B.A. from Brown University in 1985, both with honors. He is married to Lindsay Kaplan, an Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University. The couple has a daughter, Tamar. Ambassador Eisen’s service in the Czech Republic is, finally, notable because his mother was born in the former Czechoslovakia and survived the Holocaust. The Ambassador’s Residence was a Nazi military headquarters in occupied Prague during World War II. It is now the scene of the Ambassador’s weekly Sabbath dinners featuring food prepared in his kosher kitchen. As Senator Joseph Lieberman said in introducing Ambassador Eisen at his Senate confirmation 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.”

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