President Barack Obama's aggressive ethics czar could be heading to Prague soon.
Obama nominated Norm Eisen on Monday to be ambassador to the Czech Republic. Eisen works in the White House as special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform. Press reports in April indicated Obama planned to nominate Eisen to the overseas post.
Widely known among lobbyists and government watchdog groups, Eisen is the primary author of the Obama administration’s executive order on ethics, which was signed in the administration’s early days. It was designed to slow the revolving door between government and K Street.
Eisen has also pushed the administration to be more transparent. He has often trumpeted their successes on the White House blog, such as releasing the White House visitor records for the first time. Moreover, Eisen has limited lobbyists' access to the executive branch, banning them from serving on federal advisory boards. He also required administration officials to disclose any communication with lobbyists about stimulus projects.
That tough attitude was often decried by lobbyists who felt unfairly targeted by the president and by Eisen. But it also won plaudits from reform-minded organizations, which felt they had a genuine ally in the White House for the first time.
Watchdog groups are worried the White House will lose its focus on ethics once Eisen is confirmed by the Senate and off to Prague. Some have said that they want the White House to institutionalize Eisen’s position and fill it once he has leaves Washington.
A White House official said ethics will remain a key priority for the administration.
"We will continue working for real change in 2010 and beyond to make government truly accessible and accountable to all Americans," said a White House official. "This will continue to be an important part of the President's agenda and the White House Counsel's Office portfolio."
—Updated at 7:18 p.m.