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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 04/13/2011

Former top House ethics committee lawyer joins immigration law firm


Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) waits as the House Ethics Committee decides his punishment. (Melina Mara - THE WASHINGTON POST)
The former top lawyer for the House Committee on Ethics and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration has joined the immigration law firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy.

R. Blake Chisam, who was the ethics committee’s staff director and chief counsel from 2009 until his resignation in late 2010, will serve as Fragomen’s director of professional practices.

In a brief phone interview Tuesday, Chisam said that he views the firm as “the perfect place to help make a difference for clients and for policy for this country.”

“We’re talking about jobs here, and we’re talking about what’s important to bring people in to bolster this economy at this time, and this is a firm that helps do that,” he said.

Chisam, who was the chief prosecutor in the case against Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), left the ethics committee last December, several weeks after the beleaguered panel was thrown into turmoil due to a series of events related to the investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

The committee announced days before the trial was to begin in November that it was postponing the Waters case indefinitely because of newly found evidence. In addition, the committee’s chairman at the time, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), suspended two of the panel’s lead investigators. Chisam resigned shortly thereafter, and the committee’s new chairman, Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), has since charged that Lofgren violated House rules by suspending the two investigators.

Chisam on Tuesday declined to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the ethics committee’s handling of the Waters case. He noted that it had never been his intent to stay on at the panel beyond the 111th Congress, so his departure was consistent with his original plans.

“It’s a great committee, and I enjoyed my time at the committee,” Chisam said. “Things are always going to work themselves out.”

Chisam is also reportedly on the short-list of candidates to serve as special master of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund. He declined to speculate Tuesday on whether he may be tapped by Attorney General Eric Holder in the next few weeks to head the $2.8 billion fund.

“It’s best not to comment on that at the moment, but it’s an honor to even be thought of,” he said.

Before serving on the ethics committee, Chisam worked for two years as the senior counsel for the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement; he is also the co-author of a book on immigration law.

Austin Fragomen, the firm’s chairman, called Chisam “unusually qualified” for the job because of his combination of private practice experience in immigration, his scholarly work in the field and his public policy experience.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 04/13/2011

 
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