R. Blake Chisam, who led the staff of the U.S. House Ethics Committee during its investigation of Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), has returned to private practice in immigration law.
Chisam started on Tuesday as a partner in the Washington office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy. The firm focuses on immigration, the same area that Chisam specialized in with the House Judiciary Committee and in private practice before switching to the ethics committee in 2009.
In an interview, Chisam said he was returning to an area of the law he finds challenging and that’s in high demand globally. “It’s complex. It’s difficult. It’s a new puzzle every day,” he said.
Chisam left the ethics committee in January, after Democrats lost control of the House and his boss, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), left the chairmanship of the ethics committee. From 2007 to 2009, Chisam worked for Lofgren on the Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee. He previously ran a small immigration firm with his wife.
At Fragomen, he won’t be handling cases but will instead direct the firm’s government relations practice, advising on legislation and regulatory issues. He will also be in charge of keeping the firm’s lawyers and its clients abreast of new regulations, rules and other developments through memos and client alerts.
“He has a very diverse background that really touches on all those different areas,” said Austin Fragomen, the firm’s chairman. The firm often represents multinational corporations on a variety of immigration issues.
During Chisam’s tenure as staff director and chief counsel of the ethics committee, the panel investigated Rangel on an array of ethics questions such as his fundraising for an academic center that would honor him. On the committee’s recommendation, the full House voted to censure Rangel.
Chisam’s tenure also witnessed a public clash over jurisdiction between the ethics committee and the separate, independent Office of Congressional Ethics. In the fall, the committee halted its case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Lofgren put two committee lawyers on leave. Chisam declined to comment on the matter today.
“I will always look back fondly at my time with the committee,” he said. “I’m proud of what I accomplished and of what the committee accomplished.”