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Corporate Political Activities 2015: Complying with Campaign Finance, Lobbying and Ethics Laws

Author(s): Chip Nielsen, Jan Witold Baran, Kenneth A. Gross
Practice Area: Corporate & Securities
Published: Sep 2015
PLI Item #: 58826
CHB Spine #: B2193

Chip Nielsen is the senior political law partner in campaign finance, pay-to-play, initiative, lobbying, conflict of interest and non-profit laws and a member of the firm's Management Committee. He also plays a very important role as one of the firm's top government law strategists.

He has been on the Faculty for 38 years and a Co-Chair for 35 years of this PLI seminar.

His Chambers USA ranking is top tier in political law nationwide

Professional Experience

Mr. Nielsen has been actively involved in California state politics and government for over four and one half decades, having been a campaign manager and a political law advisor to numerous politicians and government leaders as well as having served in senior government positions himself, such as Chief Administrative Officer for the California Assembly, Assistant Deputy State Controller and Chief of Staff to the Lieutenant Governor.

Publications and Boards

He is widely published in the area of political law and has been or is a member of the Board of Directors of the California Journal, the Bay Area Council, the North Bay Leadership Council, the American Bar Association Committee on Election Law, the University of California at Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies National Advisory Board, the American Association of Political Consultants, and the Citizens Research Foundation.  He was on the President’s Panel on Federal Judges, Central District of California, in the 2000s.


University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law

Coro Fellow, Los Angeles

Yale University, cum laude

Jan, named by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Campaigns & Elections Lawyer” and one of the “Top 50 Lawyers” in Washington, DC, advises clients on all aspects of political law including federal, state, and local campaign finance laws, government ethics requirements, and lobbying laws. He has argued cases before the Supreme Court of the United States and often provides legal commentary to the media. Jan served as a legal analyst for ABC News during the 2000 Florida recount. He is the author of the book, The Election Law Primer for Corporations, published by the American Bar Association (ABA) and he co-chairs the Practising Law Institute’s annual Corporate Political Activities conference. Chambers USA consistently recognizes Jan among the nation’s top tier of distinguished practitioners in the field, commending his “deep, substantive knowledge of all aspects of political law” (2014) and noting that his “measured advice is highly sought after by political clients and the business community” (2009). He is described by his peers as “exceptional” and “both counselor and teacher to his clients” (2013). Clients in turn describe him as “an innovative, thorough and passionate attorney” (2012). He has been called “one of the top figures in the political law sphere” (2011), “the dean of campaign finance” and “one of the best election lawyers in the U.S. with the most comprehensive knowledge of the law at both state and federal level” (2006).

Representative Experience

  • Cases before Supreme Court of the United States: Citizens United v. FEC; McConnell v. FEC; FEC v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (II); Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee v. FEC (I); FEC v. DSCC; Common Cause v. Schmitt.
  • Advises corporations, trade associations, candidates, officeholders, political action committees (PACs), and individuals on compliance with the laws regulating political activity, lobbying, fundraising, and contributions.
  • Represents clients before the courts, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), congressional ethics committees, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), and state agencies.

Professional Experience

  • Special Counsel, Office of the Attorney General, 2005 Statewide Virginia Election Recount
  • Member, Virginia Governor's Commission on Government Finance Reform (2001)
  • General Counsel, Republican National Committee (1989-1992) and Bush for President Campaign (1988)
  • Ambassador and Chairman, U.S. Delegation, World Administrative Radio Conference, Spain (1991-1992)
  • Member, President's Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform (1989)
  • Executive Assistant, Federal Election Commission (1977-1979)


  • American Bar Association (ABA)
    • ABA Joint Commission to Evaluate the Model Code of Judicial Conduct (2003-2007)
    • Chair, Task Force on International Election Standards, Section of International Law (2006)
    • Special Advisor, Standing Committee on Judicial Independence (2002-2005)
    • Commission on Public Financing of Judicial Campaigns (2000-2002)
    • Chair, Standing Committee on Election Law (1990-1993)
  • National Advisory Board, University of Virginia, Journal of Law & Politics


  • Named one of "Washington's Best Lawyers" (2011, 2013), one of "Washington's Top Lawyers" (2004, 2007, 2009), and one of the "Top 50 Lawyers" in Washington, DC (1997) by Washingtonian magazine
  • Listed by Chambers USA as one of "America's Leading Lawyers for Business" in Political Law (2006-2015)
  • Named one of DC's "Super Lawyers" for Political Law (2007-2010, 2013) and Legislative & Governmental Affairs (2014-2015) by Super Lawyers magazine
  • Named by Lawdragon as one of "3000 Leading Lawyers in America" (2007, 2010-2011)
  • Recognized by the George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) and the National Association of Business Political Action Committees (NABPAC) with the establishment of the Jan Baran PAC Management Scholarship in 2007. The annual scholarship is awarded to a student in The George Washington University's PAC certificate program
  • AV Peer Review Rating, Martindale-Hubbell's highest ranking by peers for general ethical standards and legal ability

Practice Areas

Election Law & Government Ethics


J.D., Vanderbilt Law School; Patrick Wilson Scholar of Law
B.A., Ohio Wesleyan University

Bar and Court Admissions

District of Columbia Bar
Supreme Court of the United States
U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fifth, Tenth, and District of Columbia Circuits