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Basics of the Federal Election Campaign Act 2014

Speaker(s): Chip Nielsen, Jan Witold Baran, Kenneth A. Gross
Recorded on: Sep. 4, 2014
PLI Program #: 60477

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

Kenneth A. Gross leads Skadden's Political Law practice and advises clients on matters relating to the regulation of political activity. A nationally renowned authority on campaign law compliance, gift and gratuity rules, lobby registration provisions, and securities laws regulating political activity and municipal securities transactions, Mr. Gross counsels numerous Fortune 500 corporations and political candidates at the state and federal level. As former associate general counsel of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Mr. Gross headed the general counsel's Enforcement Division and supervised the legal staff charged with the review of the FEC's Audit Division.

Presently, his clients include commercial and investment banks, insurance companies, energy companies, pharmaceuticals, accounting firms, media companies and trade associations. He advises elected officials as well as candidates facing various federal and state races. Mr. Gross also counsels senior-level political appointees facing Senate confirmation in matters related to compliance with government ethics laws.

Mr. Gross is well-known for his experience regarding the Ethics in Government Act, the Lobbying Disclosure Act, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, and the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate ethics rules. Additionally, he advises corporations on internal ethics guidelines and conducts internal investigations. Mr. Gross advises many corporations on their responses to shareholder proposals regarding disclosure of political and lobbying expenditures.

Beginning with the underwriting scandals on political contributions in the late 1980s and 1990s that led to MSRB Rules G-37/G-38 regulating the activities of broker-dealers, Mr. Gross has been at the forefront in advising clients on compliance with pay-to-play rules. Such rules have broadened over the years to restrict activity by investment advisers (SEC Rule 206(4)-5) as well as swap dealers and major swap participants (CFTC Rule 23.451).

Mr. Gross is widely known as a speaker on ethics in government and election law. A frequent featured guest on CNN, Fox News, NPR Radio and other media outlets, Mr. Gross was CNN's on-air election law analyst during the 2000 Florida election dispute and made daily appearances in covering the election. He advised NBC's television show "The West Wing" on election law issues that arose in the show's scripts.

Mr. Gross repeatedly has been selected for inclusion in Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business and The Best Lawyers in America.


  • J.D., Emory University School of Law, 1975
  • B.A., University of Bridgeport, 1972 (cum laude)

Government Service

Associate General Counsel, Federal Election Commission (1980-1986)

Member, Federal Judicial Screening Committee for New York (1996-2000)

Professional Experience

Faculty Member, George Washington University (1993-1998; 2008-2009)

Faculty Member, New York University (2003-2006)

Bar Admissions

District of Columbia
Georgia (inactive)
New York


"Corporate Political Activities Deskbook," Practising Law Institute, 2012

"Corporate Political Activities: Complying With Campaign Finance, Lobbying & Ethics Laws" (select chapters), Practising Law Institute, 1992-2014

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