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2014 COGEL Summary

Nielsen Merksamer Leadership Prompts Record High for Ethics Conference

A record number of federal, state and local regulators came together recently in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the 36th annual conference of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (“COGEL”). At the forefront of this highly-successful North American conference was Nielsen Merksamer’s Darrin Lim who served as the co-chair with Nola Western of Elections British Columbia.


COGEL brought together over 300 regulators and stakeholders from primarily the U.S. and Canada in the areas of campaign finance, open government, governmental ethics, elections and lobbying.

The topic of governmental ethics was front and center with four plenary speakers offering four powerful perspectives. Pittsburgh’s popular Mayor Bill Peduto, who rose to the Mayor’s office on a platform of ethics reform, presented his views on transforming the city. Veteran political reporter, Dave Davies of NPR’s Fresh Air shared behind-the-scenes stories on government corruption and scandal. Compliance expert, Paul Liebman of the University of Texas at Austin motivated attendees to tune out external pressures and make good ethical decisions. Jeff Smith broke down his personal story of success, loss and redemption as a former rising star in politics and candidly discussed the ethical missteps that landed him behind bars.

Popular Campaign Finance Update Released

During the conference, Nielsen Merksamer presented the findings of its COGEL Blue Book: Campaign Finance Update, which is an annual compendium of campaign finance changes. Chris Skinnell and Darrin Lim delivered two sessions on litigation and regulatory developments. An executive summary of the 2014 update is available here: Summary.

Nielsen Merksamer’s Jason Kaune and Darrin Lim have developed this annual update for over a decade. Michael Kelly was instrumental with the 2014 compendium.

Viral Lobbying and House of Cards

This year’s COGEL conference featured over 35 breakout sessions, the full conference calendar is available here: Calendar.

Nielsen Merksamer’s Jennie Skelton presented on two topics. She moderated a session on “viral lobbying” with regulators from Alaska and Colorado. She also presented on a panel concerning communications during an investigation.

Nielsen Merksamer’s Erin Lama wrapped up the conference with a popular session entitled, “If You Faced a House of Cards, What Would You Do?” This interactive session challenged regulators to think outside of the box and lean on core values to tackle ethical dilemmas.