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Nielsen Merksamer Announces Four Promotions; New Partners Position Law Firm for Continued Success

Sacramento, California – Nielsen Merksamer, a law firm specializing in political and government law, litigation, and advocacy, today announced the promotions of Joel Aurora, David Lazarus, Michelle Rubalcava, and Evann Whitelam to partner.

All four of Nielsen Merksamer’s new partners are high-performing team members who bring a wealth of expertise and strategic guidance to the firm’s clients. As it moves into the new year with the addition of new partners, Nielsen Merksamer is well-positioned to continue its trajectory as the top political and governmental law firm in the nation.

Joel Aurora works out of the firm’s Bay Area office and is promoted to partner. In his new role, he will continue to advise corporations, non-profits, trade associations, and political committees on campaign finance, lobby disclosure, government ethics, and election laws across federal, state, and local jurisdictions. Joel serves as treasurer and counsel in ballot measure, referenda, and independent expenditure campaigns. As counsel to nonprofit organizations involved in the political process, Joel has become a technical expert in the related corporate, tax, and disclosure laws and a valued strategic advisor on the evolving standards and regulatory oversight in these areas. He joined the firm with a background as in-house counsel to a major interactive media company, as a field representative for a California State Assemblymember, and as a judicial extern for the U.S. District Court in Northern California and the California Supreme Court.

“Joel has been instrumental to deepening and expanding our national political compliance services and plays a key role in our state initiative practice, drawing on the firm’s five decades of experience as a leader in these areas” said Jason Kaune, head of the firm’s political law section. “His professionalism, knowledge, and creativity have earned the trust of our clients across industries and sectors.”

David Lazarus works out of the firm’s Bay Area office and is promoted to partner. David has extensive experience litigating a variety of campaign finance, governmental ethics, and voting rights issues, as well as guiding clients through all aspects of the ballot measure process. David provides counsel on gift, lobby, campaign finance, and conflict of interest issues, including matters before the Federal Election Commission, Office of Congressional Ethics, and various state and local agencies. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School, after which he clerked for Ninth Circuit Judge Michael Hawkins. Prior to law school, David served on President Obama’s Presidential Transition Team and then as Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and as a Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Richard Durbin.

“David’s promotion is a recognition of his experience, skill set, and important contributions to our firm’s cross-disciplinary practice,” said Sean Welch, head of the firm’s litigation section. “His creative and thoughtful approach to complex issues adds tremendous value for our clients.”

Michelle Rubalcava works out of the firm’s Sacramento office and is promoted to partner. In her previous role with the firm, she tracked legislative and regulatory matters and actively lobbied the California State Legislature and administrative agencies for clients including local governments, nonprofits, and private corporations. Before joining Nielsen Merksamer, Michelle was employed as a legislative advocate for the County of Los Angeles and has over twenty-five years of experience in and around state politics and as a health care attorney and legislative advocate. She has worked for distinguished legislators, including Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny and Senator Bryon D. Sher, and worked as a healthcare attorney for the California Medical Association during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“The promotion of Michelle to partner is extremely well deserved,” said John Moffatt, head of the firm’s governmental law section. “Michelle’s expertise and experience with complex legislative and regulatory matters, especially concerning local government issues, is a value-add to our clients—ensuring that they receive thoughtful and strategic guidance to navigate California’s complex regulatory and political environment.”

Evann Whitelam works out of the firm’s Bay Area office and is promoted to partner. Evann will continue to advise corporations, non-profits, trade associations and political committees on political law compliance nationally and in California. Evann has been instrumental in developing and administering comprehensive, multi-jurisdictional political compliance systems for clients, always aware of the context and strategic implications of compliance on political activity. She has written and advised in particular about corporate social responsibility, accountability, and disclosure, and related environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards. She brings a holistic perspective to exceedingly complex and ever-changing pay-to-play laws at every level of government. Before joining Nielsen Merksamer, Evann had extensive experience working with federal agencies on regulatory compliance and intellectual property matters on behalf of medical and retail companies.

“Evann has been on the front lines of political compliance for our clients, ranging from highly regulated energy and consumer product companies to telecommunication giants to innovative start-ups,” said Jason Kaune, head of the firm’s political law section.  “Evann, a consummate professional, has developed a deep expertise in pay-to-play laws impacting the financial industry and government contractors and has advised the regulated community on novel issues of corporate social responsibility.”

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