Chip Nielsen is a founder and former senior partner of the firm, and now serves as Of Counsel to Nielsen Merksamer. With 45+ years of experience as a senior political law lawyer specializing in campaign finance, initiative, lobbying, conflict of interest and non-profit laws, he has played a very important role as one of the firm’s top government law strategists and has been actively involved in California state politics and government for over four decades. He has been referred to as the “dean of the California campaign finance Bar.”
Of the nearly 400 California statewide and local ballot measures represented by this firm, Chip has been General Counsel to over 60 statewide and 25 local measures; he has also been the author of a half dozen statewide initiatives. The list of the firm’s ballot measure representations found elsewhere on this site shows the breadth and importance of these initiatives and referenda.
Chip has incorporated and represented over 40 non-profit charities, social welfare organizations and trade associations.
Chip has served on numerous boards of directors and advisory commissions, including the President’s Panel on Selection of Federal Judges for the Northern District of California.
He has managed two statewide candidate campaigns and has been pro-bono legal counsel to George Moscone for San Francisco Mayor, Art Agnos for San Francisco Mayor, Pete Wilson for Governor of California (1990 and 1994), and Pete Wilson for U.S. Senate (1982 and 1988).
For 40 years, Chip was the co-chair of the Practicing Law Institute’s annual 2-day program on Corporate Political Activities: Complying with Campaign Finance, Lobbying and Ethics Laws.
Before becoming an attorney, Chip was an administrative assistant to California Assemblymember Hugh Flournoy, Assistant Deputy State Controller serving under Controller Flournoy, Chief Administrative Officer of the California Assembly, and then Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Ed Reinecke.
Mr. Nielsen holds Martindale-Hubbell’s highest (AV) rating, and his Chambers USA ranking is top-tier in political law nationwide.
- Author, “Campaign Finance Law” and “Political Tax Considerations” chapters in the annual PLI “Corporate Political Activities: Complying with Campaign Finance, Lobbying and Ethics Laws” handbook.
- Co-Author, “State Campaign Finance Laws” and “State Lobby and Gift Laws” chapters in the annual PLI “Corporate Political Activities: Complying with Campaign Finance, Lobbying and Ethics Laws” handbook.
- Author, Campaign Law Reporter Reference Manual
- Author, “Reform at the Crossroads,” California Journal
- Author, “Proposition 9,” California Bar Journal
- Author, “Practical Guide to State and Federal Campaign Disclosure Laws,” California Journal