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Advanced Topics in Ethics and Compliance 2021: State and Local Government Contracts

Speaker(s): Amina A Mack, David A. Kass, Elli Abdoli, Jason D. Kaune, Stephen R. Irwin, Steven I. Berlin
Recorded on: May. 6, 2021
PLI Program #: 325570

Amina A. Mack is a legal compliance professional at Verizon with 10 years of in-house experience in government contracts and compliance.  Her current practice area covers political law (e.g. government ethics, lobbying and campaign finance), and anti-corruption company-wide.  This role requires Amina to partner with cross functional internal stakeholders to monitor and validate controls to ensure compliance with current business policies and domestic and international regulations.  She also routinely drafts compliance communications, designs and delivers training, assists with contract negotiations and responses to solicitation requirements, leads third-party due diligence reviews, and develops and implements risk mitigation initiatives.  Prior to joining Verizon Compliance, Amina supported Verizon’s wireless state and local Public Sector business.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Amina received her J.D. from North Carolina Central University School of Law and a B.A. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She is a licensed attorney in North Carolina.  She is a member of Verizon’s BOLD, Prism and ADVANCE employee resource groups.      

Elli Abdoli is a partner with the firm’s political law section. She advises Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, trade associations and other organizations on complying with federal, state and local lobby, campaign finance and ethics laws, including developing and implementing comprehensive nationwide compliance systems.

Ms. Abdoli specializes in “pay-to-play” laws, including SEC Rule 206(4)-5, MSRB Rule G-37, and state and local laws impacting the political activity of current and prospective government contractors. She has developed compliance processes and policies to assist companies in complying with these complex laws and regulations, including a mobile application to assist executives and employees with their reporting obligations.

Ms. Abdoli also advises corporations, nonprofit organizations, committees, and individuals on federal, state and local campaign finance and election law issues, including the initiative and referendum process. She is counsel and treasurer for a number of political action committees and ballot measure committees.

In 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, Ms. Abdoli was selected for inclusion in Northern California Super Lawyers – Rising Stars, which recognizes no more than the top 2.5 percent of lawyers. The Rising Star category recognizes attorneys who are age 40 or less, or in the practice of law 10 years or less.

Jason Kaune leads Nielsen Merksamer’s political law section and has served as faculty for the Corporate Political Activities conference since 2003. He specializes in government ethics, election, lobbying disclosure, conflict of interest, gift and gratuity, and campaign finance laws of federal, state and local governments.

Mr. Kaune advises corporations, advocacy groups, individuals, non-profit organizations and governments on the increasingly complex regulation of the political intersection of the public and private sectors in the United States. For nearly twenty years, he has pioneered the firm’s national compliance practice, building client-oriented resources and systems with his political law colleagues that have served as benchmarks in the regulated community. His clients include the nation’s largest technology, pharmaceutical, energy, telecommunications, media, publishing, investment and consumer product companies.

He is one of the leading political attorneys in California, advising individuals, entities and government agencies on election law and conflict of interest matters. He serves as counsel and treasurer for political action committees, advocacy groups, social welfare organizations, independent expenditure committees and ballot measures on topics ranging from land use restrictions to government reform.

Mr. Kaune represents and advises clients in regard to their dealings with state and local government ethics agencies across the country, with local counsel as necessary. His expertise includes “pay to play” restrictions on government contractors and the financial industry, the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), California’s Political Reform Act (PRA), and similar laws at every level of government.

He’s currently an appointed member of the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Election Law.  He is a past president of the California Political Attorneys Association and member of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) and other professional associations. He also serves as an elected trustee of the Orinda Unified School District, a public school district in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining Nielsen Merksamer, Mr. Kaune worked in the private and non-profit sectors, on a presidential campaign, and for a U.S. Federal District Court Judge.  He is an honors graduate of Yale College and the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law and earned a master in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Steve Irwin is Senior Corporate Counsel at Cisco Systems, Inc., joining them in 2012 and working out of their Research Triangle Park (RTP) offices.  He has supported public sector sales for the last four years, after five years on the private sector side.  In addition to his “day job”, he mentors new attorneys at Cisco, serves on multiple improvement initiatives with the legal department, and represents the legal team as the local liaison to Cisco’s facilities management team. One of his proudest recent achievements is successfully lobbying facilities to build out more conference rooms dedicated solely to the RTP legal team – right before COVID and the closure of Cisco’s US offices. He hopes to see those conference rooms someday.

Prior to Cisco, he worked for Lenovo at their U.S. headquarters, wearing many professional hats, often in the same day – outbound sales agreements, inbound licensing and procurement contracts, supporting engineering and services business units, and managing various litigation ranging from small commercial claims to IP claims in the Eastern District of Texas. Before his time at Lenovo, he worked for a small firm in Durham, NC in both civil and criminal litigation. 

He received his J.D., summa cum laude, from North Central University School of Law in 2005. He pursued law as a second career after having worked in the dismal science of economics.  He previously worked for MCI WorldCom and the Florida Department of Citrus as a statistician and econometrician, building predictive data models.  He holds B.S. (1990) and M.S. (1994) degrees in economics from the University of Florida and is a die-hard Gators fan.

David is Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Verizon.  David is responsible for managing Verizon’s compliance program worldwide, and his team handles compliance investigations, compliance training and communications, and subject areas including anticorruption, political compliance, trade compliance, and high-risk regulatory issues.

David received his B.A. and J.D. from Duke University, where he was a member of the Duke Law Review and the Order of the Coif.  After graduating from law school, he worked as an associate in the Washington D.C. office of Latham & Watkins.  Before coming to Verizon, David led oversight and investigations for three committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Steve Berlin was appointed as the Executive Director of the Board of Ethics by then-Mayor Rich Daley and confirmed by the City Council for this position in December 2008.  Before that appointment, he served as the Board’s Acting Executive Director, from October 2006, and began his City career in September 1993 as the Board’s Deputy Director. In his years with the City, he has implemented major changes to the City’s ethics and campaign financing laws, under both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and has advised tens of thousands of City employees, officials, lobbyists and contractors on complying with the letter and spirit of the City’s ethics laws.

Steve is the Immediate Past President of COGEL (the Council on Government Ethics Laws, an international organization with more than 500 members, most of which are ethics, campaign financing, lobbying, election administration, and FOIA regulating agencies and personnel throughout the U.S. and Canada at the federal, state/provincial, and municipal levels).  He testifies and appears regularly at conferences and panels as an expert on ethics in government. In June 2012, he served as a State Department Legislative Fellow in the Republic of Georgia, advising officials there on establishing and maintaining government ethics institutions, and also served as an adviser to former Lt. Governor Sheila Simon's committee to rewrite the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act. He is a member of the Chicago Bar Association's Government Lawyer Committee, and an adjunct member of the American Law Institute's Principles of Government Ethics project.

He received his J.D. in 1984 from Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law, and received his B.A. in history, cum laude, from Amherst College in 1980.  In 1991, he earned an M.A. in Ethics from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School.  He began his legal career with Altheimer & Gray in 1984, then worked for Rudnick & Wolfe (now DLA Piper), both in Chicago. He also worked as Research Attorney for the American Judicature Society and was a Fellow with the Park Ridge Center for Health, Faith and Ethics. From 1991-2013, he taught Business Ethics and the Arts as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia College Chicago.  He is the proud father of two daughters, and is both a Cubs and White Sox fan, living proof that this is indeed possible.