Richard W. Painter, former ethics lawyer for Pres. George W. Bush announced he’s exploring an independent bid for the US Senate seat in Minnesota.
Painter went live with his Senate exploratory committee website ‘Painter Minnesota’ Wednesday afternoon. Al Franken resigned the seat in January and it’s currently held by Democratic Sen. Tina Smith.
The lifelong Republican has been an at once boisterous and articulate critic of Pres. Trump, his administration and alleged cooperation with Russia and the investigation into Russian interference with the U.S. election.
Painter is a familiar face for cable TV news viewers. With an at once stoic but animated demeanor and commanding voice and manner, Painter is relentlessly honest and frank.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Initially Teased in an Early Morning Tweet, Painter Announced He’s Exploring an Independent Run For the US Senate Seat in Minnesota
Quickly the question of the day was asked by followers: Would he be running as a Republican?
A poster claiming to be a friend who discussed the matter with Painter said he would not run as a Republican.
A spokesperson at the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office told Heavy they don’t know voter party affiliation and suggested contacting the Republican and Democratic state party offices.
But what was clear by mid-afternoon was Painter was launching an exploratory committee to feel out an independent run at Smith who took Franken’s seat in January following his resignation. Voters in Minnesota will decide who fills the rest of the term come November. Painter has been on record for the past year saying the Republican party now is not something he wants to be a part of.
2. Painter Called Out What He Saw as Hypocrisy When Franken Stepped Down
A vocal Franken supporter of sorts, Painter’s position was, as said by Congressional candidate Mike Sax from New York’s 2nd District, a demand for political fairness and consistency: “Some seem to think that if Democrats show themselves to truly be pure this will force the GOP to do the same. These are not people familiar with the modern Republican party. Listen to Richard Painter …a long time Republican.”
Franken, the comedian and writer, ran for Congress in 2008 and won. He was re-elected in 2014 but resigned earlier this year following allegations of sexual misconduct.
3. A Lifelong Republican, Painter Was the Chief Ethics Lawyer For Pres. George W. Bush
Painter, a 56-year-old married father of 3, was born in Pennsylvania, raised in Kansas and Illinois, attended a tony Newport Rhode Island prep school, received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Harvard University and his J.D. from Yale, where he was an editor of the Yale Journal on Regulation. According to his University of Minnesota bio, after law school Painter clerked for Judge John T. Noonan Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and after that clerkship, worked at high profile law firms in New York City and Connecticut. Painter was a tenured member of the law faculty at the University of Oregon School of Law and the University of Illinois College of Law with a slew of accolades and awards as an academic.
From early 2005 until the summer of 2007, Painter served as associate counsel to President George W. Bush and was chief ethics lawyer for the president, White House employees, and senior nominees to Senate-confirmed positions in the executive branch.
Painter’s curriculum vitae is full: a member of the American Law Institute; reporter for the new ALI Principles of Government Ethics; active in the Professional Responsibility Section of the American Bar Association; board member and vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; and a founding board member of campaign finance reform group ‘Take Back our Republic.’ Painter is active in securities fraud and corporate ethics reform efforts “aimed at deterring securities fraud and improving ethics of corporate managers and lawyers. Painter has testified before Congressional committees on government ethics, securities litigation, and/or the role of attorneys in corporate governance and given expert testimony in cases involving securities transactions and the professional responsibility of lawyers.
An author and essayist, Painter has written and co-authored books on ethics reform, and writes opinion pieces for the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.
4. Painter Was Part of the ‘CREW’ That Sued Trump For Violating the Emoluments Clause
Painter serves as vice chair of the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The group sued Trump for being in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause because he has refused to sell assets and/or put them in blind trusts. Painter said during a CNN interview that there was plenty of standing for a case against Trump: “”There are millions of Americans like myself who are sick and tired of big government and the concentration of wealth among the very few people who want to control our government. This is about the president who has an enormous amount of wealth overseas, who promised to release his tax returns… over and over again… and furthermore he is in violation of the Constitution if he is receiving payments from overseas, from foreign governments or from corporations controlled by foreign governments.”
The case was dismissed in late December of 2017 by a New York Southern District judge who said CREW didn’t have the standing to even bring the case.
5. Painter, a Prolific Pundit Who Appears Frequently on News Shows From Fox to NPR, Opines Regularly About The Lack of Ethics in the Trump Administration
Name the news program and Painter has been a guest including MSNBC, FOX News, CNN, C-Span, and National Public Radio. And when Painter is on a panel to discuss the political news of the day, he does not hold back.
In one case, Painter, who speaks frankly, sometimes colorfully and often colloquially said ‘calls to purge the Department of Justice and the FBI were “nuts.”
In an op-ed piece he co-authored with Norman Eisen for the Washington Post, he wrote “Trump’s propensity for dishonesty” must be confronted pointing to a PoliticFact report that found 15% of Trump’s statement are mostly true or true. “No ethics program can work if the client is not honest,” he wrote referring to the
And again with Eisen, a piece in the New York Times, questioned whether Trump was a criminal after the President’s firing of James Comey, former FBI chief.
“After the revelations of the past 24 hours, it appears that President Trump’s conduct in and around the firing of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, may have crossed the line into criminality. The combination of what is known and what is credibly alleged would, if fully substantiated, constitute obstruction of justice. It is time for Congress and a special counsel in the executive branch to conduct objective, bipartisan inquiries into these allegations, together with the underlying matters involving Michael Flynn and Russia that gave rise to them.”
Despite being a decades-long Republican, Painter is, for many of his followers, one of the faces of the Resistance movement to the Trump administration and cries foul when he sees fit.
Painter told MSNBC the ethics of the current president leave much to be desired.
“Of course there is the broader ethical issue, that he’s been married three times and has apparently cheated on all three of his wives …and he takes his oath of office to uphold the constitution about as seriously as he has taken his marriage vows.”