Richard Painter

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Richard Painter
Richard Painter Headshot.jpg
Democratic candidate for
US Senate
Personal details
Born Richard William Painter
(1961-10-03) October 3, 1961 (age 56)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
Political party Democratic
Other political
Republican (before 2016)
Spouse(s) Karen Painter
Children 3
Residence Mendota Heights, Minnesota, US
Education Harvard University (BA)
Yale University (JD)
Profession Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Minnesota
White House Chief Ethics Counsel (2005-07)

Richard William Painter[1] (born October 3, 1961) is an American lawyer, professor, and political candidate. Often seen as a commentator on MSNBC and CNN, Painter has been an outspoken critic of unethical behavior in Washington, DC. He is the S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Minnesota, and since 2016 has served as vice-chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government watchdog group.[2]

From 2005 to 2007 Painter was the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration. He is an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump.[3][4] Throughout 2017, he was involved in the CREW lawsuit against Trump, CREW v. Trump.

A longtime Republican, in 2018 Painter launched a campaign as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota, challenging recently appointed Senator Tina Smith in the DFL primary.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Painter was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1961. He was raised outside Philadelphia, in Kansas City, Kansas, and in Champaign, Illinois. He graduated from St. George's School, Newport, Rhode Island.[5]

Painter received his B.A. in history summa cum laude from Harvard University and his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Journal on Regulation.[6][7][8] While at Harvard, Painter became politically active, speaking out against President Reagan's decision to send aid to the right-wing government in El Salvador and founding the Harvard Radcliffe Democratic Club newspaper Perspective.[9] In 1982, he made his first appearance on national television during an episode of "Firing Line" with Reagan in which he called out Reagan's "reckless deficit spending and cuts to social programs".[10] During the 1984 presidential election, Painter was chairperson of Harvard Students for Walter Mondale.


Painter served as law clerk to Judge John T. Noonan Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He then worked at the law firms of Sullivan & Cromwell in New York and Finn Dixon & Herling in Stamford, Connecticut.[7]

Painter was the Guy Raymond and Mildred Van Voorhis Jones Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law from 2002 to 2005 and the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration from 2005 to 2007.[6][11][12] Upon leaving the White House, he returned to teaching, at the University of Minnesota Law School.[13]

In December 2016, Painter replaced David Brock as vice-chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).[14][15] He has been a member of the American Law Institute since 2014.[8] As of May 2017, he is the S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.[12][14]

In March 2016, Painter wrote in The New York Times that if President George W. Bush had had the opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice during his last two years in office, with a Democratic-majority Senate, Bush would have chosen Judge Merrick Garland (who was ultimately nominated by President Obama on March 16, 2016) as a consensus nominee.[16] William K. Kelley, who was deputy counsel to President Bush from 2005 to 2007, disagreed that Bush might have nominated Garland under such circumstances.[17]

Emolument Clause lawsuit against Donald Trump[edit]

In January 2017, CREW filed suit against President Donald Trump for failing to sell off certain assets and place others in a blind trust.[18] Painter, vice-chairman of CREW, stated, "If Obama had tried that, we would have impeached him in two weeks."[18] CREW alleges that certain foreign payments that Trump receives are in violation of the U.S. Constitution's emoluments clause.[19] The case was dismissed by the district court, which found that the plaintiffs lacked standing;[20][21] CREW's appeal is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.[22]

2018 Senate campaign[edit]

Painter was a longtime Republican, saying in 2017: "I've been a Republican for 30 years. There's no way that I would want to see the Republican Party stand up for covering up for Russian espionage and whoever in the United States has been helping the Russians. It's going to be a disaster for the Republicans. It's going to be a disaster for our country."[23] In criticizing Trump and his administration, Painter said "We are well past the point where we were in 1973 (Watergate) with respect to clear evidence of abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and other illegal activities."[24]

In March 2018, he announced that he was forming an exploratory committee to run for U.S. Senate in Minnesota, saying he was unsure whether he would seek office as a Republican, Democrat, or independent. In April 2018, Painter announced that he would run as a Democratic (Minnesota DFL) candidate for the U.S. Senate in the primary against Tina Smith.[4]

Political positions[edit]

Painter describes himself as a centrist,[4] and has criticized the Republican Party's move to the right since 1980.[24] He has said he will not accept the support of political action committees, super PACs, or "dark money" organizations.[4] He supports major investments in transportation and other infrastructure projects, and is critical of stadium subsidies.[24] Painter has also declared his opposition to the Trump tariffs, in particular those on steel and aluminum.[25]

Painter favors allowing states to decide issues related to marijuana, and ending the federal ban on marijuana. On gun politics, he is critical of the NRA, calling it a "protection racket" and favoring "a license-and-registration system similar to what we have for cars."[24][26]

Personal life[edit]

Painter's wife, Karen Painter, is a professor of music history at the University of Minnesota. They have three children, and have lived in Minnesota since 2007.[5][27]

In July 2015, Painter was diagnosed with shingles and Ramsay Hunt syndrome, leaving his face partially paralyzed.[28]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Getting the Government America Deserves: How Ethics Reform Can Make a Difference (Oxford University Press 2009)
  • Professional and Personal Responsibilities of the Lawyer (with Judge John T. Noonan Jr.; Foundation 1997; Second Edition, 2001; Third Edition 2011)
  • Securities Litigation and Enforcement (with Margaret Sachs and Donna Nagy; West 2003; Second Edition, 2007; Third Edition 2011).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lawyer Richard Painter - Minneapolis, MN Attorney - Avvo". Retrieved May 26, 2018. 
  2. ^ Debenedetti, Gabriel (January 21, 2017). "Brock groups set $40 million budget to fight Trump". Politico. Retrieved 17 July 2018. 
  3. ^ a b Elaine Godfrey (March 7, 2018). "The Radicalization of Richard Painter: The former White House ethics lawyer is considering turning his anti-Trump crusade into a Senate campaign". Retrieved March 8, 2018. 
  4. ^ a b c d Paul Walsh, Former George W. Bush ethics lawyer ditches GOP, to seek U.S. Senate in Minn. as Democrat, Star Tribune (April 29, 2018).
  5. ^ a b "Expert Witness and Well-known Corporate Law Professor Richard W. Painter Discusses Internal Investigation of GM". Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b "Contributors: Prof. Richard W. Painter". Federalist Society. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  7. ^ a b "Richard Painter: Former Bush White House Chief Ethics lawyer". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  8. ^ a b Richard W. Painter: S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota Law School (last accessed November 7, 2018).
  9. ^ "Proposed Dowling Review Questioned | News | The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 2018-06-04. 
  10. ^ Buckley Jr., William (January 7, 1982). "Firing Line" (PDF). 
  11. ^ "Richard W. Painter". University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  12. ^ a b Painter, Richard W. (March 2, 2017), "Jeff Sessions Needs to Go", The New York Times, retrieved March 2, 2017 
  13. ^ Baker, Peter. "Besieged White House Reinforces Counsel's Office", Washington Post (June 9, 2007). See correction at top of the article.
  14. ^ a b "Richard W Painter". The Guardian. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Norman Eisen and Richard Painter to Lead CREW Board". Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. December 7, 2016. 
  16. ^ Painter, Richard W. Bush Would Have Nominated Garland, New York Times (March 23, 2016).
  17. ^ Whelan, Edward. Re: Baseless Claim that President Bush Would/Might Have Nominated Garland, National Review (March 23, 2016).
  18. ^ a b Spencer, Jim (January 31, 2017). "U law prof Richard Painter sues Trump over ethics". Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  19. ^ Rosenmann, Alexandra (January 23, 2017). "Republican Ethics Lawyer Suing Trump for Violation of Constitution: 'We Are Fed Up!'". Alternet. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  20. ^ Farenthold, David; O'Connell, Jonathan (December 21, 2017). "Judge dismisses lawsuit alleging Trump violated Constitution". Washington Post. 
  21. ^ Kroll, Andy. Judge Tosses Out Lawsuit Targeting Trump’s Foreign Business Dealings: But the constitutional battle over the emoluments clause is far from over., Mother Jones (December 21, 2017).
  22. ^ CREW v. Donald J. Trump, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
  23. ^ "Transcript". CNN. May 17, 2017. 
  24. ^ a b c d David M. Perry, 'I've Been a Pain in the Rear for the Republican Party': A Conversation With Richard Painter, Pacific Standard (May 17, 2018).
  25. ^ "Economy - Richard Painter for US Senate". Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  26. ^ Painter, Richard W. (2012-12-19). "Opinion | The N.R.A. Protection Racket". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-06-04. 
  27. ^ Spencer, Jim (January 31, 2017). "U law prof Richard Painter sues Trump over ethics". Star Tribune. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Richard W. Painter on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-06-04.