Richard W. Painter is a former White House chief ethics counsel running for U.S. Senate in Minnesota. He will be seeking the Minnesota DFL nomination in the August primary.
Richard is currently the S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities* and also served as vice-chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington* (on leave). Richard and his wife Karen live with their three children and their dog in Mendota Heights.
*Titles and affiliations are for identification purposes only
How We Got Here: Richard's Journey
1980 -- Founded the Harvard Radcliffe Democratic Club Newspaper Perspective, while attending Harvard University
1981 -- Spoke out against President Reagan’s aid to the oppressive right-wing government in El Salvador (Link)
1982 -- Appeared on “Firing Line” calling out Reagan’s reckless deficit spending and cuts to social programs. (Link)
1983-84 -- Acted as chairperson for “Harvard Students for Walter Mondale” during Vice President Mondale’s Presidential Campaign.
1990s -- Wrote over a dozen articles on corporate ethics and lawyers' role in corporate fraud, including his first major article “The Moral Responsibility of Lawyers for Corporate Fraud” in the Southern California Law Review (1994)
1998 -- Taught lawyers' ethics and corporate law at the University of Illinois College of Law. While living in Illinois, he criticized the massive corruption in both political parties, including a corrupt Republican governor who later went to prison, efforts by an honest Republican senator to stand up to party corruption only to be pushed out in the primary, and corruption in a state legislature under the thumb of one of the most powerful party bosses in Illinois history, Democrat Mike Madigan, who like many party bosses was and still is nicknamed "The Velvet Hammer."
1998 -- Began writing the American Bar Association (ABA) to demand that ethics rules require lawyers to report known corporate fraud up the ladder to company boards of directors.
2002 -- Organized law professors and lawyers to petition the SEC and then Congress to require lawyers to report known corporate fraud up the ladder to company boards of directors; he worked with the staff of Senator John Edwards (D -- NC) to insert this requirement in Section 307 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
2005-07 -- Took a leave of absence from teaching at the University of Illinois College of Law to serve as Associate Counsel to the President and chief White House ethics lawyer. The White House ethics lawyer's job is not a policy or political job. The fact that Mr. Painter often disagreed with the policy preferences of the contemporary Republican Party was irrelevant. His consistent theme for decades has been that ethics is not political.
2007 -- Begins teaching corporate law and legal ethics at the University of Minnesota. His wife Karen Painter becomes a professor of musicology in the School of Music.
2009 -- Painter's book “Getting the Government America Deserves” is published by Oxford University Press. The book points out numerous failings during the Bush Administration including the Department of Justice lawyers who before Painter went into government had written the infamous torture memos, as well as politically motivated firings of U.S. attorneys.
2011 -- Working with Wheelock Whitney and other leaders in Minnesota, organizes Republican opposition to the "Marriage Amendment" that would have put marriage discrimination into our State Constitution. Painter later testified before both houses of the State legislature in favor of a statute legalizing same sex marriage in Minnesota, and after that signed a 2014 amicus brief filed with the United States Supreme Court urging the court to declare same sex marriage in all fifty states.
2012 -- Painter attacks the NRA as a "Protection Racket" in a New York Times op-ed after the Sandy Hook shooting. (Link)
2014 -- Became Associate Reporter for the American Law Institute's Principles of Government Ethics.
2014 -- Helped organize two campaign finance reform organizations: Represent US and Take Back our Republic. Painter also serves as an adviser to Issue One, a bipartisan organization of former members of Congress demanding campaign finance reform. Painter calls for the overruling of Citizens United.
2014-15 -- Becomes fellow at the Harvard University Safra Center for Ethics, which supported his continued work on campaign finance reform and bankers' ethics, including his work on two books.
2015 -- Painter's book “Better Bankers Better Banks” (co-authored with U of M colleague Claire Hill) is published by the University of Chicago Press. The authors propose that top officers of banks that become insolvent or banks found to have violated the law be personally liable for a portion of the loss or fine incurred by the bank. The New York Times publishes an article about this book, hailing Painter's and Hill's proposal as an effective way to make the people who run banks, not just bank shareholders, responsible for their own behavior. Congress has not enacted this proposal, but that will change when Painter gets to the Senate. (Link)
2016 -- Painter's book “Taxation Only With Representation” is published by Take Back our Republic. The book seeks to explain to political conservatives and libertarians of all types why they too should support campaign finance reform.
2016 -- In a New York Times op-ed and in speeches around the country, demanded that the Senate have a hearing for and a confirmation vote on President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the United States Supreme Court. (Link)
2016 -- Filed a Hatch Act complaint against FBI Director James Comey for using his political position to influence an election after Comey wrote a letter about Hillary Clinton's email to the House Oversight Committee one week before the election.
2016 -- Became Vice Chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a bipartisan government ethics watchdog group that later filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump for his receipt of profits and benefits from foreign governments in violation of the constitution.
2016-Present -- Without compensation, appears as an expert on hundreds of news shows for CNN, MSNBC, BBC, PBS, NPR, I-24, WCCO and many other television and radio outlets to condemn ethics violations, obstruction of justice and constitutional violations by President Trump and his administration.