University of Minnesota Law School Professor Richard Painter holds himself out as an ethics guru. During the Trump administration, for his numerous appearances on MSNBC, Painter also held himself out as a Republican critic of Trump. When he undertook a campaign for the United States Senate in 2018, however, he challenged incumbent appointee Tina Smith as a Democrat in the DFL primary. Indeed, he ran to Smith’s left. Painter is a left-wing flake and the ethics bag is his shtick.
For the purposes of a 2022 MSNBC column At the time Painter described himself as “the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007, under President George W. Bush. He is currently the S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Minnesota, and is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School.” The Harvard and Yale affiliations have since been edited out.
I found it pathetic that Painter felt compelled to provide his alma maters as credentials at this stage of his career — he holds an endowed chair at the law school — but I thought it was his desire to mislead readers about his political orientation that was most noteworthy. Readers were not to be advised that he has had some kind of latter-day identity crisis and emerged as a kook.
By the way, I was reliably informed by one of Painter’s former colleagues in the White House Counsel’s Office that Painter was a glorified paper shuffler who reviewed the financial disclosures of prospective judicial nominees and worked out conflicts. It was not exactly an exalted position. It required no experience in the higher reaches of the categorical imperative.
Today I learn from the Washington Free Beacon that Professor Painter played on his ethics shtick in a Senate Budget Committee hearing this week. The full committee hearing is posted online here. They called the hearing Dollars and Degrees: Investigating Fossil Fuel Dark Money’s Systemic Threats to Climate and the Federal Budget. You can tell without looking further that the idiotic Sheldon Whitehouse is calling the shots on the committee.
The Free Beacon places Painter’s testimony in context: “Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, was invited by Senate Democrats to testify on the influence of fossil fuel interests on public policy and elections. In his published testimony, Painter attacked the Supreme Court’s application of the First Amendment to political speech and compared being skeptical of climate change to believing that the earth is flat.” The text of Painter’s testimony is accessible here.
Senator John Kennedy had done some homework on Painter. It didn’t take him long to figure out that Painter is an incredible phony. However, that’s not quite how he put it. He put it more memorably in his pungent fashion (video below).
The Free Beacon links to video of Senator Kennedy’s five-minute exchange with Painter (below). In the full exchange Kennedy catches the ethics guru dissembling, as the story by Robert Schmad points out.