Speeches, testimony pay off for Richard Painter

Richard Painter, the ethics attorney running in a Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, made hundreds of thousands of dollars the past couple of years from speeches, expert witness testimony, book royalties and articles.

The combined $370,000 in payments to Painter are outlined in a required disclosure for federal candidates, which he submitted this month. They are in addition to a $200,000 salary as a law professor at the University of Minnesota, where his wife also works.

Painter, who was a White House ethics lawyer in George W. Bush’s administration and who until recently identified as a Republican, is challenging Democratic Sen. Tina Smith for the party nomination. The primary is in August.

Smith is about six months into her role as former Sen. Al Franken’s replacement and is running for the final two years of the unexpired term. Republican state Sen. Karin Housley is the favorite to be her party’s nominee in the November special election.

Painter has been a regular TV commentator and outspoken critic of Republican President Donald Trump. Until this month, he was a director for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has sued Trump and his administration. He was also a director for Take Back Our Republic and an unpaid consultant to various politically oriented nonprofit organizations.

Some of his appearances have come without compensation, but he has also delivered speeches for up to $8,000 each and received payments for articles written for the New York Times and Politico as well as for two appearances on Bill Maher's Real Time Politics program.

He reported total payments of $75,000 for service to the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, a philanthropic organization with a broad mission of promoting “a strong national defense, a free society and a vibrant economy.”

Painter has also served as an expert witness for insurance companies, mutual fund shareholders and corporations involved in various disputes. His fees for those services ranged from below $2,000 to as much as $28,000.

One is Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which not long ago was under federal scrutiny for increasing the cost of its prescription drugs. In the filing, Painter describes his role for Valeant as an “expert witness in securities litigation case.”

Painter lists pension, mutual fund and college savings holdings of between $1.1 million and $2.6 million. His sole liability is a line of credit he took out in 2013 to purchase a home.

In their disclosure reports, Smith and Housley reported larger potential net worth for their families.

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