We had the opportunity to interview US Candidate Richard Painter (Converted D-Mendota Heights) and we are currently transcribing the information. Below you can read his responses to our first fourteen questions and we will post the rest of the answers as they come available.
Interesting factoid Painter a frequent commentator on MSNBC joined Twitter in 2014, has 475,000 followers and follows 81 people. Here are a couple of recent tweets.
Our view: Painter-for-Smith Senator swap is a much better deal if you want single payer health care, big money out of politics, and NO copper and nickel mining near Minnesota waterways!
It’s time for a common-sense approach to immigration reform. Citizenship (not just a “path to citizenship”) for anyone who has been here at least five years. Extend DACA. Crackdown on employers (the Trump Organization?) that hire undocumented workers. Fire Trump and Pence!
Painter’s name will be placed in nomination by a state delegate from the 8th Congressional District Christopher Horoshak and the campaign has secured the 50 names required for seconding the nomination. This means Painter will be able to address the convention. To listen to the interview click below..
C&B: Please tell us what you feel people should know about your biography as a candidate for the US Senate?
RP: I believe very strongly, that the corruption in government is something we’re going to have to deal with. Its destroying our country. I saw government corruption firsthand as the Chief Whitehouse Ethics Lawyer 2005-2007. Seen what campaign finance can do, PAC’s Super PAC’s, lobbying, I have seen the impact on both political parties. It’s a serious problem, I have written several books about it. What goes on in government and the financial services sector and the corruption there, and I have taught and my students, I have done it as a professor. And I think it’s time now to take action and do what I can, and I think I can do that as a United States Senator.
C&B: Why are you running for the US Senate, and what makes you uniquely qualified?
RP: Well, I am running for the Senate because I see a lot of problems that need to get fixed, particularly, in the corruption of our government, now only in Donald Trump but in the system, we had before. With campaign finance and financial conflicts of interest. I have written about these issues, published books and articles on them, taught on these issues, lectured around the country, was the Vice-Chair of Citizen’s for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, so I understand the problems and have some ideas of how to fix them, and I think the Senate is a good place to do that.
C&B: When and why did you move to Minnesota initially?
RP: Moved to Minnesota, in 2007 to be a University professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. I previously had been a University professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. My wife is a professor of music history she’s with the music department at the University of Minnesota. She wanted to come here, and I certainly wanted to come here, because I think it’s a wonderful place to live, wonderful summers we have here, we have three middle school-aged kids, and we just love living in Minnesota, and we can endure the winters so it’s a very good deal for us.
C&B: it better for Minnesota to be represented by someone who was born in Minnesota, or who has a long and storied history in Minnesota?
RP: I don’t think that’s relevant. I think what’s relevant is somebody who can address the issues that Minnesotan’s care about. A lot of Minnesotans are very worried about paying for healthcare just like people all over the United States. That’s a critically important issue in Minnesota, a lot Minnesotan’s are worried about Climate Change, which is obviously an issue across the globe. Now, of course, we have our unique environmental issues, such as the environmental impact of sulfide mining up near the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area, ya, the Duluth Watershed. Those are issues you learn about when you live in Minnesota, but I have to say I have found out a lot more about what’s going on there and the potentially devastating impact of those mines, than my opponent in this Primary, Senator Tina Smith, I am strongly opposed to that mining, I think it’s going to destroy our state. So, it takes some time to learn about the specifics of life here, in Minnesota and what people care about here in particular, but a lot of the issues have a global reach, certainly a nationwide reach, and those are specific to Minnesota the fact that we’re not addressing them such as the pollution from sulfide mining in the Boundary Waters and that great risk. The reason we’re not taking the right stand on that is once again is the corrupting influence of money in politics.
C&B: What made you decide you were a Democrat, and when did you make that decision?
RP: I, ah, I’m an independent in many ways, I am independent to the party’s political process in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, and I make up my own mind on the issues. I’m not going to go down a platform and say I’m going to do this, this, and this, because other people call themselves Democrats or Republicans do this, this, and this. I have looked at my positions on issues very carefully, and I am convinced that a very large segment of voters that support Democrats would agree with me on the issues. Much more so than the voters who today, support the Republican Party, which has changed dramatically over the years. Also, of course, to run for federal office, you have to swear fealty to Donald Trump, and I’m not going to do that. I think he ought to be thrown out of office.
C&B: Can you explain the difference between the Democratic Party and the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party?
RP: Well, the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party of course, is Minnesota’s Democratic, we don’t have a separate Democratic Party, it merged with the Farmer-Labor Party to create what we now call the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. My concern is that the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party could very well be forgetting the interests of farmers and laborers as the party along with both the Republicans and Democratic Party nationwide, falls under the influence of big money in politics and most of that money is corporate money and that is a serious concern. I am happy to talk that with respect to health care and whether we’re ever going to really have single payer health care or if we’re going to kowtow to the interests of the medical device industry which is very, very powerful here in this state. And, also, of course, the environmental issues, the question is how strong a stand the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party will take in this state on environment protection how strong a stand the Democratic Party nationwide will take on environmental protection. And that going to be a question is will it be determined on the merits or by the campaign contributors.
C&B: What does DFL mean to you and what are the core values of being a DFLer?
RP: Well, as I said, I would hope the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party would focus on the issues of farmers and laborers not just on the interests and financing of the lobbyists. We going to find out DFL means to the party. But they need to have people we’re nominating for federal office and for state office for the interests of the people That’s what’s critically important. So, let’s get, my ideas about what we ought to do on specific issues. And it’s up to voters in the Democratic Farmer-Labor Primary, and anybody can vote in the Primary, to decide if they want me or my opponent, Senator Smith. And then in November, we have another decision to make.
C&B: Minnesota is a diverse state economically, what are the significate economic interests in the state?
RP: We got everything from agriculture to education and healthcare and mining. We have a lot of different economic interests in this state. And, we’re much more diverse ethnically and economically than we were even a few decades ago.
C&B: What connections do you have with Greater Minnesota?
RP: I am very concerned about the protection of the environment in northern Minnesota the Boundary Waters and the Duluth Watershed, I share that concern with a lot of people who live in that region, who do not want to see outside foreign-owned mining come in there and get into the sulfide mining business. So, I share a lot of concerns with people on that region in environmental protection area.
In agriculture areas of the state, I am very, very concerned, I share the concerns that many farmers have about what Donald Trump is doing and his trade policy. When he is starting a trade war and he’s just starting more of this again today. With China and Europe, and other countries, and the result is going to be retaliation again American agricultural exports. That’s going to devastate farmers. I think that a lot of people in farming a lot of farmers are going to be very, very worried about the direction of the Republican Party, as it moves away from free-trade toward not a fair-trade policy, which is what I would support, but toward a Trumpian Trade War, which could really end up in a downward spiral similar to what we had in the 1930’s under Herbert Hoover. So, this is an opportunity for opponents of President Trump’s Trade policy to reach out to the agricultural communities, to farmers, talk about the importance of a stable and fair global trade regime, and how Donald Trump isn’t doing anything to support it and indeed may destroy our global economy. And I have to say I am very disappointed in our two Senators and some other Democratic Senators around the country gave Trump some encouragement with respect to his steel tariffs. I think that is a tragic mistake to egg on Donald Trump in his bombastic rhetoric about trade.
C&B: What experiences do you have in Greater Minnesota, have you ever worked on a farm, do you hunt? Do you fish?
RP: No, I haven’t done much on farms. I don’t hunt or fish I have three middle school aged kids and I take them to soccer games and pick them up from school. That’s a lot of my extra time when I ‘m not working it’s here with the kids in the metro area, but I have gone up to Minnesota, northern Minnesota near the Boundary Waters up near Ely, with my kids we have done some hunting, fishing up there, with the kids a few times. That’s a lot of fun, but I am one of these guys that goes out fishing every weekend I don’t have time.
C&B: You have been a sharp critic of Donald J Trump what are the biggest threats he poses to America?
RP: Well, this could be a long answer. Let’s start with a, let’s start with the Constitution. Cause the 1st Amendment, which guarantees free exercise of religion, he was talking about that a Muslim ban during the campaign, he sought to implement it with a travel ban. That’s a direct violation of our Constitution. We have never had a politician talk that way about a particular religion in the United States in recent memory in an election. They had that going on in the Presidential election in Germany 1932, but not here in the United States. We can’t tolerate that.
His attacks on the freedom of the press and the lying press are very, very similar to the attacks on the press, in Hitler’s Germany. We cannot tolerate that. And he takes specific actions to retaliate against the Washington Post, MSNBC, other news outlets, CNN. He is receiving payments from foreign governments in violation of the Constitution that’s an anti-corruption provision of the Constitution called the Monuments Clause. I’ve actually sued him over that and working with others suing him over that. But the United States Congress should be investigating it.
He has shown a complete disrespect for the judiciary. He said that a judge is dis, not qualified to hear a case against him Trump University case because the judge is somehow biased by being Mexican-American. Once again, we don’t talk about judges in the United States being biased because of their ethnic background. That’s the kind of thing that was done also 1933 in Germany before they threw all the Jewish judges off of the courts.
So, we’ve got a lot of problems. This President doesn’t understand the Constitution. He doesn’t understand the law, he doesn’t understand or if he does he wants to violate it willy-nilly. He’s guilty of obstruction of justice, we saw that in the firing of James Comey. Attempts to fire Robert Muller. Drafting false statements for his son to give to the press about a Trump Tower meeting. The list goes on and on. He’s not playing by the rules.
So, the Senate Judiciary Committee needs to have a hear and look at what’s going on and decide what to do. Same with the House.
C&B: How has Trump’s Presidency hurt Minnesota specifically?
RP: Well, it hurts Minnesota because we’re part of the United States. This country’s one union and he’s destroying our country, he’s destroying our Constitution. He’s tearing people apart too by encouraging racism and stoking hatred. You know, we saw that during the Charlotte incident we’ve seen that several times since then. His race-baiting tears people apart including people here in Minnesota. As I have said before his trade war is going to be a debacle for Minnesota farmers.
C&B: How do you prevent yourself from being just another rich, white, male, lawyer in the world’s most exclusive private club the United States Senate?
RP: Well, I’ve more wealth than the average person in Minnesota, for sure, far less than my opponent Senator Tina Smith. But I am not sure that, that’s relevant. What’s relevant is whether I can serve the public interest. You now have financial conflicts of interest, I have my retirement funds are mutual funds, same as Amy Klobuchar. Senator Smith, unfortunately, has millions of dollars’ worth of medical device company stocks she won’t sell. So, if someone does have wealth that doesn’t exclude them from politics. I have a lot less than many people who have gone into politics, but it’s important to get rid of financial conflicts of interest not to hold stocks that are affected by the decision you make on the floor of the Senate. I just hope to do the best can for the people of this state, to the United States from who I am.
C&B: From your vantage point, what differences did Paul Wellstone make as a US Senator from Minnesota?
RP: Well, he urged for reform. He spoke out against corruption in government. Urged for reform of our healthcare system. He was a reformer. And, I think that made a great difference. It’s hard, to get things done given our system of campaign finance and everything else that’s going on. I wish there were more Senators like Paul Wellstone, there and more support from the White House. But it didn’t work out that way. So, he was able to get some things done, but it’s very, very hard. We need more people like him.
C&B: What differences did Al Franken make as a US Senator from Minnesota?
RP: Well, he was very, very clear in holding people in the Trump Administration accountable. And I will say he did a lot he accomplished a lot. But the one thing I watched and followed in detail was when Al Franken was questioning Jeff Sessions in a confirmation hearing for Attorney General, and Al Franken asked specific questions about Russians and contacts with Russians and Jeff Sessions lied and his lies were later exposed, and Al Franken had the courage to say that that was perjury or very close to perjury, basically perjury. So, Al Franken called him on that on national television.
I wrote the very same week an Op/Ed in the New York Times calling on Attorney General Sessions to resign because of his false testimony in answer to Al Franken’s question. Attorney General Session decided not to resign but recuse from the Russian investigation. But, if Al Franken had never asked that question if Al Franken had never stepped forward to state the truth, which was that that was a lie that response to his question, if he had not had the courage to do that, Attorney General Sessions would have gotten a pass on that and would not have recused from the Russian investigation and we wouldn’t have Bob Muller. So, here is a direct line between that question by Al Franken, Al Franken holding Attorney General Sessions to account for his lying under oath and Attorney General Sessions decision to recuse from the Russia investigation which allowed for Robert Muller to be appointed not only be appointed but retain his office and not be fired.
We owe a lot to Al Franken.
C&B: What differences does Amy Klobuchar make as a US Senator from Minnesota?
RP: She is a good Senator. She, I think she, for example, opposed the Trump tax cuts, if we there had been a hand full Senators like Amy Klobuchar, we wouldn’t have that tax cut, a hand full more. And she’s another one and Senator Flake, but it is critically important that we stand firm against what President Trump is doing. So I admijre Amy Klobuchar for the stands she has taken. There are issues I disagree with her on like sulfide mining, but she been a very good Senator from Minnesota.
C&B: What’s the most important thing about being a US Senator from Minnesota, specifically?
RP: We’ll start with the most important things about being a US Senator. Then we’ll talk about the specifics of being a Senator from Minnesota. A United States Senator has an obligation to serve the public interest and that means passing legislation to helps out all the people, not special interests not just campaign contributors, no the rich, not just the rich but all of the people. In particular, legislation that helps the most vulnerable. A Senator from Minnesota should stand up for the interests of the people here, in particular. That means the farmers who are going to be victimized by Donald Trump’s trade war, that includes workers on the Iron Range, that includes people in the metropolitan area particularly those who are unemployed or live in low wage jobs. We have a lot of people in this state who need help, particularly people who need health insurance in Minnesota who don’t have it. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and that’s what we expect a Senator from Minnesota to do.
C&B: What do you seek to accomplish as a US Senator?
RP: Well my priorities, this is a two-year term, so over this two-year term finishing up Al Franken’s term, I would emphasize first holding President Donald Trump, Vice-President Pence, and others in this administration accountable for acts, I believe their acts of treason, bribery, high crimes, and misdemeanors. Now the way we find that out is that we ought to holding a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee, I hope to be on it, and want to see those hearing happen very, very quickly. They should have happened very early in this administration, it’s quite obvious what’s going on but the Republicans haven’t been willing to do that. Second, we got to get a health care bill through, I think we ought to have a single-payer system, Senator Sanders has a good bill. I want to take a look at it and make sure that it’s paid for, that the money’s there if it’s not, we’ve have to impose a tax, or a premium, or whatever, that’s based on income. That allows us to collect the funds to pay for single-payer health care, but we’ll have to bite the bullet and do that. I know the medical device industry doesn’t want that, the drug companies don’t want it, the insurance companies don’t want it, but the people want it and we got to have it. Senator Sanders has a good bill and we can work of that and get that thing through. Third, we got to focus on climate change we got to get back to the United States back to Paris Accords. We got think about, we have got to pass legislation and imposes a carbon tax and then use some of the proceeds to subsidy clean energy, that is basic economics and there is a big social externality that is negative from an economic activity attacks it and when it’s a positive social externality you subsidize it and we need to do that. We got to act very quickly on climate change or we’re going to be in a heap of trouble. We already are in a heap of trouble on climate change. You can see this with all off the weather activity that’s been going on that’s quite unusual and quite destructive.
C&B: Would you support removal of caps on FICA and Social Security making sure every dollar is taxed as a dollar?
RP: If they remove the cap you have to do it all the way up. It absolutely critical to raise enough funds to continue pay for Social Security and for Medicare. We’re running short of funds, it would help raise funds. If we, you might have a lower percentage, but you could say that everything all the way up is taxed at four, five or something like that. But, I don’t think just raising it a little bit is the way to go. What’s I am saying.
C&B: I said removal, I said removal of the caps.
RP: I would remove the cap and maybe have a lower rate above the cap into the other brackets a little lower. Because people probably are not going to change the benefit I wouldn’t pay out a higher benefit to people who are paying in more. And so you remove the cap but maybe have a lower bracket up there, but I’d run it all the way up, if someone made a hundred million dollars, you might have to kick two or three percent of that hundred million of dollars into the social security fund.
C&B: What is your path to success in the DFL Primary for US Senate?
RP: I’m going to take my case to the people and talk about the issues and vote on the issues. It shouldn’t be about party identity or who has been in the club the longest. It should be about the issues. What do people want, people want single payer health care do people or do they want some other health care system. I’d like to have a debate with Senator Smith. It definitively will help inform the voters as to what our different positions are, and the areas we have similar positions, and so I think a debate is critically important. But ultimately, I’m going to take my case to the people, the people of this state because they own the two political parties. We have Primaries where people can vote in either Primary. And people need to vote and take Primaries seriously insist the candidates have debates and then vote in the General Election.
C&B: What are your criticisms of current US Senator Tina Smith and is she qualified for the position?
RP: She’s certainly qualified for the position. She is very intelligent and articulate so she’s qualified for the position for sure and she’s had government service. There’s going to be a lot of issues we agree on and I think if we had a debate the voters would see we agree on maybe 80% of the issues. I have emphasized some of the issues on where we disagree I just I don’t agree with her on the advantages of sulfide mining in the Duluth watershed and that’s the Polymet Glencore mine that’s owned by billionaires from Europe including some Russian Oligarchs that are involved with that and I don’t want those people mining, I don’t want anyone mining, doing sulfide mining in this state and I certainly don’t trust Polymet Glencore. So, we have a strong difference of opinion on that.
I don’t know what Senator Smith’s stand is on health care specifically. She would like to see, I believe health care coverage for everybody, but the question is how to do we pay for that. I think the single payer system is what works. What, where you really have to make a decision is about how you’re going to deal with the drug companies and the medical device companies and I feel even though the medical device industry is powerful here in this state, the drug companies are powerful in other states the medical device companies and drug companies along with the insurance companies, which are powerful in this state have been taking enormous amounts of money off of the top.
Medical devices cost a lot more in the United States than they do in Europe or Canada. Unless we want to pay an enormous amount of money out of our own pocket to insure everybody, which is what I believe Senator Smith wants to do as do I, we need to figure out how to pay for it. I think the medical device companies, the drug companies, the insurance companies are taking way too much money off of the top and they need to get a haircut and they need to get a big haircut. They’re making a lot more money here in the United State than anywhere else in the world.
Now, that’s just not right. I’m just willing to bite the bullet and say okay it’s time to have a single payer system which allows the single payer to negotiate down those prices to the same prices that are paid in Canada, or the United Kingdom or Germany. I don’t think Senator Smith is there yet. She has close relationships with some of these companies. The Medtronic CEO ha a fundraiser at his home for her two weeks ago. I think she owns that. She owns a lot of medical device company stock and I just don’t think she is willing to do that, to make those changes. I think we have to.
And related to that I do feel every single member of the United States Congress, House and Senate needs sell off any investments that create conflicts of interest. Amy Klobuchar has done the right thing she has got a mutual fund, a portfolio with mutual funds in it, life insurance, you could sell the stocks. That’s what I have been trying to get Donald Trump to do that for two years to sell off his assets that create conflicts of interest. It’s awfully hard to stand up to Donald Trump and tell him to cut it out with his financial conflicts of interest when you have up to a third of the members of Congress that stocks that create conflicts of interest and a handful including Senator Smith have millions of dollars’ worth of stocks that create conflicts of interest. So, she does need to sell those stocks. That’s absolutely critical I’m going to urge that going forward, I think I am going to win in August, but even if she were to prevail she’s going to have to sell those stock to win the General Election. She’s going to hear it from me, I have a small microphone, or if she were to prevail she’d hear it from Karin Housley in the fall and 2 million dollars of Super PAC money and that’s not going to be pleasant. She’s got to sell the medical device stocks, there’s millions of dollars of them and the conflicts of interest just don’t work.
C&B: How many debates would you like to have? Would you support eight debates one in each Congressional District? If given the opportunity to debate Tina Smith what questions would you want to ask her?
RP: Well, I would like to have as many debates as Senator Smith would like to have. I know her time is valuable cause she is the United States Senator and she has a job to do there. So, I don’t know if she has time for more than two or three debates. That would be just fine with me. The great advantage of the Internet is that people don’t have to be at the debate or watch the debate on television on a particular night in order to see it. It could be put up on the YouTube or elsewhere on the web and people can watch the debate at their leisure. An indeed, this is a way we can use technology, modern technology Internet to fight against back Citizen’s United, against the corrupt money in politics by just having debates be the norm. Put the debates on the Internet, people could watch them at their leisure I’d like to go through the issues we agree on, I think it’s important for voters to know there are going to be a number issues I agree with Senator Smith on. Then we can go through the health care and she might fortify her positions or clarify her positions on health care and hopefully she has sold off the medical device stocks by then and we don’t have to debate against that and then talk about the sulfide mining.
C&B: That’s about all I have. Is the anything else you would like to offer?
RP: Oh, I very much look forward to this process. I have learned a lot in the course of running as a candidate, from the people I have talked to around this state from their economic needs and their concern for the future. For their children for the environment. I very much look forward to the Primary and the General Election.