Senate candidate Painter blisters Trump, mining in Ely appearance

by Tom Coombe -

U.S. Senate candidate Richard Painter didn’t hold back Tuesday in Ely - taking aim at President Trump, copper-nickel mining and the health care industry.
The former Republican, who is running as a Democrat and hopes to unseat newly-appointed Tina Smith in the Aug. 14 primary, addressed an overflow audience of better than 100 people at the Grand Ely Lodge.
Painter didn’t disappoint, earning several ovations from a left-leaning Tuesday Group gathering, particularly when he addressed the region’s most controversial topic - copper-nickel mining.
The one-time ethics lawyer in the Bush Administration blasted the foreign powers that be - Glencore and Antofagasta - behind the PolyMet and Twin Metals Minnesota projects proposed for northeastern Minnesota.
Painter also vowed to protect the environment and the neighboring Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, pledging that if he’s elected “I’ll introduce a bill to prohibit sulfide mining near major waterways.”
Earlier this year, Smith supported land exchange legislation aimed at advancing the PolyMet project near Hoyt Lakes, and Painter charged it showed “the DFL establishment is in the back pocket of mining companies.”
He assailed the environmental record as well as the workings of Glencore, which is heavily invested in the PolyMet initiative, while also blasting Antofagasta, the Chilean firm that owns Twin Metals Minnesota.
Painter noted ties between Antofagasta and the Trump Administration, including a home in Washington, D.C. rented by Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.
“We don’t want to pay that rent by polluting the Boundary Waters,” said Painter.
Of Glencore, Painter said “they have a terrible record, just investigate... the bottom line is I don’t want these people doing business in this state.”
Painter said the region is known as the Iron Range, “not the Copper Range” and gave a nod both to the region’s taconite mining industry and the quest for more livable wage jobs in the region.
But he added that “you can grow the economy, not by going back in time,” and called for better broadband access and improved cell phone technology in northeastern Minnesota.
“People would like to live in northern Minnesota and locate a business here,” said Painter, citing advances in technology and the growth of more mobile jobs.
Earlier, Painter pulled no punches against Trump and his supporters, contending “it’s funny how the politicians who are pro-life don’t won’t to do anything to protect human life on this planet.”
Trump, according to Painter, is working to show “you need to destroy our planet to create jobs.”
Painter blasted Republicans for kowtowing to Trump’s wishes and yearned for an era of moderate, and even liberal Republicans, including the likes of former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson.
Harkening back to the days of the Watergate hearings and the impeachment of former President Nixon, Painter predicted the same for Trump and said of Nixon “at least he was our crook, he wasn’t in with the Russians.”
Painter accused Trump of stonewalling the criminal investigation launched by special counsel Robert Mueller and predicted the fight would eventually be settled by the Supreme Court, which is now front and center in political discourse with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
It makes for a serious conflict, Painter charged, and he said “this president shouldn’t be appointing anybody until we’ve investigated him.”
Painter was critical of the National Rifle Association and the influence of money on politics, particularly when it comes to the delivery of health care.
He called for a single-payer system in the United States and was critical of the influence of the insurance and medical industries for driving up costs here in comparison to other nations.
“Why should Americans be paying more than their fair share,” said Painter.
He promised to fight to bring costs down in the nation and to expand access to care.
“There are so many people who can’t afford to go to the doctor,” said Painter. “It’s morally wrong and it’s bad economically.”
Painter is currently a professor of corporate law at the University of Minnesota and also served as vice-chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
In 2002, he 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 for former President Bush.
More recently, he helped organize two campaign finance reform organizations: Represent US and Take Back our Republic, In 2016, Painter 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.