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Richard Painter 300

Richard Painter was associate counsel to George W. Bush in the White House Counsel's office, serving as the chief ethics lawyer for the president.

Expert available to discuss violations of the Hatch Act regarding political activity in the White House

January 25, 2011

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has found significant violations of the Hatch Act in the White House Office of Political Affairs (OPA) during the George W. Bush Administration and particularly during the months leading up to the 2006 midterm elections. The OSC is now also investigating the Obama Administration for violations of the Hatch Act. A University of Minnesota expert who can discuss the legal and ethical dimensions of political operations in the White House is:

Richard Painter, University of Minnesota Law School professor

Painter was associate counsel to Bush in the White House Counsel's office, serving as the chief ethics lawyer for the president. Painter is author of the book Getting the Government America Deserves: How Ethics Reform Can Make a Difference. In June 2010, Painter wrote an op-ed in the New York Times calling for the closure of the White House OPA. The OSC's report, which expresses severe reservations about political activity in the White House, uses several quotes from this book.

"The report has numerous recommendations for reform of the Hatch Act regulations to curtail improper political activity by White House staff and to assure more transparency with respect to the political activity that does occur," Painter says. "The recommendations thus are clearly relevant to the Obama Administration and any future administration."

The report recognizes that existing law in this area is at times unclear and that government officials who participate in personal capacity political work can face insurmountable conflicts of interest, Painter says.

"There is a powerful argument that having an Office of Political Affairs that is active in political campaigns is not necessary or even a desirable component of the political advisory function in the White House," Painter says in his book.

To interview Painter, contact Patty Mattern at (612) 624-2801 or mattern@umn.edu or Cynthia Huff, Law School, huffx070@umn.edu, (612) 625-6691.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit umn.edu/news. Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

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