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Barney Frank (born March 31, 1940) is the United States House Representative for since 1981. He is a member of the Democratic Party. In 1982, he won his first full term, and he has been re-elected ever since by wide margins. In 1987, he became the second openly gay member of the House of Representatives, and he has become one of the most prominent LGBT politicians in the United States.

Frank became the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee in 2007 after the Democratic Party won a majority in the House. The committee oversees the entire financial services industry, which includes the securities, insurance, banking, and housing industries.

Frank is known for his quick wit and self-deprecating sense of humor. He is also widely considered to be one of the most powerful members of Congress. Josh Gottheimer describes Frank as "one of the brightest and most energetic defenders of civil rights issues."

Early life

Frank was born Barnett Frank to a Jewish family in Bayonne, New Jerseymarker, one of four children of Sam and Elsie. Frank's father ran a Jersey Citymarker truck stop—a place Frank describes as "totally corrupt"—and served a year in prison, when Frank was 6 or 7, for refusing to testify to a grand jury against Frank's uncle. Frank was educated at Harvard Collegemarker, where he resided in Kirkland Housemarker and then Winthrop Housemarker, graduating in 1962. Frank's undergraduate studies were interrupted by the death of his father, and Frank took a year off to help resolve the family's affairs prior to his graduation. He taught undergraduates at Harvard while studying for a Ph.D., but left in 1968 before completing the degree, to become Bostonmarker mayor Kevin White's Chief Assistant, a position he held for three years. He then served for a year as Administrative Assistant to Congressman Michael J. Harrington. Frank later graduated from Harvard Law Schoolmarker, in 1977, while serving as Massachusetts State Representative.

Career

In 1972 Frank was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives where he served for eight years. While in state and local government, Frank taught part time at the University of Massachusetts Bostonmarker, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Boston Universitymarker. He published numerous articles on politics and public affairs, and in 1992 he published Speaking Frankly, an essay on the role the Democratic Party should play in the 1990s.

In 1979, Frank was admitted to the bar in Massachusetts. A year later, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 4th congressional district, hoping to succeed Father Robert Drinan, who had left Congress following a call by Pope John Paul II for priests to withdraw from political positions. In the Democratic primary held on September 16, 1980, Frank won 51.3 percent of the vote in a four-candidate field. His nearest opponent, Arthur J. Clark, won 45.9 percent and finished almost 4,500 votes behind. As the Democratic nominee, Frank faced Republican Richard A. Jones in the general election and won narrowly, 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent.
1981, Congressional Pictorial Directory - Frank's first term as Congressman
For his first term, Frank represented a district in the western and southern suburbs of Bostonmarker, anchored by Brooklinemarker and Newton, Massachusettsmarker. However, in 1982, redistricting forced him to run against Republican Margaret Heckler, who represented a district centered on the South Coast, including Fall Rivermarker and New Bedfordmarker. Although the newly configured district retained Frank's district number — the 4th — it was geographically more Heckler's district. Frank focused on Heckler's initial support for President Ronald Reagan's tax cuts, and won by twenty percentage points. He has not faced credible opposition since, and has been reelected thirteen times.

Frank is known for his quick wit, and his self-deprecating sense of humor. He once famously quipped that he was unable to complete his review of the Starr Report detailing President Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, complaining that it was "too much reading about heterosexual sex". In 2004 and again in 2006, a survey of Capitol Hill staffers published in Washingtonian gave Frank the title of the "brainiest", "funniest", and "most eloquent" member of the House.

A 1990 investigation by the House Ethics Committee was prompted by Steve Gobie, a male hustler Frank befriended and housed, who attempted to profit on his allegations that Frank knew he was using the home to see clients. Frank confirmed that he had once paid Gobie for sex, hired him with personal funds as an aide and wrote letters on congressional stationery on his behalf to Virginia state probation officials, but Frank said he fired Gobie when he learned that prostitution clients were visiting his apartment. "Two years [after Frank fired Gobie], Gobie tried unsuccessfully to sell his story to the Washington Post. He then gave the story to the Washington Times for nothing, in hopes of getting a book contract for the male version of Mayflower Madam." After the investigation, the Committee found no evidence that Frank had known of or been involved in the alleged illegal activity and dismissed all of Gobie's more scandalous claims; they recommended a reprimand for Frank using his congressional office to fix 33 of Gobie's parking tickets. The House voted 408-18 to reprimand Frank. The attempts to censure and expel Frank were led by Republican Larry Craig, whom Frank criticized for hypocrisy after Craig's own later arrest for soliciting gay sex in an airport bathroom. Frank won re-election that year with 66 percent of the vote, and has won by larger margins ever since.

Political initiatives and positions

Frank in his congressional office in 2002

LGBT issues

Frank has been outspoken on many civil rights issues, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. In 1987, he publicly came out as gay. He said in a 1996 interview: "I'm used to being in the minority. I'm a left-handed gay Jew. I've never felt, automatically, a member of any majority." In 1995, then-Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey famously referred to Frank as "Barney Fag" in a press interview. Armey apologized and said it was "a slip of the tongue". Frank did not accept Armey's explanation, saying "I turned to my own expert, my mother, who reports that in 59 years of marriage, no one ever introduced her as Elsie Fag."

Through the 1990 Immigration Act, Frank was a major force in removing restrictions based on "sexual preference exclusion" which had been explicitly prohibited by early immigration law.In 1998, Frank founded the National Stonewall Democrats, the national LGBT Democratic organization. In February 2009, Frank was one of three openly gay members of Congress, along with Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsinmarker and Jared Polis of Coloradomarker.

Frank was accused by Rep. John Hostettler (R-INmarker) of having a "radical homosexual agenda"; Frank responded "I do have things I would like to see adopted on behalf of LGBT people: they include the right to marry the individual of our choice; the right to serve in the military to defend our country; and the right to a job based solely on our own qualifications. I acknowledge that this is an agenda, but I do not think that any self-respecting radical in history would have considered advocating people's rights to get married, join the army, and earn a living as a terribly inspiring revolutionary platform."

Frank's stance on outing gay Republicans has been called the "Frank Rule" whereby a closeted person who uses their power, position, or notoriety to hurt LGBT people can be outed. The issue became relevant during the Mark Foley scandal of 2006, during which Frank clarified his position on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: "I think there's a right to privacy. But the right to privacy should not be a right to hypocrisy. And people who want to demonize other people shouldn't then be able to go home and close the door and do it themselves."

In April 2009 Frank was named in the LGBT magazine Out's "Annual Power 50 List", landing at the top spot.

Medical marijuana

Frank is author of the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act (H.R. 2592), an attempt to stop federal government from intervening with states' medical marijuana laws. As well, he has consistently voted for the bipartisan Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, annually proposed by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CAmarker) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NYmarker), that would prohibit the United States Department of Justicemarker from prosecuting medical marijuana patients. In March 2008, he proposed the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008 (HR 5843), which would decriminalize small amounts of the drug. Frank commenting on legislation to remove federal criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use stated "In a free society a large degree of human activity is none of the government's business. We should make criminal what's going to hurt other people and other than that we should leave it to people to make their own choices."

Online gambling

Frank has partnered with Ron Paul in support of online gambling rights. In 2006, both strongly opposed H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, and H.R. 4411, the Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. To restore online gambling rights, in 2007 Frank sponsored H.R. 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act. This bill would have established licensing and regulation of online gaming sites. It provided for age verification and protections for compulsive gamblers. In 2008, he and Paul introduced H.R. 5767, the Payment Systems Protection Act, a bill that sought to place a moratorium on enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act while the United States Treasury Departmentmarker and the Federal Reserve defined "unlawful Internet gambling". As a result of these efforts, Frank (who does not gamble) has been praised by poker players and online gamblers, including many Republicans.

Civil liberties

In 2006, Frank was one of three Representatives to oppose the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, which restricted protests (notably those of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church) at soldiers' funerals. He opposed the bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate, on civil liberties and constitutional grounds. Frank said of the vote, "I think it’s very likely to be found unconstitutional. It’s true that when you defend civil liberties you are typically defending people who do obnoxious things... You play into their hand when you let them provoke you into overdoing it. I don’t want these thugs to [make the] claim [that] America is hypocritical."

In 1987, Frank was the Chair of the important House Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Law and Governmental Relations in the 100th Congress. In this position, he was one of the staunchest supporters of redress and reparations for Japanese American internment during World War II.

Abortion

Frank has a 100% rating from NARAL. He voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and against the criminalization of the transportation of minors across state lines by non-family members to circumvent local abortion laws.

Military spending

As of the 111th Congress, Frank is advocating a 25 percent reduction in the overall Military budget of the United States. "The math is compelling: if we do not make reductions approximating 25 percent of the military budget starting fairly soon, it will be impossible to continue to fund an adequate level of domestic activity...," wrote Frank. He claimed that such a significant reduction would have no effect on the United States' ability to defend itself. "If," he said, "beginning one year from now, we were to cut military spending by 25 percent from its projected levels, we would still be immeasurably stronger than any combination of nations with whom we might be engaged." The U.S. military budget is almost equivalent to the rest of the world's defense spending combined, and is over eight times larger than that of China, the next biggest spender.

House Financial Services Committee

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

In 2003, while the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, Frank opposed a Bush administration proposal for transferring oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Developmentmarker to a new agency that would be created within the Treasury Departmentmarker. The proposal reflected the administration's belief that Congress "neither has the tools, nor the stature" for adequate oversight. Frank stated, "These two entities...are not facing any kind of financial crisis.... The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing." The two companies, which together own or back more than half the home mortgages in the US became "hobbled" by loan defaults. In 2009 Frank said that Fannie and Freddie were not in crisis at the time and many financial institutions, like Lehman Brothers, also fell into crisis from 2003 to 2008. Frank also said that, “In 2004, it was Bush who started to push Fannie and Freddie into subprime mortgages, because they were boasting about how they were expanding homeownership for low-income people. And I said at the time, ‘Hey—(a) this is going to jeopardize their profitability, but (b) it’s going to put people in homes they can’t afford, and they’re gonna lose them.’”

Conservative groups criticized Frank for campaign contributions totaling $42,350 between 1989 and 2008. They claim the donations from Fannie and Freddie influenced his support of their lending programs, and say that Frank did not play a strong enough role in reforming the institutions in the years leading up to the Economic crisis of 2008. In 1991, Frank pushed for reduced restrictions on two- and three-family home mortgages.

In a response to these criticisms, Frank said that "during twelve years of Republican rule no reform was adopted regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2007, a few months after I became the Chairman, the House passed a strong reform bill; we sought to get the [Bush] administration’s approval to include it in the economic stimulus legislation in January 2008; and finally got it passed and onto President Bush’s desk in July 2008. Twelve years of Republican rule produced no reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We were able to adopt it in nineteen months, and we could have done it much quicker if the [Bush] administration had cooperated." In 2009 Frank responded to what he called "wholly inaccurate efforts by Republicans to blame Democrats, and [me] in particular" for the subprime mortgage crisis, which is linked to the financial crisis of 2007-2009. He outlined his efforts to reform these institutions and add regulations, but met resistance from Republicans, with the main exception being a bill with Republican Mike Oxley that died because of opposition from President Bush. The 2005 bill included Frank objectives, which were to impose tighter regulation of Fannie and Freddie and new funds for rental housing. Frank and Michael Oxley achieved broad bipartisan support for the bill in the Financial Services Committee, and it passed the House. But the Senate never voted on the measure, in part because President Bush was likely to veto it. “If it had passed, that would have been one of the ways we could have reined in the bowling ball going downhill called housing,” Oxley told Frank. Frank also insists that if the Republicans had wanted to try to prevent the mortgage crisis, they would have had plenty of opportunities to do so. In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Lawrence B. Lindsey, a former economic adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote that Frank “is the only politician I know who has argued that we needed tighter rules that intentionally produce fewer homeowners and more renters.” Once control shifted to the Democrats, Frank was able to help guide both the Federal Housing Reform Act ( H.R. 1427) and the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act ( H.R. 3915) to passage in 2007. Frank also said that the Republican-led Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which repealed part of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 and removed the wall between commercial and investment banks, contributed to the financial meltdown.

Chair of the House Financial Services Committee

Congressmen Ellison & Frank at Financial Services Field Hearing on Home Foreclosures in Minneapolis.
As chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, beginning in 2007, Frank "sits at the center of power". Frank has been a critic of aspects of the Federal Reserve system, partnering with some Republicans in opposition to some policies. Frank says that he and Republican Congressman Ron Paul "first bonded because we were both conspicuous nonworshipers at the Temple of the Fed and of the High Priest Alan Greenspan.”

Frank has been involved in mortgage foreclosure bailout issues. In 2008 Frank supported passage of the American Housing Rescue & Foreclosure Prevention Act, intended to protect thousands of homeowners from foreclosure. This law, , is considered one of the most important and complex issues on which he worked. In an August 2007 op-ed piece in Financial Times, Frank wrote, "In the debate between those who believe in essentially unregulated markets and others who hold that reasonable regulation diminishes market excesses without inhibiting their basic function, the subprime situation unfortunately provides ammunition for the latter view."

Frank was also instrumental in the passage of , the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, a measure that drew praise from editorial boards and consumer advocates.

In 2007 Frank co-sponsored legislation to reform the Section 202 refinancing program, which is for affordable housing for the elderly, and Section 811 disabled programs. Frank has been a chief advocate of the National Housing Trust Fund, which was created as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 and was the first affordable housing program to be enacted by the Congress since 1990.

During the subprime mortgage crisis, Frank was characterized as "a key deal-maker, an unlikely bridge between his party’s left-wing base and [...] free-market conservatives" in the Bush administration. Hank Paulson, the U.S. Treasury Secretary for the Bush administration, said he enjoyed Frank’s penchant for brokering deals, "he is looking to get things done and make a difference, he focuses on areas of agreement and tries to build on those."

Personal life

Frank resides in a studio apartment complex in Newton, Massachusettsmarker. His partner, Jim Ready, is a surfing enthusiast whom Frank met during a gay political fundraiser in Mainemarker, where Ready still lives. Frank's current net worth is estimated to be between $711,021 and $1,840,000. His sister, Ann Lewis, served as a senior adviser in Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

Frank came out as gay in 1987, "prompted in part by increased media interest in his private life…" Frank's announcement had little impact on his electoral prospects.

Books

Frank is the subject of a biography entitled Barney Frank: The Story of America's Only Left-handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman, written by Stuart Weisberg. The book was released in September 2009.

Bibliography



Notes

  1. Out magazine's annual Power 50 Frank is number 1.
  2. 60Minutes interview
  3. Massachusetts Election Results, 1980 (PDF)
  4. Clerk of the House of Representatives: 1980 election results (PDF)
  5. "Best and Worst of Congress", September 1, 2006. Retrieved November 29, 2006.
  6. A Skeleton in Barney's Closet Margaret Carlson;Robert Ajemian/Boston and Hays Gorey/Washington September 25, 1989.
  7. Media Matters for America article, October 5, 2006, which cites the 'Boston Globe, 7/27/1990, as well as the Ethics Committee's report, 7/20/1990.
  8. Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Page 37 -"In numerous instances where an assertion made by Mr. Gobie (either publicly or during his Committee deposition) was investigated for accuracy, the assertion was contradicted by third-party sworn testimony or other evidence of Mr. Gobie himself."
  9. FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 271
  10. "Frank reprimanded for aiding prostitute" Elaine S. Povich, Chicago Tribune Chicago, Ill.: Jul 27, 1990, p. 4.
  11. "What to do about Barney Frank // Congress faces nasty confrontation on handling sexual misconduct", Rowland Evans, Robert Novak. Austin American Statesman. Austin, Tex.: Oct 17, 1989, p. A.8.
  12. Outrage (2009), Kirby Dick, writer and director; Amy Ziering, producer; Douglas Blush and Matthew Clarke, editors; Chain Camera Pictures; Magnolia Pictures, distributor.
  13. Beyond the Multiplex: Behind Washington's closet door Andrew O’Hehir, Salon, May 7, 2009.
  14. Out4Immigration - History of LGBT & Immigration
  15. Statement of U.S. Representative Barney Frank on the Inclusion of people who are Transgender in Antidiscrimination Protection Legislation
  16. THE OUTING | David Dreier and his straight hypocrisy
  17. Out magazine website.
  18. "Frank Calls for Action on Medical Marijuana Legislation
  19. The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment (2003 - 2006)
  20. NJ.com, "Barney Frank: Let's decriminalize marijuana"
  21. CNN Newsrrom: President Bush, Dems Spar Over Energy; 5.4 Magnitude Quake Rattles Los Angeles; Attacking Obama's 'Celebrity'; Rep. Barney Frank's Marijuana Bill July 30, 2008, interview.
  22. Thomas (Library of Congress): HR 4777
  23. Thomas (Library of Congress): HR 4411
  24. Thomas (Library of Congress): HR 2046
  25. http://www.ncrr-la.org/NCRR_archives/welcome_intro.htm
  26. [1]
  27. Congressman Frank's Letter To The Editor Replying To False Republican Accusations Concerning Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac September 23, 2008.
  28. Frank Seeks Antidote to Republican Amnesia.
  29. John Gallagher, "Politics: A Broader Bully Pulpit: As Congress grapples with solutions for a faltering economy, Barney Frank sits at the center of power," The Advocate, September 9, 2008, p. 24.
  30. Louise Story, "Lawmakers Debate Pitfalls of Loan Modification," New York Times, November 13, 2008, p. B3, found at NY Times website.
  31. Information about the American Housing Rescue & Foreclosure Prevention Act from the House Financial Services Committee official website
  32. http://www.ancor.org/issues/housing/Section811ReformFactSheet03-27-09.pdf
  33. National Housing Trust Fund
  34. "Let's Get Frank" documentary.
  35. [2]
  36. Frank, who was elected to the House in 1980, was the first gay congressional representative to come out on his own. Congressman Gerry Studds had been the only openly gay federal legislator, having survived the revelation in 1983 that he had had a relationship with a seventeen-year-old male page a decade earlier during a Congressional sex scandal.


References

  1. Out magazine's annual Power 50 Frank is number 1.
  2. 60Minutes interview
  3. Massachusetts Election Results, 1980 (PDF)
  4. Clerk of the House of Representatives: 1980 election results (PDF)
  5. "Best and Worst of Congress", September 1, 2006. Retrieved November 29, 2006.
  6. A Skeleton in Barney's Closet Margaret Carlson;Robert Ajemian/Boston and Hays Gorey/Washington September 25, 1989.
  7. Media Matters for America article, October 5, 2006, which cites the 'Boston Globe, 7/27/1990, as well as the Ethics Committee's report, 7/20/1990.
  8. Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Page 37 -"In numerous instances where an assertion made by Mr. Gobie (either publicly or during his Committee deposition) was investigated for accuracy, the assertion was contradicted by third-party sworn testimony or other evidence of Mr. Gobie himself."
  9. FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 271
  10. "Frank reprimanded for aiding prostitute" Elaine S. Povich, Chicago Tribune Chicago, Ill.: Jul 27, 1990, p. 4.
  11. "What to do about Barney Frank // Congress faces nasty confrontation on handling sexual misconduct", Rowland Evans, Robert Novak. Austin American Statesman. Austin, Tex.: Oct 17, 1989, p. A.8.
  12. Outrage (2009), Kirby Dick, writer and director; Amy Ziering, producer; Douglas Blush and Matthew Clarke, editors; Chain Camera Pictures; Magnolia Pictures, distributor.
  13. Beyond the Multiplex: Behind Washington's closet door Andrew O’Hehir, Salon, May 7, 2009.
  14. Out4Immigration - History of LGBT & Immigration
  15. Statement of U.S. Representative Barney Frank on the Inclusion of people who are Transgender in Antidiscrimination Protection Legislation
  16. THE OUTING | David Dreier and his straight hypocrisy
  17. Out magazine website.
  18. "Frank Calls for Action on Medical Marijuana Legislation
  19. The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment (2003 - 2006)
  20. NJ.com, "Barney Frank: Let's decriminalize marijuana"
  21. CNN Newsrrom: President Bush, Dems Spar Over Energy; 5.4 Magnitude Quake Rattles Los Angeles; Attacking Obama's 'Celebrity'; Rep. Barney Frank's Marijuana Bill July 30, 2008, interview.
  22. Thomas (Library of Congress): HR 4777
  23. Thomas (Library of Congress): HR 4411
  24. Thomas (Library of Congress): HR 2046
  25. http://www.ncrr-la.org/NCRR_archives/welcome_intro.htm
  26. [1]
  27. Congressman Frank's Letter To The Editor Replying To False Republican Accusations Concerning Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac September 23, 2008.
  28. Frank Seeks Antidote to Republican Amnesia.
  29. John Gallagher, "Politics: A Broader Bully Pulpit: As Congress grapples with solutions for a faltering economy, Barney Frank sits at the center of power," The Advocate, September 9, 2008, p. 24.
  30. Louise Story, "Lawmakers Debate Pitfalls of Loan Modification," New York Times, November 13, 2008, p. B3, found at NY Times website.
  31. Information about the American Housing Rescue & Foreclosure Prevention Act from the House Financial Services Committee official website
  32. http://www.ancor.org/issues/housing/Section811ReformFactSheet03-27-09.pdf
  33. National Housing Trust Fund
  34. "Let's Get Frank" documentary.
  35. [2]
  36. Frank, who was elected to the House in 1980, was the first gay congressional representative to come out on his own. Congressman Gerry Studds had been the only openly gay federal legislator, having survived the revelation in 1983 that he had had a relationship with a seventeen-year-old male page a decade earlier during a Congressional sex scandal.




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