Barney Frank
So long, Barney Frank. Image: World Economic Forum/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts (D) announced Monday that he will not be seeking re-election in 2012. Frank, an outspoken and influential voice in modern politics, fought hard for transparency in the financial services sector. He was the co-author of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.

Fought for financial reform

Frank, 71, is serving his 16th term as a congressman. He first took office in 1980. He was chairman of the House Financial Services Committee from 2007 to 2001, which led to his co-authoring the Dodd-Frank Act. The law sought transparency and stricter regulations for Wall Street following the national financial crisis in 2008.

The congressman announced his retirement in a press conference held in his hometown of Newton, Mass.

Frank had his hardest-fought re-election bid in 2010. He has become a target for House Republicans, who oppose his agenda for stricter regulation in the financial sector. Conservative groups heavily invested into the campaign of his opponent, Sean Bielat. Despite the stiff competition, Frank won the election, 53 percent to 43 percent.

Redistricting helped prompt decision

However, he faces potentially a tougher fight in the next election. Due to redistricting, more conservative areas have been included in the district that Frank serves. He said that he does not want the tough campaign to divide him from serving his district to the best of his ability.

Frank said Monday:

“I don’t want to be torn [between] a full-fledged campaign… and my obligation to my current constituents.”

Presidential praise

President Obama praised Frank and the work he has done:

“This country has never had a Congressman like Barney Frank, and the House of Representatives will not be the same without him. For over 30 years, Barney has been a fierce advocate for the people of Massachusetts and Americans everywhere who needed a voice. … Michelle and I join the people of the Bay State in thanking him for his years of service.”

Frank, who is openly gay, has also fought hard for the rights of gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender Americans.

Decision kept close to vest

Frank admitted Monday that he decided to not seek re-election some time ago but kept the decision to himself until today. He cited the House Republican majority as his reason for the silence, fearing the knowledge would weaken his effectiveness while still serving.

“A funny thing happened on my way to retirement. A very conservative Republican majority took over the House. … The things I fought hardest for could be in jeopardy.”

When asked if he would work as a lobbyist after retirement, Frank said that he would not. That way, he said, “I don’t even have to pretend to be nice to people I don’t like.”

Plans to write

Frank said he would spend his retirement years writing. He said he has long felt the desire to write but found it difficult to juggle with the full time job of serving his constituents:

“While there are people who are able to combine serious writing with full-time jobs, my susceptibility to distraction when faced with a blank screen makes that impossible.”


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