By Vasko Kohlmayer
"As Congress grapples with solutions for a faltering economy, Barney Frank sits at the center of power."
Thus wrote John Gallagher in The Advocate as our government officials desperately struggled to limit the fallout from the unfolding financial crisis.
Gallagher is right. As Chairman of the Financial Service Committee in the US House of Representatives, Barney Frank plays a crucial role in determining in what ways much of the bailout and stimulus money is spent. This is because the committee over which he presides oversees the housing and banking sectors, two industries that are at the center of the currenteconomic crisis.
But Frank's power and influence extend beyond his chairmanship of the important Financial Services Committee. Outspoken, smart and forceful, Frank has emerged as one of the heavyweights in the Democrat-led House and as such instrumental in shaping its course and agenda.
There are some who think that his behind-the-scenes influence exceeds even that of Nancy Pelosi. Whether or not this is so, there can be no doubt that Barney Frank is currently one of the most powerful politicians in the country. Given his present position of influence, taxpayers may want to learn more about the background of the man who directs how hundreds of billions ofdollars of their money is spent.
Barnett "Barney" Frank was first elected to Congress in 1981 at the age of forty-one from Massachusetts' 4th district. Six years later he made national news when he publicly declared his homosexuality. By that admission he became the first openly gay member of the House of Representatives. In 1991, Barney Frank received an official reprimand for reflecting"discredit upon the House."
The reprimand came as a result of hisrelationship with a man named Steve Gobi, a male prostitute whom Frank initially paid $80 for sex. Frank later took Gobi to live with him in his home, making him a personal aide. He paid him $20,000 in compensation (unreported to the IRS) and let him use his car. Subsequent investigation revealed that in the course of their relationship, Frank used hiscongressional office and stationary to fix Gobi's 33 parking fines.
Frank also used his congressional letterhead to write a reference letter to Gobi's probation officer -- Gobi was under court supervision as a convicted felon with a prison record -- in which he gave false information. Most damningly,the investigation found that Gobi ran a prostitution ring from Frank's home.
In his defense, Frank asserted he knew nothing of Gobi's illicit enterprise. The Democrat -controlled House voted 408-18 to reprimand Frank after aheated debate during which some Republicans demanded expulsion. They pointed out that the claim that Frank did not know of Gobi's criminal activities was incredible to say the least. Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe summed up their sentiments when he wrote: "Most pathetic of all was Frank's claim that he'd been 'victimized' -- that he was a just a 'good liberal' who was 'trying to help' Gobie, but got "suckered.'"
Frank's Democrat colleagues, however, insisted that this was precisely what happened. During the debate, his friend Thomas Foglietta (D-PA) said, "Barney Frank is accused of being stupid and, my friend, if being stupid were grounds for expulsion, there'd be very few of us left here."
Although the latter part of Foglietta's statement may well be true, the first part is decidedly not. Whatever else he may be, Barney Frank is certainly not stupid. A former Harvard instructor, Barney Frank twice won the title "brainiest", "funniest," and "most eloquent" member of the House in a survey of Capitol Hill staffers.
It truly strains the bounds of credulity that Frank, an accomplished congressman and a former Ivy League lecturer, could be deceived under his own roof by a street hustler. After Gobi, Barney Frank became involved in another questionable -- and possibly criminally tainted -- relationship with a man called Herb Moses.
Moses, whom Frank called his "spouse," was a high-level executive at Fannie Mae from 1991 until 1998. Dubbed a "mortgage guru" by the National Mortgage News, Moses boasted that he helped develop "many of Fannie Mae's affordable housing and home improvement lending programs."
It was, of course, these kinds of programs that ultimately led to the collapse of the subprime mortgage market that wiped out trillions of dollars from the economy and produced the economic turmoil that we now face. Even though there were those warning against the precarious nature of the enterprise, Barney Frank --whose committee oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- kept resisting reforms and besmirching those voicing concerns.
When the Bush administration proposed that oversight of Fannie and Freddie be transferred to the Treasury Department, Frank strongly opposed the plan, claiming: "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."
Frank continued to claim almost until the day of the collapse that the two mortgage giants were financially sound. If we lived in a sane world, Barney Frank would be compelled to testify about his culpability in the current crisis and what role his romantic involvement with Herb Moses -- as well as the campaign contributions he received from Fannie and Freddie -- played in his shilling for these two moribund institutions.
Commenting on his shenanigans, Jeff Jacoby observed that under normal circumstances Frank's questionable relationships could have well landed him in prison. Voters in his very liberal congressional district, however, have awarded him with a string of easy re-elections.
In his public life Barney Frank is known as a civil rights hawk. A feisty progressive activist, Frank has poured much of his energies into the area of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues. One of his great achievements was the founding of the National Stonewall Democrats, a gay activist arm of the Democrat Party that brought under one umbrella previously unaffiliated LGBT clubs across America.
Describing itself as "a grassroots force for social change," the organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and currently oversees more than 90 local chapters. The organization's website states that its activities focus primarily on "mobilizing the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] community to get out to vote on Election Day for fair-minded Democrats; and standing up when Republicans attack our families..."
As could be expected from the founder of the National Stonewall Democrats, Barney Frank voted 'no' on constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. During the debate he praised the progressive leaning of his own state's body politic: "I believe the political community of Massachusetts is prepared to say, if two men love each other and are prepared to be committed to each other legally as well as emotionally, that is rather a good thing and we will say it's okay."
In 1999 Frank voted 'no' on a bill which would ban gay adoptions in Washington, D.C. Needless to say, Frank's voting record has earned him a 97% lifetime rating from the ACLU.
Throughout his career Frank has pushed for the decriminalization of medical marijuana. He recently extended the scope of his efforts to the public at large. Last year, he introduced a bill called the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008, which would have removed federal penalties for the possession of up to 100 grams (3.5 oz) of the drug.
Although Frank often talks about the "silliness" of jailing people for possessing small quantities of the substance, 100 grams is actually a large amount, which, by most accounts, makes for more than 200 doses. According to a recent analysis by High Times magazine, 100 grams of most marijuana strands goes for more than $1000 at street prices.
Defending his bill, Frank said that it was "time for the politicians to catch up with the public on this." Frank's words almost make it look like it is a common thing for Americans to walk around with $1000 worth of cannabis in their pockets.
In 2006, Frank voted against the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, a bill aimed at restricting protests and demonstrations at soldiers' funerals. The measure passed unanimously in the Senate with Frank being one of only three legislators in the House who voted against the Act. In 2003 Barney Frank voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, a brutal procedure during which a baby -- often viable -- is killed in the birth canal by having its skull pierced and its brain sucked out.
In addition, Frank also voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and against the criminalization of taking of minors across state lines by non-family members to circumvent abortion laws. Not surprisingly, Frank'svoting record earned him a 100% rating from NARAL.
In the area of national defense, Barney Frank has for years advocated a 25 percent reduction in the overall military budget of the United States. Earlier this month, he wrote in a piece that ran in the Nation, "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 even with a repeal of Bush's tax cuts for the very wealthy."
He then challenged those who call for fiscal responsibility to first look "where our spending has been the most irresponsible and has produced the least good for the dollars expended - our military budget."
All those who care about the future of this country should be greatly concerned that Barney Frank, a leftist radical who publicly flaunts his homosexuality, is presently one of the most powerful politicians in America. His recent actions and statements make it amply clear that he will seek to use his present influence to implement as much of his extreme agenda as he possibly can. Given his party's hold on the White House and Congress his efforts may meet with much success.