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Barney Frank Retiring

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Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of the primary authors of financial services reform legislation passed by Congress last year, said today he would not return to the next Congress in 2013.

He will have served 32 years in Congress.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is next in line to succeed Frank as ranking minority member of the committee. However, Waters is under scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee for her role in helping a troubled bank where her husband owns stock.

In July, the ethics panel turned the case over to an outside counsel, whose job it is to determine whether the panel is too partisan to deal with the issue objectively.

Next in line is Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

Potential Democratic contenders for Frank’s seat include Setti Warren, the mayor of Newton, and Alan Khazei, who lives in Brooklyn, and co-founded a national service program. Both men dropped out of the Democratic race for the Senate in the fall after Elizabeth Warren, former head of the Congressional Oversight Panel and a Harvard professor and consumer advocate, joined the race.

Republican contenders include Elizabeth Childs, Republican member of the Brookline School Committee, and State Rep. Dan Winslow.

Frank, 71, had said in February that he would run for re-election, but said he changed his mind after his district was changed to include several more conservative areas, including Milford, Attleboro and Hopkinton, and remove the white-collar stronghold of New Bedford.

“I was planning to run again and then the congressional redistricting came,” Frank said. “I know my own capacity and energy levels and it would have been a mistake … I could not have put the requisite effort in.”

Frank told reporters that he was too old to campaign in a new district and to represent hundreds of thousands of new constituents.

“I think I’d win,” he added, but “it would have been a tough race; I don’t like raising money.”

He said that he would continue to be active politically. “I‘m not retiring from advocacy of public policy,” he said

But, he added that, “I will be neither a lobbyist or a historian.” He said he would do “some combination of writing, teaching, and lecturing.”

Frank served as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee for four years, from 2007 to early this year, when he became ranking minority member of the panel after a Republican sweep.

Frank, along with then-Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., then chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, shepherded through Congress sweeping financial services reform legislation that bears their name.

Under the legislation, the federal government for the first time will be allowed to monitor the solvency of property and casualty and life insurance industries, although primary oversight was left in the hands of the states.

Joel Kopperud, director of government affairs for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, said, “It goes without saying that he was a real leader for members of the Financial Services Committee and the industry as a whole.”

Kopperud said that Frank “will be missed not only for his intellect, but his candor and humor–always making committee hearings a little more interesting.”

Kopperud added that his “approach to issues impacting the insurance industry was always thoughtful and pragmatic.  I think all these qualities earned him a great deal of respect.”

Kim Dorgan, executive vice president, public policy for the American Council of Life Insurers, said that, “Life insurance is a state-regulated industry so it’s rare for a legislator in Washington to have a thorough understanding of how our industry works. Barney Frank is the exception.

“His grasp for complicated insurance and financial services issues are well-known and respected within the industry. And regardless of the issue, we could always be assured our concerns would receive a fair hearing from Rep. Frank.”

“We wish him well,” she added.

Some of the most effusive praise for Frank has come from Travis Plunkett, legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America.

“American consumers and investors will lose one of their most effective champions when Barney Frank retires,” Plunkett said. “Since arriving in Congress in 1981, Frank has racked up an extraordinary record of achievement on affordable housing, preventing lending abuses and reforming financial services regulation.  As Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee in 2010, Frank steered to enactment the most consequential overhaul of financial regulation in eighty years.”

Plunkett credited Frank for creating a strong pro-consumer apparatus within the federal government to combat abusive financial practices. That is, if Congress or state regulators do not somehow dismantle or weaken Dodd-Frank along the way.

“Media profiles of Frank over the years have often focused on Frank’s personality, especially his sharp wit and considerable debating abilities. It is now more evident than ever that Frank is also an extremely skillful lawmaker,” Plunkett said. “In fact, it is very likely that he will be seen by knowledgeable observers in the future as one of the most effective and accomplished Chairmen in the history of the House of Representatives.”


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