The Corner

Time To Start Holding Barney Frank Accountable

As Ed Whelan noted earlier today, Rep. Barney Frank has caused something of a kerfuffle by going on a gay website’s news show and calling Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a “homophobe.” Whelan’s right in noting that the context of Frank’s remarks seems to betray his casual slander of the man, but before he runs around calling anyone else intolerant, let me step forward and be the one to note for posterity that I wish Frank was personally more discriminating in his own relationships.

I don’t know whether Frank is just running off at the mouth or whether he’s somewhat desperate to shift the attention off of himself. Frank keeps getting reelected despite gross ethical lapses in part because he’s a savvy legislator and in part because he represents Moscow-on-the-Charles, and his constituents are more scandalized by Republicans in the Harvard faculty lounge than Frank paying a man for sex who runs a prostitution ring out of his apartment.

But if Frank’s considerable flaws are ever going to catch up to him, it seems about as likely now as ever. Despite his protestations, Frank’s fingerprints are all over the financial mess – from living with the Fannie Mae exec in charge of dreaming up new mortgage products for seven years while being the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee in charge of overseeing Fannie Mae to his fierce opposition to the Bush administration’s sensible plan to move Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac oversight away from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Treausury, where they actually have the financial expertise exercise proper oversight of runaway GSE behemoths. But Frank was in bed with Fannie Mae — literally — and was quite explicit that any close oversight of Fannie Mae was another example of how Republicans hate the poor or whatever.

The media has also been strangely silent about his relationship with OneUnited, a Boston based bank that Frank helped get federal bailout money for just before the bank was slapped with a cease-and-desist from the FDIC for among other things, paying for the CEO’s Porsche and Beach House. Figuring out exactly what Frank knows about OneUnited is also of importance because Treasury officials later discovered that Congresswoman Maxine Waters also worked with Frank in arranging the bailout, despite the fact her husband once served on the bank’s board of directors and may have profited off the bank receiving TARP funds. After the fact, Frank now claims he told Waters to “stay out of it.” However, the damage has already been done and forgive me if I don’t trust Frank when he says he tried to get Waters to do the right thing, given his ethical track record.

Frank is about as smart as they come and is very good at dissembling, so I see why Congressional Republicans might be hesitant to go after him. Frank hardly bears sole responsibility for the current mess, but if he’s going to run around demonizing others willy-nilly, it’s high time Republicans make him answer some questions about his own behavior.

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