One of the main poker advocates in U.S. Congress Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) announced on Monday, November 28, he will not seek reelection in the next year's campaign. Frank, 71, has long been one of the leading Democratic figures in Congress and the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. His decision to retire after 16 terms also shows that Democrats do not foster hopes of keeping the majority in the House after the 2012 ballot.
Frank himself claims that the reason for his decision was the election campaign, of which he became tired of over the 30 years he served as a congressman. “I think I would have won but it would have been a tough campaign,” he said to the Wall Street Journal. “I hate raising money.”
Although Frank assured everyone that his retirement does not mean he has given up on his party in the 2012 election, history shows that's just what congress people do when their chances of being reelected drop to the minimum. In 1994, 29 congressmen representing the Republican Party retired before the upcoming election and moved on to find their place in other offices; in 2006, 25 of their colleagues did the same. In both cases the Democrats replaced the Republican majority in the House after the elections.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay commented on Frank's retirement by saying, “It's not an encouraging sign for House Democrats when a senior member sees little chance of becoming a committee chairman.”
Inside the poker community Mr. Frank is best known for the endless efforts to legalize online poker – he introduced numerous bills concerning online poker legislation, although none of them have passed into law. His latest attempt was the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, which he introduced back in March, 2011, and gained support from 29 House members on both Democratic and Republican sides.
Just a couple of days ago Frank took part in the hearing at the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade and discussed the online poker legalization issue. “This is allowing adult Americans to spend their own money as they wish on a form of recreation that they enjoy,” said the retiring congressman in the hearing. “I cannot understand why it’s the role of the Federal Government to prohibit them from doing so… It violates a principle of hands-off the internet. We’re putting special restrictions of what’s done on the internet… The great mass of human activity is not the government’s business.”
However, apart from promoting online poker, Frank also made a huge impact on federal policies – he was the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, co-wrote the Dodd-Frank law, and supported government housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. President Obama reacted to Frank's retirement by saying, “The House of Representatives will not be the same without him.”
Barney Frank was also the favorite of the American gay community after becoming the first House member to openly declare his homosexuality in 1987. Two years later he got involved in a scandal when it was reported that Frank hired and housed a drug addict male prostitute. Congress ethics committee investigated the case which resulted in an official reprimand.
When his last term in the Congress ends next year, Frank plans on retiring from politics in general and spending more time writing and reading lectures. He complains about a “substantially deteriorated” political climate which makes it difficult to get things done in Washington. “The anger in the country…is such that the kind of inside work I felt best at is not going to be productive in the foreseeable future,” said Frank.