Barney Frank insists he won’t be a lobbyist

The announcement Monday by Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts that he won’t seek re-election next year immediately sparked speculation about his future plans.

More than a few suggested that he might become a well-paid lobbyist, a claim that Frank renounced while denigrating Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

“I will neither be a lobbyist or a historian,” he said. (Earlier this month, responding to the news that Gingrich had earned at least $1.6 million as a consultant to Freddie Mac, Frank disparaged the former House speaker as a “lobbyist and liar.”)

Yet as a 16-term congressman and former chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, Frank certainly has the knowledge and connections to deftly represent financial interests on Capitol Hill.

Should we rule out the possibility altogether? It might be enlightening to look at where his former staffers wound up.

One prominent staffer who has gone into the lobbying business is Frank’s former chief of staff, Michael Paese, who is now a managing director at Goldman Sachs. Among the issues he targets for Goldman is the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Another aide, former senior adviser Peter Roberson, joined the credit default swap clearinghouse, IntercontinentalExchange. After the job move, Frank, clearly unhappy, barred him from lobbying staff.

“I wanted to make clear I share the unhappiness of people at this, and my intention (is) to prohibit any contact between him and members of the staff for as long as I have any control over the matter,” Frank said then.

Another staffer-turned-lobbyist is Robert Raben, former counsel to Frank. Raben is founder of the Raben Group, a Washington lobby firm whose clients include Google, Time Warner Cable, Mastercard, NAACP and the National Education Association.

Richard Goldstein, a former legislative assistant, is now a partner at Nixon Peabody, where his practice centers on government affairs and low-income housing. He’s a registered lobbyist for the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition.

Still, not every Frank alumnus has become a lobbyist.

Peter Kovar, former chief of staff to Frank and an aide to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, is assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Former counsel Rob Randhava is now senior counsel with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Eric Orner, Frank’s special assistant until 2001, is a lawyer and cartoonist. He’s becoming better known as the brother of novelist Peter Orner, for whom he does illustrations.

Peter Orner describes his latest book, “Love and Shame and Love,” as a tribute to his family’s obsessions – “divorce, falling out of love and politics.”

Frank also mentioned writing as one of his objectives after leaving Congress.

We suspect he’ll take his cues from the Orners, rather than the lobbyists.

“There is no way I would be a lobbyist,” Frank said Monday. An advantage of being out of public office, he said, is that “I don’t even have to pretend to be nice to people I don’t like.”

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