U.S. Rep. Barney Frank admitted he helped his ex-lover land a lucrative post with Fannie Mae in the early 1990s while the Newton Democrat was on a committee that regulated the lending giant — but he called questions of a potential ethical conflict “nonsense.” “If it is (a conflict of interest), then much of Washington is involved (in conflicts),” Frank told the Herald last night. “It is a common thing in Washington for members of Congress to have spouses work for the federal government. There is no rule against it at all.”
Frank said he helped his former longtime companion, Herb Moses, land a job at Fannie Mae in 1991 after Moses graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Dartmouth College. Frank said he was approached by a Fannie Mae executive and vouched for Moses, who formerly worked as an economist in the Department of Agriculture.
“(The executive) said, ‘Herb applied for a job,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I think he’d be great. He’s an economist and he’s got an MBA,’ ” Frank said, recounting the conversation. “He was hired to an entry-level position.”
Asked if he should have disclosed his efforts to help Moses land the job at Fannie Mae, Frank said: “It was widely known. It was out there in the public. It’s nonsense.”
Congressional Republicans pounced on the embarrassing revelation.
“Just when you think you’ve heard the worst, Democrats in Massachusetts take shameless politics to a new low,” said Tory Mazzola, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “The fact that Barney Frank didn’t see this as a conflict of interest is alarming by itself, but it’s so deceitful that it really shows voters that he’s not looking out for them in Washington.”
Moses, who lived with Frank in Washington at the time, worked for Fannie until 1998, when he left the mortgage behemoth. Moses, who could not be reached for comment, and Frank split up that year.
Frank was a junior member on the House Financial Services Committee at the time he helped Moses land the job and served on the committee, which regulates lenders, for the duration of their relationship. Frank wasn’t on the subcommittee that directly dealt with Fannie and Freddie Mac legislation but he once abstained from voting on a Republican amendment to limit executive compensation at the government-backed lenders.
“I said publicly that my companion worked there and I voted present. I didn’t think I should vote on it,” the congressman said.
Frank’s assistance in helping Moses land the job was first reported in a new book about the fiscal meltdown by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times [NYT] reporter Gretchen Morgensen.
In an interview Tuesday on WBUR’s “Fresh Air,” Morgensen said Frank “was very aggressive and really tough on those who were testifying in Congress about reining in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac” during hearings after Moses was hired. She said Fannie Mae “rolled out the red carpet” for Moses as part of a strategy to curry favor with Frank and other members of the Financial Services Committee.
Morgensen also noted that members of the committee raked in tens of thousands in campaign donations from Fannie and Freddie execs, including Frank, who received $42,000 in contributions from 1989 through 2008.
Frank denied he turned a blind eye to Fannie until after the 2008 mortgage meltdown. He says he criticized the Bush administration’s policies on government-backed lenders in 2004 and backed legislation to deal with lending concerns in 2006 but was thwarted by the GOP-controlled Congress. Barney Frank knocked on his Fannie - BostonHerald.com