Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., never one to hold his tongue when criticized, blasted Newt Gingrich on Wednesday in response to the GOP presidential candidate's assertion that Frank should be imprisoned for his associations with Fannie Mae lobbyists.
During Tuesday's Republican presidential debate, Gingrich rejected the notion that Wall Street financiers were to blame for the financial crisis and singled out Frank, who formerly chaired the Financial Services Committee, and former Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who chaired the Senate Banking Committee. The two men coauthored the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill that became law last year in the face of near-unanimous Republican opposition.
“If you want to put people in jail, you ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd,” the former House speaker said.
Frank issued a statement noting that "the Republicans--part of the time under Newt Gingrich--ran Congress from 1995 until 2006, the period during which the financial crisis began and then rose to disastrous proportions." During that time, he added, he and Dodd were in the minority and had to take "remedial action" in 2007 and 2008.
"Apparently, Newt Gingrich--who considers himself one of the intellectual leaders of the free world--is so embarrassed by the fact that he is running behind Michele Bachmann in Republican polls that it has increased his already well-developed propensity to utter outlandish things," Frank said.
Frank initially opposed efforts to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage giants that eventually required a financial rescue. In addition, he helped Herb Moses, who at the time was Frank's live-in partner, get a job at Fannie Mae in the early 1990s. Frank has said he recommended Moses for a job but has refuted GOP claims that he insisted that Moses be hired.
Frank has not been the subject of an ethics investigation over the situation. The Senate Ethics Committee investigated whether Dodd was guilty of any wrongdoing in connection with a VIP lending program at Countrywide Financial, but in 2009 it cleared him and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.