Published November 28, 2011
I met Congressman Frank in 1972 in Massachusetts when he was running for State Representative. I volunteered for his campaign.
Barney Frank was not slim even then. He worked day and night on his election -- often falling asleep on the office couch. But we were instructed to wake him if a potential voter wanted to talk to him. Barney was always available if a potential voter wanted to talk to him..
When I worked in the mental health field and Barney was in the state legislature and also attending Harvard Law School my colleagues and I went to see him for advice. We wanted to raise the profile of mental health services for the severely mentally ill.
Barney gave me his famous campaign poster "Neatness Isn't Everything" and sent me off with the best political advice ever: "raise money for these guys and you will have their ear."
I learned from Barney how the political world works in one simple sentence.
Later, when he became a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts it was still early in the days when gays were coming out about their sexuality. Congressman Barney Frank was not "out" and no one was to know.
He later found himself in the middle of a major controversy when one of his then-partners decided to not be honest with him and ran an escort service out of his house.
Barney knew nothing about this and the ethics committee backed him up on it. It was one of the casualties of the congressman leading a hidden life.
Barney's raw political instincts have guided the Democratic party both in Massachusetts and nationally. He understands what flies because his district is made up of the relatively well off (Newton, Mass.) and the working man and woman (New Bedford, Mass.). That makes him a unique message machine for his party.
Today, Barney is considered by people in both political parties to be one of the brightest members of Congress but to me he is still is the same guy I met on the couch almost forty years ago.
He still works overtime for his constituents.
I report for a radio station in his district and although the two hosts I work with are dyed-in-the-wool conservatives they know when it comes to local issues such as the fishing industry in the Bay State that Congressman Frank is always there.
Not everyone likes Barney's decisions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but there is no question that the congressman's raw intelligence and devotion to his congressional district is without question. He will be missed greatly.
Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor.