Rep. Barney Frank, author of Wall Street reform, to retire

U.S. Representative Barney Frank, a Democrat who helped to craft the landmark overhaul of financial regulations that bears his name, will not seek re-election in 2012, his office said on Monday.

Frank, 71, one of the most outspoken liberals in Congress, will hold a 1 p.m. EST news conference to discuss the decision, according to his office.

He has represented his Massachusetts district since 1981, and is known for his detailed knowledge of banking and housing regulations, as well as his acerbic wit.

“Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in it,” he told a detractor in 2009.

He was one of the first openly gay politicians to serve at a national level.

Democrats expect to retain control of Frank’s seat as they try to win back control of the House of Representatives in the November 2012 elections.

Frank has said to several aides that he did not want to die in Congress. He has indicated that he would be interested in heading up the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to media reports.

With then-Senator Christopher Dodd, Frank led a comprehensive overhaul of Wall Street regulations following the 2007-2009 financial crisis. The Dodd-Frank Act, passed in 2010 with little Republican support, was one of the most ambitious legislative efforts of Obama’s first term in office.

Frank’s departure will deprive Democrats of the law’s chief defender at a time when Wall Street and Republican lawmakers are trying to dilute its impact.

Republican presidential candidates argue that it is placing new burdens on the economy while the unemployment rate is stuck at 9 percent, and have vowed to repeal the law even as regulators are still putting it into effect.

Frank has fended off efforts to weaken the law’s consumer protections, but has shown an openness to some of the banking industry’s complaints. Earlier this year, for example, he said a new crackdown on debit-card fees was too harsh.


Still, he will not be missed on Wall Street.

“I think they will cheer that he has taken himself out of the running. I don’t think he had many fans on the Street,” said Ken Polcari, managing director of ICAP Equities.

An advocate of affordable housing, Frank would have had a hand in efforts to reshape the government-owned mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

House Republicans have been trying to unwind the enterprises, but the administration and other policymakers have warned against removing support too quickly given the weak state of the housing market.

Representative Maxine Waters, an even more vocal critic of Wall Street, is next in line to succeed Frank as the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, which oversees the economy, housing finance, and the Federal Reserve and other major financial regulators.

Waters faces an ethics investigation following allegations that she broke House rules by trying in 2008 to help a bank in which her husband served on the board of directors.

Frank survived an ethics scandal in 1989 after he admitted hiring a prostitute as a personal aide. Frank apologized and said he had never used official funds.

Democrats say they expect to hold on to Frank’s seat. President Barack Obama in 2008 won 61 percent of the vote in the district, which stretches from upscale Boston suburbs to Fall River, a blue-collar fishing town.

But the district has become more conservative after it was redrawn this year, and one Republican said Frank’s retirement gives his party a better chance of victory in a state where all House seats are currently held by Democrats. The Massachusetts delegation will fall to nine from ten in the 2012 election.

“There is no obvious heir to the throne on the Democratic side. And on the Republican side Sean Bielat who challenged him in 2010 could make a very strong contender,” Republican strategist Todd Domke said.

Frank won 54 percent of the vote in 2010 against Bielat, a political unknown.

James Segel, a former aide, said Frank felt that he had accomplished what he wanted to accomplish in Congress and enjoyed it less now that Democrats do not control the House.

Frank, who publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in 1987, told Reuters in March that he would like to write a history of the gay-rights movement.

Additional reporting by Dave Clarke, Rachelle Younglai and Richard Cowan in Washington, Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston and Charles Mikolajczak in New York; Editing by Bill Trott and Vicki Allen

Hadassah SoCal executive director retires

After more than 14 years as executive director of Hadassah Southern California, Laura Kaplansky stepped down on Aug. 19. Elissa Berzon, former director of the Metro Area of Hadassah of Southern California, has replaced Kaplansky, taking on the new title of director of Hadassah Southern California.

“I’ve been thinking about retiring for a very long time, and I’ve watched mentors, former colleagues retire early, and I always thought that would be a good thing to do,” Kaplansky said in an interview.

During her tenure, Kaplansky oversaw the organization’s activities from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. She fondly recalled the bond between the women who make up the membership-base of the organization. “The climate of sisterhood amongst the members, what the members do for each other was most inspiring,” she said.

Kaplansky plans to devote her time to her hobbies — reading, volunteering and spending time outdoors.

My goal is “having fun while I’m still able to do it,” the Sherman Oaks resident said.

Kaplansky has been “a wonderful executive director,” Berzon said. “She mentored all of the staff, and it’s big shoes to fill, and I’m going to miss her.

“My goal is to really continue the work that Laura started,” Berzon continued, including fostering “relationships with our volunteers.”

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, counts approximately 300,000 members nationally and 20,000 members locally. It runs the Hadassah Medical Center in Israel, conducts advocacy campaigns and offers education, youth services and more.

Founded in 1912, the organization will celebrate its centennial next year.

Sue Urfrig, governing cabinet chair of Hadassah Southern California, pointed to Kaplansky’s humble attitude in the workplace: “She doesn’t like to be getting all of the kudos. She’s in the background.”

Recalling all the years she spent at Hadassah, Kaplansky sounded content with all she’d achieved. “I feel pretty good about my tenure,” she said. “There is always the next challenge, but that isn’t mine to accomplish anymore.”

A retirement party for Kaplansky is scheduled for Sept. 12 at the Luxe Hotel in Bel Air.

Knesset’s oldest guard dog retires

The Knesset’s oldest guard dog has retired.

Kai, a 7-year-old Labrador retriever, was forced to leave his position after failing to pass a fitness test, Ynet reported.

The dog had participated in a variety of security missions, including sniffing for bombs. He has lived in the Knesset Guard’s kennel since he was a puppy, according to Ynet.

Two of the dog’s young offspring are slated to replace him. Kai will receive a certificate of merit at a good-bye party in his honor.

The Knesset found the dog a home with a family in Rehovot.