Within hours of the end of his 32 year career as a member of the House of Representatives on Thursday, Congressman Barney Frank was privately lobbying Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to appoint him to the Senate seat that will be vacated on John Kerry’s confirmation as Secretary of State. Under Massachusetts law, the governor is required to appoint an interim senator when a seat becomes vacant and hold a special election to fill the remainder of the vacated term within 145 to 160 days of the vacancy.
On Friday morning, less than 24 hours later, Frank decided to turn up the pressure on Governor Patrick by breaching the confidential nature of that conversation and publicly telling Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that he had asked Governor Patrick for the appointment. The exchange came at the 8:20 mark of this video clip:
Scarborough: Would you consider possibly being future Senator Barney Frank if the governor calls you and says fill in for a couple of months?
Frank: A month ago and a few weeks ago in fact I said I wasn’t interested, which is kind of like you’re about to graduate and they said you’ve got to go to summer school. But that deal, that deal now means that February, March, and April are going to be among the most important months in American financial economic history.
Scarborough: So you would consider it?
Frank: If I ….Yes, I’m not going to be coy. It’s not’s anything I’ve ever been good at. I told the governor that I would now like, frankly, to do that because I would like to be part of that. It’s only a three month period. I wouldn’t want to do anything more. I don’t want to run again but yeah, for these… it’s almost, to be honest, a little arrogant. Coach, put me in.
While it’s not unusual for Massachusetts politicians to privately lobby the governor for political appointments, it is highly unusual for politicians to breach confidentiality and turn their private lobbying into public pressuring, especially for such a high profile position as United States Senator.
Governor Patrick has been rumored to be considering the appointment of either former Governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic Party’s 1988 standard bearer, or Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Senator Edward Kennedy, to the interim senate seat. Until Friday, the governor’s decision making process had taken place in private.
Publicly, at least, Governor Patrick has responded noncommittally to Congressman Frank’s plea for the appointment. Patrick spoke of Frank’s interest in the Senate seat at a press conference Friday afternoon:
I have a lot of factors I’m considering. . . Congressman Frank is a really gifted legislator, and he’d be a great senator – even on an interim basis. I have a lot of factors I’m considering and he’s definitely on the list . . . I think in every case the other person has treated (the conversations) as confidential. In Congressman Frank’s case, he’s chosen not to on his end. I’m going to keep my end confidential.
By going public with a conversation Governor Patrick had believed was private, former Congressman Frank has now forced the governor to either publicly embrace or reject his request for the appointment. But, as Frank himself admitted to Joe Scarborough, modesty has never been his strong suit.