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Rep. Barney Frank to retire, closing long career

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts does not intend to seek re-election in 2012, his office said Monday, closing out a career of more than three decades in Congress capped by last year's passage of legislation imposing new regulations on Wall Street.

Frank, 71 and a lifelong liberal, won a House seat in 1980 and was one of the first lawmakers to announce that he is gay.

He scheduled an early afternoon news conference in Newton, Mass., to make a formal announcement of his retirement plans.

Sixteen other Democrats have announced plans not to seek new House terms in 2012, compared with six Republicans.

As chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank was instrumental in passage of the Dodd-Frank bill, which contained the stiffest restrictions on banks and Wall Street since the Great Depression. The measure clamped down on lending practices and expanded consumer protections to prevent a repeat of the 2008 meltdown that knocked the economy to its knees.

Over the years, Frank consistently came down on the liberal side of public issues, opposing the war in Iraq and bills to cover its expenses.

More than two decades ago, Frank was reprimanded by the House for using his congressional status on behalf of a male prostitute whom he had employed as a personal aide, including seeking dismissal of 33 parking tickets.

"I should have known better. I do now, but it's a little too late," Frank said at the time.

Democrats rebuffed Republican calls for Frank's expulsion, and instead, the Massachusetts Democrat resumed a career that far outlasted many of those who had sought his ouster.