Book Review: “Act of Congress” by Robert G. Kaiser

Publisher: Knopf

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Book Review: “Act of Congress” by Robert G. Kaiser

Washington Post associate editor and senior correspondent Robert G. Kaiser was granted rare access to write Act of Congress: How America’s Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn’t, his illuminating book about the creation of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform act. Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Barney Frank let Kaiser talk on the record with staff, yielding several remarkable and entertaining moments, such as the following note to Frank’s chief political aide, Jim Segel, from House Financial Services Committee member Emanuel Cleaver. It seems Cleaver and his committee colleagues had been run ragged by Frank’s relentless schedule.

“Dear Jimmy,

“The members of the financial services committee are in desperate need of your help. As you may know, our committee is the most active of the standing panels in the House. In fact, we are probably the hardest working committee on the planet.

“You can help. We need you to tire Barney out and the committee is willing to raise money (within the ethics requirements) for you to go out several nights a week and stay late. In our committee it is generally understood that free time is what we can get if the chairman is tired. How about movies, dinners, concerts, roller derby, whatever. . . . We’ll pay.

“Jimmy we need your help. . . . And for you to know what is right and not do it is as bad as doing wrong. It’s up to you.”

This article appears in the May 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.