News & Politics

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

The behind-the-scenes story of how the Dodd-Frank bill was made.

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

“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

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



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