Frank acknowledges dinner between Massa, Financial Services aide

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has acknowledged that then-Rep. Eric Massa had taken a junior staffer on the Financial Services Committee to a private dinner.

Frank, the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said a separate staffer had alerted his chief of staff about the dinner between Massa and the young aide, according to a statement he released.

One of Frank’s top aides, Maria Giesta, then told Massa’s chief of staff, Joe Racalto, who was already aware of it.

“Before [Giesta] could tell Joe why she was calling, Joe said he already knew about the situation and was considering how to address it,” Frank said in the statement. “I am proud of my staff for immediately responding in an appropriate manner to the information.”

Racalto had served in Frank’s office before joining Massa’s office after the New York Democrat’s election in November 2008.

Massa resigned earlier this week amid allegations that he was sexually harassing male staffers and interns in his office. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Racalto had told Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about the dinner and other Massa behavior that had alarmed him back in October.

The Wall Street Journal also reported Thursday morning that a Massa staffer had informed Pelosi’s office that Massa was living with five of his staffers in a townhouse. He later moved out after Racalto objected to the arrangement, according to Massa’s interview with Fox News’s Glenn Beck earlier this week.

Frank on Thursday voted in favor of referring a resolution offered by Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) to the ethics committee for further consideration. The Boehner resolution called on the panel to investigate what Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other leaders knew and whether they acted forcefully enough to resolve the harassment charges against Massa.

Frank said he supported the resolution referring the matter to the ethics committee because he did not want to pre-judge who knew what and when and because he believes the ethics committee is a good place for absolution as well as fault-finding.

“It is a very important matter,” Frank said. “The ethics committee is the right venue to find out what happened. It can also be a good place for vindication.”

Frank endured questions in 1989 about what he knew about Stephen Gobie, a companion who had operated a sex-for-hire ring out of the congressman’s home. The ethics committee issued a lengthy report rejecting Gobie’s allegations that Frank was aware of the prostitution. The panel, however, did conclude that Frank helped write a misleading memo aimed at ending Gobie’s probation on felony charges and that he improperly intervened on his behalf to fight 33 parking tickets.

This article was updated on March 12 at 5:27 p.m.