WASHINGTON - Funeral services were held Wednesday in Chicago for Frank Annunzio, the Illinois Democrat who championed housing and the thrift industry during his 28 years in the House of Representatives.
Former Rep. Annunzio died Sunday at the age of 86. He had Parkinson's disease, and slipped into a coma about a week before his death.
"Annunzio was Mr. Housing for the House and for the Banking Committee for a long period of time," said Kenneth A. Guenther, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America. "He was the key proponent in Congress of the American dream. He had enormous power and clout."
Rep. Annunzio was first elected in 1965 and quickly joined House Banking, eventually becoming the panel's No. 2 Democrat and chairman of its financial institutions subcommittee. He was instrumental in crafting the costly savings and loan bailout of 1989.
But Rep. Annunzio's close ties to the savings and loan industry - the notorious U.S. League of Savings Institutions was based in Chicago - weakened him politically. Fellow Democrats ousted him as chairman of the Administration Committee in 1990 on a close vote. He retired from Congress in 1993.
His legislative swan song, enacted in 1992, imposed tough penalties on banks and bankers found guilty of money laundering.
After retiring, Rep. Annunzio had made news for his criticism of the HBO series "The Sopranos."
"The congressman tried to make everyone aware of the positive aspects of the Italian-American community, and was puzzled and chagrined by the ceaseless efforts to depict us as wanton criminals," a family spokesman, Dominic DiFrisco, told a Chicago radio station.
Paul Nelson, House Banking Committee staff director from 1964 to 1987, said Wednesday that Rep. Annunzio "was as loyal a Democrat as there ever was."
"He was no more the 'the lackey' of the savings and loans than anyone else - everyone loved thrifts back then," Mr. Nelson said. "He got a bad rap. The S&L crisis wasn't his fault."