"Ethics was not political until Gingrich", reflected Rep. Barney Frank, a brilliant, cantankerous ultraliberal Massachusetts Democrat who was himself a victim of Gingrich's vendettas. He invented the politics of venom. In fact, the ethics process always had political overtones, but Gingrich took it to new heights. The ensuing frenzy of charges and countercharges helped explain why the public's opinion of Congress plummeted at the turn of the new century. To Gingrich, the ethics process was a long-neglected political weapon, as well as a legitimate one. Gingrich accelerated his campaign to invigorate the congressional ethics process. Ethics occupied a critical role in Gingrich's ambitious plans for himself and for his fellow Republicans. "The system was always political", recalled Stan Brand, former chief counsel to the Democratic majority of the House of Representatives and a critic of Gingrich's use of ethics as a partisan tool.