Prominent Conservative Quits Congress After Admitting Affair With Staffer

by Marcia Clemmitt

Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., announced today that he is resigning from Congress after acknowledging to colleagues that he had an affair with a female staff member. Both Souder and the staff member are married.
"In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain,” said Souder, who only two weeks ago survived a tough primary election challenge. “I am resigning rather than put my family through that painful, drawn-out process."
During his 16 years in Congress, Souder has been a strong conservative voice on Capitol Hill, whom the CQ Researcher has cited and quoted in numerous reports, most recently in my March 26, 2010, report on “Teen Pregnancy, where I quoted his remarks from a 2008 hearing on abstinence education.
“Extreme interest groups believing in sexual freedom and sexual justice have denigrated the debate over abstinence education by turning it into a vehicle to promote their own ideological agenda of radical sexual autonomy,” Souder said. “We ought not to be persuaded by these groups who, although adopting the language of science and reason” to promote contraceptive education, “are really just evangelists of a … tragically incorrect moral vision. We must … realize that this debate involves deep disagreements between competing values” about morality.
In March 2004, as chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, Souder confronted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration over what he called their continued failure to inform the public about “the lack of effectiveness of condoms in preventing infection.” Souder based his complaint on the fact that condoms are only very minimally effective against HPV – human papillomavirus – according to Sarah Glazer’s Dec. 3, 2004, report on “Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” in which his remarks were quoted. (Condoms are effective against many other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, however.)
Souder has also been a proponent of strong curbs on illegal drugs, including medical use of marijuana. “I am exasperated at the FDA’s failure to act against fraudulent claims about ‘medical’ marijuana,” he wrote in a 2006 letter to the FDA, quoted in our June 2, 2006, report on the “War on Drugs” by Peter Katel. Souder had begun pressing the FDA to take a strong stance against the medical use of marijuana in 2003.
An ardent spokesman for right-to-life views, Souder has called for a “federal presumption in favor of life” for the Medicare and Medicaid programs, to ensure that federally insured patients are “not denied ordinary care such as hydration or nutrition without due process and full exercise of their rights of human beings,” said our May 13, 2005, report on the “Right to Die” by Kenneth Jost.
In Congress, Souder has also taken strong stands against gun control and for strict punishment of drug crimes and crimes of violence, including among young people.
Our 1998 report on school violence quoted him urging the House to pass a bill to allow juveniles age 14 and up to be tried as adults for violent or drug crimes.
“There should be a price to pay if someone shoots somebody, if they rape somebody or if they use a gun in an armed robbery,” Souder said. “We have spent too much time worrying about these juveniles without thinking about the people who are terrorized by these young people.”
In 2004, Souder announced he had 228 cosponsors on a bill that would abolish gun-control laws in Washington, D.C., and make it illegal for the city’s mayor or council to enact any such laws in the future, our 2004 “Gun Control Debate” report noted.
“The folly of gun control is shown time and again in cities that have strict gun control laws,” Souder said. “Washington, D.C., has the most restrictive gun control laws in the country, yet it is known foremost for its violent criminal activity.” His bill, he said, “would allow law-abiding people to use guns to protect their homes and families.”
The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives, but the Senate never acted on it.
In 2005, Rep. Souder contributed the “pro” At Issue essay for the Researcher’s report on “Intelligent Design,” addressing the question, “Should public schools teach the controversy surrounding evolution and intelligent design?”
In his “yes” response to that question, Souder wrote:
“The question of biological origins continues to plague discussions about public school science-education policy. But why can't high school students just learn the standard scientific view and be done with it? Science is science, and that should end the debate.
“Normally it would. But evolution is different.
“Charles Darwin's theory — and its modern variants — assert that everything we see in the living world is the result of an unplanned, unguided process of random variation and natural selection. It has, from the very beginning, been something more than just a scientific theory. Darwinism quickly became a near-religious conviction for modern agnostics, and since its early days it has been used against people of faith. That history, of course, does not disqualify it as science, but it does help explain why many well-educated Americans have not made, and perhaps never will make, their peace with Darwinian theory.
“…The Darwinian mechanism as an explanation for macroevolution has long been the subject of cogent and powerful scientific criticisms. And those criticisms have become more compelling in recent years as new evidence piles up: Recently uncovered fossil beds deepen the mystery of the Cambrian explosion, and molecular biology reveals the nanotechnology and digital information inside each lowly cell.
“…The theory should not be taught as an absolute.”