Mark Souder, GOP Congressman from Indiana who easily won renomination last month for a ninth term, will resign this morning after revelations of an affair with a staffer in his local district office. This career-ending dalliance is especially ironic given Souder’s witch-hunts, fake audits, and harassment of San Francisco AIDS prevention agencies early this century, which diverted scarce resources and may have cost lives.
From FOX News:
Eight-term Rep. Mark Souder will announce his resignation Tuesday after it came to light that he was conducting an affair with a female aide who worked in his district office, Fox News has learned.
Multiple senior House sources indicated that the extent of the affair with the 45-year-old staffer would have landed Souder before the House Ethics Committee.
The AIDS prevention non-profit agency I worked for early this century was almost destroyed by ‘family values conservative’ Mark Souder’s witch hunts and prurience. He was, filling some undeserved chairmanship role in the GOP House, convinced that our HIV/AIDS prevention messaging to sexually active adults was too explicit and violated the odious Helms amendment preventing sexually transmitted disease prevention messaging from, um, talking about sex.
In San Francisco, sexually active men were fatigued from fifteen years of AIDS prevention messaging that was neither explicit nor informative. At the same time sexually explicit messaging for porn and every other consumer good barraged us from all sides. The AIDS messages used by the STOP AIDS project were proven: they worked to stop the transmission of the disease through harm reduction, peer-to-peer relationships, and community input and norms.
These programs were being adopted nationwide; they were models for reaching men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) who were burned out on "use a condom every time." These messages were also extremely effective at engaging sexually active HIV-positive men in the prevention community.
But Souder, through audits, onsite investigations, public hearings and witch hunts against agency employees and public funders, made sure scarce time was devoted to responding to his spurious claims rather than preventing HIV/AIDS transmission. STOP AIDS Project worked with sexually active adult men who had sex with men: abstinence messages only made them laugh.
We were already fighting a losing battle as new ‘miracle’ drugs made HIV/AIDS look like a survivable disease. Lazarus-like stories about dying men coming back from the dead and working out at the gym every day made younger, more vulnerable men less worried about catching ‘the bug.’ Souder’s insistence that abstinence-only programs would be effective with sexually active men, some of them HIV-positive, was ludicrous. It was bad — murderous — public health policy.
Mark Souder wanted our agency to use ONLY abstinence messaging to reach this vulnerable and over-saturated population. He wasted untold agency hours requiring duplicative community reviews of already proven programs. He delved into employees’ poetry and fiction, and micromanaged advertising imagery to ensure it was ‘family-friendly.’ He made it almost impossible to do our jobs, and it showed. Agency morale plummeted, staff departed, and people all across America stopped using effective reproducible prevention programs because of Souder’s questions and harassment.
People seroconverted, and people died, because of Mark Souder’s wrong-headed focus on abstinence-only education.
His fall from grace today due to his own yield to temptation would give me much greater pleasure if I didn’t know there were dead gay San Franciscans due to his prurient jock-sniffing.
Clearly, our population didn’t need an abstinence message nearly as much as the married Congressman needed a fidelity message.
UPDATE (full statement here):
Updated: Representative Mark Souder, a conservative Indiana Republican, said Tuesday that he is resigning his Congressional seat as of Friday after having an extramarital affair with a staff member in his district office, as events continued to roil the midterm election landscape.
“I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff,” Mr. Souder said in a statement issued by his office. “In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain. I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process.”
UPDATE 2: TPM reports Souder made a video touting abstinence-only education — with his mistress:
Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) had an affair with a part-time staffer named Tracy Jackson, Fox is reporting. Jackson played the role of interviewer for a Souder Web video show on the issues of the day — including one on the value of abstinence.
Dubbed "Congressional Update with Congressman Mark Souder," the show hit on issues like intelligent design and fencing the border.
In the November 2009 abstinence video, Jackson introduces Souder this way: "You’ve been a longtime advocate for abstinence education and in 2006 you had your staff conduct a report entitled ‘Abstinence and its Critics’ which discredits many claims purveyed by those who oppose abstinence education."
UPDATE 3: WaPo’s The Fix is focused on how Souder will be replaced on the fall ballot:
The revelations regarding Souder come two weeks after he survived a serious primary challenge from car dealer Bob Thomas who spent considerable sums of his own money on the race. Souder won the primary with less than 50 percent of the vote.
How Souder will be replaced on the ballot remains to be seen. State law allows Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) wide leeway in whether or not to call a special election and in the immediate aftermath of the resignation Republicans said it was unlikely there would be any vote before November.
Within 30 days of the Souder vacancy — and he has said he will resign officially on Friday — the precinct chairmen and women of the counties in his district must gather to select a replacement. One named being bandied about is state Sen. Marlin Stutzman who ran unsuccessfully for Senate earlier this month.