Feature: Going After Congressional Drug Warrior #1

Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) has made a political career out of being "tough on drugs." For years, his championing of such harsh legislation as the Higher Education Act's (HEA) drug penalty, his support of foreign drug war adventures in places like Colombia and Mexico, and his relentless opposition to any softening of the marijuana laws, even for medical uses, have served him well with his conservative northeast Indiana constituents -- or at the least, have not prevented him from being reelected.

To be fair, Souder has in recent years shown some small signs of retreat from his drug war dogmatism. While he championed the HEA drug provision, he was willing to water it down to only apply to students busted while in school and receiving financial aid, although that was partially in response to efforts to repeal it outright. And he has been a supporter of the Second Chance Act, which would presumably help some of the people incarcerated under the drug war he champions. Nevertheless, drug reformers still regard Souder as the devil, or at least a ranking demon.

Mark Souder -- #1 drug warrior
But while his seat has been safe so far, this year could be different. Not only is the Republican incumbent running in a year that could well see a rising Democratic tide, not only does he have an energetic and well-financed Democratic challenger in 27-year-old attorney Mike Montagano, but now Souder is facing a new political action committee (PAC) for whom drug warrior number one is target number one.

The PAC is the Schools Not Prisons PAC, headed by Darrell Rogers, a 29-year-old who honed his political skills with stints as a congressional intern, a volunteer for the Jim Webb senatorial campaign, and earlier, as executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), a group formed largely in response to Souder's HEA amendment that has helped spearhead the ongoing campaign to kill it dead.

Then Rogers picked up a masters degree in American Government from the Catholic University of America in Washington. Now, he's ready to put all that knowledge and experience to use.

"The PAC actually began as a grad school project when I was doing my masters," he said. "Now, I see a real opportunity for this to grow into something fundamentally sound and sustainable that will be able to have a real impact on selected congressional races."

"Our goals are three-fold," Rogers explained this week from his suburban Washington office. "We want to target and defeat members who have been expanding incarceration while limiting educational opportunities for people with drug offenses. At the same time, we want to support members who are good on our issues of supporting educational opportunity and looking for reasonable alternatives to our policies of over-incarceration," he said.

"But one of our most important goals is to defeat Congress' number one drug warrior, biggest enemy of education and biggest fan of imprisonment," said Rogers, alluding, of course, to none other than Souder. "We want to make having the title of number one drug warrior such a burden for representatives that they will shy away from positions that could earn them that title."

That's something drug reformers have long ached to see. Not only must elected officials understand that they will not pay a price for supporting reform efforts, but the converse must also hold true: Elected officials must understand they will pay a price for supporting punitive prohibitionist policies, the thinking goes.

So far, that has happened on only a tiny number of occasions -- the defeat of hard-line incumbent Albany, New York, prosecutor Paul Clyne by reformist David Soares in 2004, and the defeat of then-drug warrior and Georgia congressman (and now Libertarian Party presidential nominee!) Bob Barr in the Republican primary in 2002 after Libertarians ran a series of TV ads portraying him as indifferent to the suffering of medical marijuana patients.

Mark Souder would make a great addition to that list, said DC-based activists who have gone up against him on Capitol Hill. "Mark Souder is the author and chief proponent of one of the most harmful and misguided drug laws this country has ever seen with the HEA drug provision," said Tom Angell, communications director for SSDP. "It's exciting to see young people fed up with these destructive drug policies fighting back in the political arena."

"Souder is the last of the true drug war extremists," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. Get rid of him and Congress loses its most vocal cheerleader for punitive drug policies. He's in his toughest re-election race yet; it's possible to knock him out."

Souder has fended off attacks from drug reformers before. In 2002, a PAC that included several then-SSDP members went into his district in a bid to knock him off in the Republican primary. It didn't work, as Souder defeated his challenger and went on to win the general election on the rising Republican tide of the early Bush years.

But times have changed. While Souder is busy crusading against needle exchanges, medical marijuana, and any other drug reform effort that he associates with the stench of "legalization," his district is hemorrhaging jobs and his constituents are caught in the same unhappy inflationary spiral as the rest of the country. And the candidacy of Barack Obama, senator from the neighboring state of Illinois, has energized Democratic voters in Indiana's 3rd District, just as it has across the land.

That was evident on primary day. With turnout swelled by the Democratic presidential primary, Montagano pulled in 76,356 votes, nearly double the 40,000 votes Souder garnered in his primary. Montagano's primary vote tally is within shouting distance of the total votes Democratic challenger Thomas Hayhurst got in the 2006 general election and suggests Montagano could pick up even more in November.

In the 2006 election, Souder carried nearly 95,000 votes to Hayworth's nearly 80,000. That gave Souder a victory margin of 54% to 46%. But with the ranks of Democratic voters swelling, that margin of victory is likely to shrink or even be reversed this year.

Montagano is also leading Souder in fundraising. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported this week that, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings, Montagano had received $142,000 in PAC and individual donations since mid-April, while Souder had raised only $91,000.

Montagano also has more money in the bank. According to a Tuesday report in Roll Call examining the possibility of a Souder defeat, the Democratic challenger has $353,000 banked, compared to the incumbent's $320,000.

Darrell Rogers
While poll numbers are scarce -- the only direct Souder versus Montagano poll was in mid-May, before Montagano even won the nomination, and showed Souder with a two-to-one lead -- political observers are beginning to suggest Souder may indeed be vulnerable. That same April poll showed Souder's job approval at only 46%. In its most recent listing of competitive House races, the respected Cook Political Report moved Indiana's 3rd from the "solid Republican" category to "likely Republican." Similarly, the Roll Call story this week noted that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had begun listing Indiana's 3rd as a "race to watch."

For Rogers and the Schools and Prisons PAC, all of this is a call to arms. "The fundraising Montagano's doing, the primary numbers we've seen, and the continuing reports from the race watchers all lead us to a real call for action," said Rogers. "And this is a presidential election year with an incredible amount of new voters. We have to do something with this; it's an opportunity we can't afford to let pass."

And Rogers is getting busy. He's been hitting the phones looking for donations, both in Washington and in the 3rd District. "Mark Souder has made a lot of enemies in Washington over the years," he said, "so I think we'll have some success here. We're also reaching out to people in the district, trying to get a balance of donors and supporters," he explained.

"We are working on a complete and total campaign package," said Rogers. "The details are still coming together, but it will include Internet and social network organizing, running ads, and an on-the-ground get out the vote effort."

Souder may or may not be defeated come November, and drug reformers may or may not make a difference. But now they are at least on the playing field.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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and the defeat of then-drug

and the defeat of then-drug warrior and Georgia congressman (and now Libertarian Party presidential nominee!) Bob Barr in the Republican primary in 2002 after Libertarians ran a series of TV ads portraying him as indifferent to the suffering of medical marijuana patients.

A series of ads? Are you sure? I think it was one ad, starring the late Cheryl Miller. The ad was filmed 6 years ago today, on July 25, 2002. Read more: http://www.madisonnorml.org/blog/archives/000319.php

Bob Barr saw the light!

It was produced by Ron Crickenberger. He was the National Libertarian Political Director at the time.

You can also view it here:

Also, you got the PAC name wrong

At one point you said "Schools and Prisons PAC." "And" should be "not"!

Who edits this thing?


At this point ,with the ridiculous "zero tolerance" policies...schools are becoming prisons.Are you going to support this great effort to rid the govt of destructive morons like Souder or worry about 3 letter words?

Schools & Prisons PAC is Correct... I think?

The kids get to go back to school and the prohibitionist criminals, Souder included, gets to go to prison... for a very long time!

Billy B. Blunt
Tacoma, WA


Yeah, I think we should waterboard Sounder since it has been determined that its not torture.

Please crosspost on Daily Kos

They're always looking for new Democratic challengers to support.

Drug Warrior and Hypocrite

Souder goes on the floor of Congress with colorful charts showing the success of the gov't's anti-drug efforts and warning of the many terrible things that befall drug users.

BUT.... Souder, a born-again member of an extremely conservative Christian denomination, is really a moral crusader hiding behind the science that he himself probably doesn't even believe.

He should have the guts to say what he really thinks - that taking drugs is morally wrong.

If you REALLY want a change in policy concerning "illicit" drugs

then you must elect real Libertarians to Congress, and if none are available elect Ron Paul type Republicans. The Democrats have done nothing (to help restore an individual's freedom to ingest whatever intoxicant s/he desires) over the entire length of the war on some drugs. Do not elect LINO's like Bob Barr to the presidency, or junior Senators who spout the word change without ever giving a description of the actual changes pllanned, or the old war (including the drug war) horse McCain. In the presidential race the ONLY one who deserves an anti-drug war voter's vote is Ron Paul.

God bless Doctor Ron Paul,

God bless Doctor Ron Paul, we here in Iowa who first put you up have not forgotten you! Go for it, Dr. Paul! Our dollar is in terrible danger. The financial de coupling of the dollar to the rest of the free world is increasing as you feared it would. We need you so badly.

The media betrayed the American people by hiding the enormous gains Dr Paul would make with low level news instead. McShame is terror in two shoes and Obama is a fraud.

We need to start becoming a Constitutional governmant of the people once more. The corporations have gone too far and must be called back before they break free of our nation like humanless entities that control and dehumanize like China is going through, only it will happen with our people instead of someone else's.

Do the drug warriors like

Do the drug warriors like this Souder have any idea how much pain I have to live with every day because I can not get away from the ugly morphine and percocets and fentora I have to take? I skip taking the pain meds because I do not want what they will let me have even though I have to vomit and feel terrible migraines most every day for the rest of my life.

They call on God who is mercy and are heartless robots who condemn me to being a junkie because they can't stand the truth that cannabis would help me more than the legal filth will.

I grow cannabis illegally here in Iowa. My name is Robert Manke and I am not afraid. I want the boot of the cops off our necks! We should not be forced to live in agony when it is only the morality of false freedom in a land of police control that keeps me and those like me who are too afraid to speak from being free from agony.

It is not wrong to grow my own cannabis. It is not a sin like the state of iowa has done to our family. the law is guilty of sin unto death.

In 1998 the state of Iowa murdered my eleven year old daughter Crystal Leann Manke by forcing a drug overdose on her. Child Homicide state of iowa never went to trial because they bribed our family lawyer to settle when we didn't want one bit of it!! Murderers! drug warriors! you are not Christians! you are little girl murderers!

Sane drug policy

Give the police officer a lot of credit for participating in a forum like this. To a degree he is correct, I feel safer in a community with a minimal amount of police to enforce civility in our community. Alternatively there is legitimacy towards living in a community that polices themselves, that would be a great thing. In most communities for a host of reasons we are not able to have that. Until we can reach a point of self imposed civility police are necessary. The argument is the way we treat those in our society that we disagree with.

Those that have been abused, harmed, suffer mental illness, self-medicate, we should not harm those individuals more. Even the worse offenders though we may have to isolate them from society for our protection (and their benefit) isolation is the punishment. We don’t further punish people in prison. We model appropriate behavior and treatment even of the worse offenders of society’s civil codes of conduct. We do not mirror the offender’s worse behavior; we model behavior (as best we can).

The discussion here is about enforcement of “drug” laws. The idea is to remove criminal penalties for all drugs. We want to enforce a “sane” drug policy. We want to enforce a harm reduction policy. The laws that this officer is enforcing only contributes to the degradation of our society. Not only is it wrong to lie, cheat, steal. It is wrong to enforce ones own since of values on another. Marijuana is good, that doesn’t mean I should force it upon others. Trans fats are harmful, that doesn’t mean I should imprison people for eating them. For that matter a beef industry is inherently wasteful of the planets most precious resources, that doesn’t mean we should outlaw the consumption of meat. As long as police are enforcing insane drug laws, police will be doing as much harm to our society as are the addicts they persecute. Let’s register addicts so we know who they are. Let’s gets rid of the billions of dollars that flow to narco-terrorist. Let’s eliminate a major source of crime in our communities overnight, making all our communities safer. Police can then target their efforts at those crimes that go unsolved because of time spent persecuting drug offenses.


These prohibitionists should be continually criticized, condemed and dismissed. These dirty mutherfuckers turn my neighborhood into an armed camp with children carrying guns and dope, and they do it with this sense of entitlement and brutality directed at the most resource-less in this regime. They do not deserve civility in the debate...we, the people, must throw off these facists or continue to watch our rights eroded.

Indiana is a backward state

I know it, because I had the "privilege" of being born, growing up, and being "educated" in Indiana for 21 years. Unfortunately, there are a lot of drug-free individuals who would favor pushing their morals on their other constituents and locking up those who use and throw away the key. Like those individuals, I too am drug-free (due to a pending court case), but I would NEVER support taking away others' freedoms if they choose to use a substance as benign and theraputic as marijuana. Hopefully there are enough enlightened hoosiers out there who will fight the struggle to get the laws changed. We need to change the state's image which is currently infringing on our own image.

why Obama is better than McCain on drug policy

Obama will lay off medicinal marijuana in states that have approved it and McCain won't. This is a life and death issue for some people and an issue of life being bearable for many more. It's possible he'd respect a state's decision to legalize recreational weed as well. And he's far more sympathetic to harm reduction strategies in general than old man/old ideas McCain, and more capable of being educated as well. Ron Paul isn't running in November, and even if he was, he wouldn't get that many votes, so voting for him would be a case of letting ideological purity override a chance to make a small, but significant, real difference. The more widespread medicinal cannabis use becomes, the more obvious it will be that cannabis is much safer than alcohol. And stopping the demonization of weed is a necessary step towards stopping the demonization of hard drugs, which are far more hated by Americans than weed.


fuck everyone who opposes the legalization of marijuana use!!


my dads been smoking & drinking since he was 17 years old....guess which one caught up with him first? alcohol, he had scerosis of the liver & has recently had a liver transplant, yet his lungs are in tiptop shape. i think the main reason states and others oppose marijuana not only are ignorent to the effects, they were born & brought up to think weed is the most horrible thing when in real life alcohol is far more dangerous. yet alcohol is legal for those over 21. the government hasn't found a way to tax marijuana there for theyre not making a profit so they make it illegal. i thought this was the land of the free. who is the government to tell me i can smoke this plant (tobacco) but not this one. for the record the government doesnt tell me what to do i do what i want whether they like it or not. as long as im not hurting anyone i dont see the problem.

Vote your conscience.

[email protected],Vancouver,B.C.Canada
Vote for whoever speaks for an end to drug prohibition.Forget about party loyalty or wasting a vote on a third party.Better to vote for a third party candidate that agrees with your beliefs than to compromise and elect a hypocrite that will just give you more of the same.I'm no tree hugger but I'm voting green and working for the local candidate because they've spoken out against all aspects of the drug war.Even one or two voices in parliament will be more than what we have now.At least I'll know I voted my conscience.

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