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Mark Souder

Top Drug Warrior Mark Souder Resigns from Congress After Affair with Staffer

Ending Souder's reign of terror has been a high priority for the reform movement for many years, but we never saw this coming:

Rep. Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican known for his support of traditional family values, announced Tuesday that he will leave office, ending a tense week in which a key staffer confronted him with rumors about his alleged extramarital affair with a part-time aide.
He said he was "ashamed" that he had "sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff." But he blamed the "poisonous environment of Washington" for his decision to resign, effective Friday. [Washington Post]

Following the departure of Bush's drug czar John Walters, Souder unquestionably remained the reform movement's most dangerous and fanatical opponent. For many years, he chaired the House Subcommittee responsible for federal drug policy, doing everything in his power to continue our reckless death march into drug war oblivion. No one has done more to infect the drug policy debate in with mindless hysteria, while opposing and obstructing reform at every opportunity.

Souder is best known as author of the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty that has denied financial aid for college to more than 200,000 students with drug convictions. In so doing, he galvanized student activism for drug policy reform, leading to the formation of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which eventually played a significant role in scaling back the law itself.

Yet today, we learned that the man who held others to such high standards was himself capable of being a bit naughty. As glad as we are to see him go, I think Souder's years of drug war demagoguery will come to be remembered as an important catalyst for the growing national recognition that it's time to move our drug policy in a new direction. Souder just took everything way too far, and in the process, he gave many of us a reason to stand up and fight back. We've accomplished a great deal despite Mark Souder, and I can't wait to see what we can do without him.

More Big News: Needle Exchange Legislation Passes US House of Representatives

As I noted here two weeks ago, legislation to repeal the ban on use of federal AIDS funds for needle exchange programs was included in a House subcommittee's health budget bill. The language survived an attempt on the House floor to repeal it, and so has made it through the full House of Representatives. Satisfyingly, the Congressman who tried to delete the language was Mark Souder, who also lost a committee vote on Tuesday to significantly gut his anti-student aid drug law. Souder's pro-AIDS amendment lost 211-218. The flip side is that 49% percent of Congress voted to continue spreading HIV and Hepatitis throughout our communities.