Beware The New “Foley/Massa” Rule

Thanks to the Mark Foley and Eric Massa scandals, we’ve clearly got a new standard on the Hill for how leadership ought to deal with rumors, reports, or hints of inappropriate conduct by Members: run as fast as you can to the ethics committee and relieve yourself of the burden of your knowledge. Only in that way can you inoculate yourself from accusations of cover up, complicity or conspiracy.That appears to be what lead so rapidly to the resignation of Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). As our Justin Elliott reports, Rep. Mike Pence, a fellow Republican and Indianan, and a member of the Republican leadership, was approached last Wednesday by a reporter about Souder’s alleged affair. Pence went to Souder, who confessed the affair. But, according to Pence, Souder didn’t mention that the affair was with a staffer until Sunday, at which point Pence told Souder to resign and reported it to the ethics committee the next day.

Likewise, Minority Leader John Boehner reportedly talked to Souder on Monday, and after hearing about the affair with the staffer, also alerted the ethics committee. By Tuesday, news of Souder’s affair was out, and he resigned within hours.

Poor Souder obviously didn’t recognize the new rules of the game. The old House was self-protective and insular. In the new House, the leadership rats out their own to protect themselves and the rest of their caucus.