Friday, May 18, 2007


The sudden resignation of Congressman Mark Foley raises questions of who knew what, when. It appears that a number of Congressmen, including some Congressional leaders, knew about Foley's sexual advances for some time and took no action.

It is time for a strong institutional response. Members of Congress, whatever their sexual orientation, ought not to be about the seduction or exploitation of minors. The sad parade of scandals in this area over many years must stop.

Past efforts to regulate sexual behavior of members of Congress have run aground because of legitimate privacy concerns. People who do not want government in everybody's bedrooms do not want government investigating sexual behavior. It is feared that investigations of the sexual behavior of members of Congress could be the beginning of sexual investigations of a lot of other people. But when a member of Congress seeks or accomplishes a sexual relationship with a minor, that is something different. That is inherently exploitive of the minor.

Minors are not disposable people. Sexually exploiting them, or attempting to sexually exploit them, can do long term emotional and psychological damage to them. They by definition cannot be consenting adults.

Congressional ethics rules should be amended to prohibit attempts to sexually solicit minors, to ban the direct sexual solicitation of minors, and to ban sexual contact with minors.
Any member of Congress who cannot live with such a ban should find some other way to make a living. Congressional pages, young Congressional interns, high school students, all should be be protected from the misdirected attentions of members of Congress and Congressional staff.
We have heard a lot about family values. It is long past time for Congress to demonstrate that it values the safe and secure emotional development of children.

Congress must not let the weaknesses of 1% or less of its members discredit Congress as an institution. When a minor meets a member of Congress, or corresponds with a member of Congress, his or her family and friends have a right to believe that minor is dealing with a person who behaves in a responsible and appropriate way.

Both the House and Senate should amend their rules to ban sexual solicitation of minors before going home to face the voters. If they are so immobolized that they cannot take this simple step to deal with this recurring institutional shame, they will not retain the trust they need to function successfully.

September 29, 2006



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