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Disgraced former Rep. Mark Souder’s longtime chief of staff is starting over next year with a new job in a new Member’s office — and a new name. Renee Hudson (née Howell) will be chief of staff for Rep.-elect Ben Quayle, a move that has the blessing of GOP leadership.
Then known by her maiden name of Renee Howell, she fronted Souder’s Washington, D.C., office for more than seven years before the Indiana Republican resigned in May following the revelation that he had been carrying on an extramarital affair with another employee.
Hudson told a local paper at the time that she was “shocked” by the allegations, and she confronted Souder and told House GOP leaders. The Washington Post reported that the announcement that Souder would step down came on the day she wed Richard Hudson, chief of staff to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas).
Now, in addition to taking her new husband’s last name, Renee Hudson will join Quayle’s Capitol Hill office, the Arizona Republican’s press secretary, Richard Cullen, confirmed. Cullen came to Quayle’s staff from the office of Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who will be Majority Leader in the 112th Congress.
Cullen and Hudson declined to comment further for this story, but a GOP leadership aide offered an endorsement of her hiring.
“In a tough situation, Renee did the right thing: Her boss resigned, and her honesty, straightforwardness and professionalism were appreciated by the leadership and her co-workers,” the aide said.
Between Souder’s May resignation and the November swearing-in of his successor, Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R), Hudson and her more than $140,000 yearly salary remained on the payroll of the Clerk of the House so that she could run the headless Congressional district’s D.C. office and manage the transition. The fact that Hudson is still on Capitol Hill after surviving a Member’s career-ending scandal is rare; the fact that she is still a chief of staff is even more extraordinary. Almost every chief to recent scandal-ridden Members has not fared so well.
“Obviously, it’s one of the first questions most people ask when you’re looking for a new job,” one staffer who experienced a Member-driven ethics scandal, and was still able to find employment on the Hill, told Roll Call. “In the end though, if you are competent, capable and were not involved with or proximate to the problems in your previous office, people tend to be understanding.”
Rep. Eric Massa resigned this spring over allegations that he had sexually harassed his male staffers. The New York Democrat’s former chief of staff, Joe Racalto, has not been rehired on the Hill, perhaps because he filed a complaint against Massa’s office in March. The status of that case remains unknown. Attorney Camilla McKinney of the Washington, D.C.-based firm McKinney & Associates confirmed earlier this month that she continues to represent Racalto.
Two former chiefs of staff for disgraced Members now work on K Street. Elizabeth Nicolson worked for Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who quit in 2006 after it was alleged he sent sexually explicit messages to an underage male page. Harmony Allen was chief of staff for Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), who resigned in 2005 after admitting to taking bribes.
After Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2008 following his indictment on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, extortion and insurance fraud, his chief of staff, Patty Roe, joined a political consulting firm. Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) pulled a similar move in 2006 after being implicated in the Jack Abramoff scandal. His chief of staff, David Popp, now handles communications for Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio).
Ex-Sen. Larry Craig’s former chief of staff followed his boss off the Hill: Michael Ware works for the Idaho Republican’s consulting firm, New West Strategies. Ex-Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) was sentenced in 2009 to 13 years in prison for taking bribes. His former chief of staff, Eugene Green, ran unsuccessfully this year in the Democratic primary to replace him.
Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.