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Corbett aide who edited journal resigns

HARRISBURG - A high-level Corbett administration adviser resigned his $104,470 position Tuesday after questions were raised about his outside role as editor of a conservative faith-based journal.

HARRISBURG - A high-level Corbett administration adviser resigned his $104,470 position Tuesday after questions were raised about his outside role as editor of a conservative faith-based journal.

Along with disclosing welfare adviser Robert W. Patterson's departure, the administration swiftly distanced itself from the views expressed in the journal he edits.

Patterson was hired in October by Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander as a special assistant to help set policy for services provided to millions of Pennsylvanians through the Department of Public Welfare (DPW).

Last week, The Inquirer began asking about Patterson's side job as editor of The Family in America, published by an Illinois-based research center that advocates for the "natural human family . . . established by the Creator."

In the journal, Patterson has weighed in on everything from what he called "misguided" programs that grew out of the 1960s War on Poverty - programs now administered by DPW - to what he described as a woman's ideal role in society: married and at home raising children.

For instance, he wrote about research that he said showed that if women wanted to find "Mr. Right," they should shun birth control pills; and if they wanted to improve their mood, they should not insist that their men wear condoms lest they miss out on beneficial chemicals found in semen.

Carey Miller, spokeswoman for DPW, said Patterson submitted his letter of resignation Tuesday.

Asked why, she said Patterson had formally requested to remain in his position as the journal's editor while working for the state, but his request had been rejected.

She would not say why Welfare Secretary Alexander had hired him, whether Alexander was familiar with his writings, or whether he agreed with Patterson's oft-expressed view that many social welfare programs have worsened the lot of the poor by promoting single motherhood and displacing marriage as a way out of poverty.

"It is irrelevant to get into that," Miller said. But she added: "I can say that the journal does not reflect the views of the Corbett administration."

Neither Alexander nor Patterson responded to repeated requests from The Inquirer for interviews.

Patterson began writing for The Family in America in 2004 and became its editor in 2009, according to the publication's website. The journal is the flagship publication of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society in Rockford, Ill., which opposes abortion, divorce, and homosexuality and advocates for the "child-rich, married-parent" family. Patterson is also an adjunct research fellow there, according to the center's website.

In last year's spring issue of the journal, Patterson co-authored a piece summarizing and reviewing recent studies related to families.

Among them: a recent study suggesting condom use robs a woman of "remarkable" chemicals found in semen that have been shown to elevate mood and self-esteem.

What's more, the study found that "semen-exposed women" perform better on concentration and cognitive tasks, Patterson reported.

He also referenced a 2004 study that suggested birth-control pills weakened a woman's "natural sense of attraction to men who would be a good biological match and enable her to conceive easily and bear healthy children."

And should the "pill-popping young lady" go off the pill, she may no longer be attracted to the man she chose when she was on it, the study said.

Yet another study Patterson excerpted - under the headline "Mom's Employed; Junior's a Couch Potato" - suggested that mothers who work may be depriving their children of exercise.

Patterson also quoted research finding that children of single mothers are more likely to be overweight because those women may have less time and energy to make healthy meals and play with their children.

"Perhaps it is time for American health officials trying to combat our national epidemic of childhood obesity to look for ways to get mothers back in the home," he wrote. He separately took aim at the effectiveness of day cares and preschool programs.

In the journal's summer issue, Patterson authored a piece defending what he called "pay-as-you-go entitlements," such as Social Security, but advocated scaling back assistance programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, the children's health insurance program, and cash assistance for the poor.

The programs, he argued, are the legacy of President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" and War on Poverty - which Patterson argued have produced "more of a quagmire than Vietnam ever was."

He said those programs have drained public budgets and gone hand-in-hand with higher levels of broken families. "As their recipients have never paid into the system, these programs should never be considered 'mandatory entitlements' but rather as discretionary experiments subject to downsizing," he wrote.

He urged policy-makers to consider returning all welfare programs to state control, saying states should be able to develop systems that reward marriage and "recognize a conventional division of labor among married participants."

To be sure, Patterson, a onetime speechwriter in President George W. Bush's administration, is hardly alone in advocating a different approach to combating poverty and tackling burgeoning public welfare costs.

But defenders of some of the programs he lambasted said his views represent the ideological extreme and stand in contrast to the national push for better education, training, employment, and child care support to release people, particularly women, from the clutches of poverty. They also wondered whether Patterson's hiring signaled an ideological shift at DPW as it embarks on an initiative to cut costs and reduce waste.

Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) called Patterson's hiring "an outrage," and said he was relieved to learn he had quit. "I am grateful to the Corbett administration for understanding that someone so extreme has no role in government," Leach said Tuesday.

The welfare department has garnered more than its share of headlines since Alexander was recruited by Corbett from a similar post in Rhode Island. Recently, the department has drawn attention by cutting more than 150,000 people, including 43,000 children, from medical assistance, and by pushing to make the amount of food stamps people receive contingent on the assets they possess.