Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent several years hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

Spy Novels For Journalists

| Wed May 27, 2009 2:14 PM EDT

Alex Berenson is a New York Times reporter by day, bestselling spy novelist by night. Earlier this year, he published his third novel, The Silent Man, featuring his super spy John Wells. I came across the book at the library a couple of weeks ago and discovered that not only is it pretty good, but it's the rare spy novel for media junkies. At one point in the book, Wells assumes the cover of a Lebanese businessman/freedom fighter. To get into character, he tans at Solar Planet, dyes his hair and ODs on fried chicken. Fat and swarthy, Wells procures a fake passport to travel to Moscow to avenge an attack that nearly killed his girlfriend. His alias? Glenn Kramon, which also happens to be the name of Berenson's boss and managing editor of the Times.

I asked the real Kramon whether he knew Berenson had inserted him into the novel. Turns out he's a big fan of Berenson's novels and has read all three. When he first discovered his name in the most recent, Kramon says he "thanked Alex for not making me the villain." Kramon's is not the first name Berenson has appropriated from his Times colleagues. Kramon says his favorite is that of the book's hapless American ambassador to Russia, Walt Purdy, whose name he suspects is a hybrid of investigative reporter Walt Bogdanich and his editor, Matt Purdy. Naturally, the Times names had me wondering who else had popped up in Berenson's novels. Perhaps there's a Maureen Dowd cameo? Alas, Berenson says no. He only poaches names from people he knows, and he's never met Dowd. "I have a hunch that Wells wouldn't like her much, though," he says. "She's not his type."
 

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Is Trojan Squeezing Out The Competition?

| Tue May 26, 2009 1:53 PM EDT

Condoms are not things people tend to linger over before buying, comparing prices and such. Unlike greeting cards, these purchases tend to be more of the grab and go variety. So the condom maker that can command the best real estate on store shelves is definitely going to have the upper hand. A quick survey suggests that the ubiquitous Trojan wins that battle, hands down. Apparently, this is no accident.

According to the trade pub FTC: Watch, the Federal Trade Commission wants to know whether Church & Dwight, the maker of Trojan condoms, has made illicit deals to ensure that its battery-powered vibrating rings and other products get the best possible store placement. The FTC is investigating whether the condom maker is unlawfully squeezing out Lifestyles and other smaller competitors through such arrangements.  Who'd a thought a company so perennially linked to safe-sex campaigns and public restroom quickies could also be a ruthless corporate actor? If the FTC finds the condom-maker violated anti-trust laws, condom-buyers everywhere might be treated to a better variety of latex behind the counter at their local 7-11--without having to linger.
 

Obama's Weird Choice for CSPC

| Tue May 5, 2009 11:05 AM EDT

President Obama has made it clear he wants the Consumer Products Safety Commission to do a better job protecting the public from killer baby cribs and asbestos-tainted CSI toys. He's proposed doubling the commission's budget and expanding the commission from three to five members. All of which makes his naming today of Inez Moore Tenenbaum as the commission chair seem even weirder.

Tenenbaum is a South Carolina politico who did two terms as the state's elected schools superintendent. Her resume is heavy on education and politics. She ran for the Senate in 2004, but aside from a stint doing public interest law in the 1980s, she's not a big name in the consumer protection world. She was on the short list, in fact, for secretary of education. The CSPC post seems like a consolation prize. Apparently Obama owes Tenenbaum big time for helping him win the South Carolina primary. She and her husband are heavy democratic donors (nearly $27,000 in federal contributions in the 2008 election cycle) and she endorsed Obama early, when it was still the "risky" vote. On stage after winning the South Carolina primary, Obama hugged first his wife and then Tenenbaum.

While she's probably not an ideal choice for the job, Tenenbaum is still likely to be an improvement over the current chair, Nancy Nord, whose corporate ties have been well documented and whose attempt to fight a budget increase for her own agency didn't go over too well with Congress. Tenenbaum's eight years of fighting public school bureaucracy might even be good training for her assignment to clean house at the beleagured CSPC.

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Tue Sep. 9, 2014 6:30 AM EDT | Updated Tue Dec. 16, 2014 10:10 AM EDT