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 the last year 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.

Congressional Ethics Office Vote Today

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 9:32 AM PDT

Two members of Congress have gone to jail in the past year and another may be on the way. The corruption scandals have prompted the House of Representatives to attempt to create new mechanisms for policing its own. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass) led a bipartisan task-force to create a new Office of Congressional Ethics that would investigate ethics charges against members apart from the dysfunctional House ethics committee. The measure would mark the biggest change in congressional ethics rules in a decade, but the legislation creating the office stalled among partisan fights over who should run the office and whether outside groups ought to be able to file complaints against lawmakers.

The House was slated to vote on the bill late last month, but it was postponed after opposition from various factions. Today, though, it looks like the bill is actually going to go the House floor for a vote. We'll be waiting to see how Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz) votes on this one, as the indicted lawmaker has thus far refused to step down, and without a functioning ethics committee, the House has no way to force him to do so.

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Will Spitzer Go To John School?

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 2:25 PM PDT

The details about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal are still just trickling out—Fox News naturally jumped the gun and had him all but heading off to prison—but if the feds are really going to prosecute Spitzer for ordering up a $4,300 hooker, in all likelihood he would be subject to D.C. and not federal law. (Spitzer was in D.C. when he called the escort service, and unless he was doing something really stupid like using public money to pay the bill, his crime hardly reaches the level of a federal offense and would likely go to local prosecutors.) D.C.s' criminal penalties for prostitution are pretty mild for first-time offenders, as Spitzer would presumably be. He's unlikely to be facing jail time. What he might have to endure, though, is a day-trip to John School.

In D.C., men who get caught trying to pay for sex are frequently required to attend an 8-hour class known as John School, run through the U.S. Attorney's office, where they are schooled about the evils of prostitution, introduced to "survivors" of prostitution, and counseled by a psychologist about sexual addiction. Helpfully, they're also offered free STD testing from the Department of Health. Spitzer wouldn't be the first high-profile person to land in John School. Lots of local professional athletes have been through, including, most recently, Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche. It wouldn't be fun, but it definitely beats the alternative, which could be a stint in the D.C. jail.

Eliot Spitzer: Screwed

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 1:41 PM PDT

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Having sex with prostitutes is always a risky proposition for any public official. But when you've pissed off some of the richest and most powerful people in the world, paying for sex may be one of the more stupid things you could do. Jezus, Eliot, what the hell were you thinking?

In case you haven't heard yet, The New York Times reported this afternoon that New York's Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month. In a press conference that lasted nanoseconds—there were no questions taken—Spitzer admitted that he had violated "his obligation to his family," but he said nothing else about the news report and gave no hints on whether he intends to remain (that is, try to remain) in office.

Spitzer is so loathed on Wall Street and in the business community that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has devoted entire conferences to figuring out how to bring him down. Tom Donohue, the president of the Chamber, once accused Spitzer of using the "most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation that we have seen in this country in modern time" in his investigation of Wall Street firms back in 2005, when Spitzer was the state's attorney general.

Business leaders despise Spitzer for his holier-than-thou press conferences in which he denounced them as slimeballs. Among his enemies: former chief of the New York Stock Exchange, Dick Grasso; the entire mutual fund industry; dirty power-plant owners; trillion-dollar banks. Spitzer went after all of them, with an aggressive use of state and some federal law that was derisively known as "Spitzerism." His election as New York's governor showed that he had the ability to win over upstate Republicans, a sign that he might have a future in national politics. And imagine the business world's horror at the possibility of a Spitzer-led U.S. Department of Justice, or worse, the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Rep. Chris Cannon To Car-Scam Victim: Move On!

| Fri Mar. 7, 2008 12:25 PM PST

chris%20cannon.jpgWhen regular citizens come up to Capitol Hill to tell their stories about whatever evil has befallen them—foreclosure, food poisoning, etc.—members of Congress, as a rule, treat them gently, even if they don't agree with the bill those citizens have come to support. Yesterday, though, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) seemed to have forgotten that rule during a hearing on a bill that would ban the use of forced arbitration in automobile sale and leasing contracts.

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