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.

Eliot Spitzer: Screwed

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 4:41 PM EDT

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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.

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

| Fri Mar. 7, 2008 3:25 PM EST

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.

More after the jump...

Comcast Must Die

| Wed Mar. 5, 2008 3:52 PM EST

Comcast, the cable TV giant, has given its customers lots of reasons to hate the company. They've refused to embrace a la carte programming, charged people $2 to stop sending them junk mail, wrecked people's credit reports, falsely advertised its Internet speed and generally abused the people who pay for its services. Comcast's customer service problems are so acute that Advertising Age columnist Bob Garfield started a blog called Comcast Must Die to compile all the gripes about the company from consumers (see the promo video above). But Comcast doesn't really need any help generating bad press.

Last week, the company admitted that it paid people to take up all the seats at an FCC hearing examining complaints that Comcast was blocking file-sharing on its cable modem service. The reason? Comcast wanted to keep its critics out in the cold. The company apparently didn't tell the seat-warmers to stay awake through the proceedings so as not to attract attention of reporters, who immediately suspected Comcast was up to no good.

It's amazing that a company this bad could stay in business as long as it has. It's either a testament to the power of monopolies or sad proof that Americans will endure any amount of corporate abuse to get their Law and Order fix every week. Garfield is hoping his new blog will help change corporate behavior, but I think there's a better way to go than bitching online: just cancel. Pull the plug. Comcast will only die if people stop using it. Really, you can do it. The writers' strike notwithstanding, network TV has never been better, and in these bad economic times, it has the added advantage of being free.

Christians Heart Payday Lenders

| Wed Mar. 5, 2008 12:12 PM EST

payday-lender.jpgThe Christian Right has used the Bible to bolster many a political issue, from abortion to stem cell research. Strangely enough, however, they seem to have missed one of the biggies: the Bible's many injunctions against usury, or predatory lending to poor people. The Bible is far more explicit in its disapproval of usury than, say, gay marriage. (The book of Ezekiel compares usurious lending to extortion and murder for hire, in fact, and threatens major hellfire for those who practice it.) Yet in parts of the country where the Christian Right wields the most political power, usurious payday lending has flourished more than anywhere else in the U.S., according to a new study by Christopher Peterson and Steven Graves.

Today's payday lenders charge around 450 percent interest on short-term loans, rates ten times higher than the federal definition of criminal loan sharking and nearly double what the Mob charged in its heyday. Peterson's home state of heavily Mormon Utah ranked high on the list of havens for payday lenders. The state claims more payday lending outlets than McDonalds, Burger Kings, Subway sandwich chains, and 7-11s combined, and has failed to pass even modest restrictions on allowable interest rates that exceed 500 percent a year, among the highest in the nation. (One reason may be that the chairman of the Salt Lake City Republican Party, former State Senator James Evans, himself owns several payday-lending outfits.)

Peterson and Graves decline to speculate as to why devout Christians and Mormons who wield considerable political clout continue to tolerate practices that are so clearly at odds with Biblical teachings. They simply attempted to point out the correlation, writing that sadly, "Those states that have most ardently held to their pious Christian traditions have tended to become more infested with the progeny of money changers once expelled by Christ from the Hebrew temple."

Photo by Flickr user ninjapoodles used under a Creative Commons license.

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