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.

Wearing White (To A Confirmation Hearing)

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 4:09 PM EST

Yesterday, in a room full of assembled dignitaries, President Bush's controversial nominee for the federal district court in Wyoming stuck out like the trial lawyer that he is. It's the hair, really. In a fashion fancied by many jet-set plaintiffs' lawyers, Richard Honaker came to his confirmation hearing coiffed with a thick mane of salt-and-pepper gray hair slicked back into a flip of curls at the nape. It's not hard to imagine that the man might once have sported a ponytail, and not just because of rumors that he once was a Democrat. But what really set Honaker apart from the crowd, perhaps, was his wife Shannon.

Honaker has been a longtime member of the Home School Legal Defense Association and an anti-abortion crusader. As such, he has earned the enduring scorn of national women's organizations who have branded him something of a cretin. So I half-expected his wife to resemble Phyllis Schlafly. After all, imagine the woman who would marry such a man? Instead, Shannon Honaker looked a lot more like the Ann Coulter without the Botox and anorexia. She is, you might say, hot.

Not only that, but Mrs. Honaker owns a "home-based fashion consulting and clothing business" called Classic Chic. Yesterday, she was wearing one of her own creations, a stark white pantsuit with cropped jacket over a black shirt. Given that it was February and 26 degrees outside, Mrs. Honaker sailed prominently above a sea of the gray flannel of official Washington, where the white suit really doesn't properly debut until after Memorial Day. After the hearing, Mrs. Honaker told me that while her designs are not available in regular department stores, they apparently have gotten something of a following in Republican fashion circles: At the State of the Union address last month, none other than education secretary Margaret Spellings appeared wearing something from the Classic Chic line…

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Ted Stevens Takes Aim At Exxon

| Wed Feb. 6, 2008 11:50 AM EST

exvala.jpgAlaska Senator Ted Stevens is a busy guy, what with the FBI raiding his house and all. But recently he took time out of his regular pork-barrel business to return to the practice of law. Stevens is a Harvard Law school grad, and was a practicing lawyer before he was elected to Congress in 1964. He recently dusted off his law books and wrote an amicus brief on behalf of Alaska fisherpeople who sued Exxon after a drunk sea captain crashed its oil tanker, the Valdez, into Prince William Sound in 1989, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the delicate ecosystem.

An Alaska jury hit Exxon with a $5 billion verdict in 1994, but Exxon hasn't paid a dime of it. Instead, it has appealed the case for so long that 8,000 of the original class members in the lawsuit have since died without seeing the case resolved, according to the Anchorage Daily News.In the latest installment of the long-running litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in October to hear the case.

Sen. Stevens has written an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, drawing on his vast knowledge of maritime law that includes a law review article he wrote back in 1950, which is cited in the brief, according to the Wall Street Journal. Stevens told the Journal that he didn't think the justices would actually look up his article, but that he wanted to establish that he had some expertise in the area. "I don't imagine the justices look at these amicus briefs that much," he said.

Head Start: Dying On The Vine

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 5:16 PM EST

head%20start.jpgWhen George W. Bush took office in 2001, he came in with grand plans for Head Start, the popular early childhood enrichment and education program for low-income kids. Bush talked about beefing up standards, improving teacher training and quality, and working hard to make sure low-income preschoolers were ready to hit the kindergarten playground running. Oh, and he also wanted to turn the program into a block grant, slash its budget, and force 3-year-olds to undergo standardized testing twice a year.

Consequently, it took Congress five years to reauthorize the program, a last vestige of the Great Society poverty programs. Members of Congress from both parties saved Head Start from the block grant, better known as a stealthy way to defund the program by turning it over to the states. And in December, Bush grudgingly signed the bill that officially killed off the misguided testing regime. But one part of Bush's original ambitious plan for Head Start has actually succeeded: the budget cuts. It hasn't come all at once, but through erosion.

The new omnibus budget bill, signed just two weeks after Head Start was reauthorized in December, would put the program's budget at 12 percent below the funding level for 2002, according to the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, mostly because Bush has failed to let Head Start funding keep up with inflation. The budget cuts translate into about 20,000 kids who may not have access to the program anymore. This is all happening at a time when child poverty is on the rise, and the number of poor kids under the age of 5 is increasing. Insert your own favorite "child left behind' kicker here...

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