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.

Imagine What They'll Do to Avoid Retina Scans!

| Tue Nov. 6, 2007 2:27 PM EST

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Since 2004, U.S. border guards have been fingerprinting everyone caught illegally crossing into the U.S. and checking the prints against terrorist watch lists and criminal records. The program has rooted out a few criminals, but it's also had an unexpected side-effect.

According to USA Today, border guards have caught a number of people who've burned off the tips of their fingers to hide their identities. One enterprising money launderer caught illegally crossing the border had recently had skin from his feet grafted onto his fingers. He was still limping when he was apprehended. Most of these folks have been criminals, but at least one woman caught by border guards had undergone plastic surgery on her fingertips so she could be reunited with her daughter.

The government might want to think twice about such unintended consequences before it moves ahead with plans to integrate retina scans into passport documents, or Tom Cruise's eye transplant in Minority Report might seem truly prescient!

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Did the Mormon Mafia Work Its Magic for Kyle Sampson?

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 10:38 AM EDT

sampson.jpgDespite his spectacular fall from grace, Alberto Gonzales's former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson has nonetheless managed to land a lucrative revolving-door post at the powerhouse law firm Hunton & Williams. Sampson, you'll recall, was the guy who drew up the hit-list of U.S. Attorneys slated to get fired for not being loyal enough to the GOP.

Hunton & Williams has hired Sampson for its food and drug practice, where business is booming thanks to Rep. Henry Waxman's renewed focus on the FDA. Sampson got a plug from Hunton partner David Higbee, who was Sampson's roommate at Brigham Young University. But the folks at Hunton aren't just providing a soft landing for a disgraced Bush administration official out of the goodness of their hearts. A Utah native and former Mormon missionary, Sampson also has close ties to one Orrin Hatch, for whom he worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee and who is a notorious foe of the FDA. Hatch is almost single-handedly responsible for preventing any meaningful regulation of dietary supplements, and will be a key focus of all major anti-FDA lobbying efforts.

Just When We Thought We'd Heard the Last of Bernie Kerik

| Thu Nov. 1, 2007 10:38 AM EDT

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Remember Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani's former business partner, driver, bodyguard and New York City police commissioner? Well, apparently Kerik incurred significant legal fees defending himself from charges that he he let a mob-connected company seeking city contracts renovate his New York City apartment for free. And now, reports the Wall Street Journal, the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski is suing Kerik for more than $200,000 in unpaid legal fees related to all the investigations.

Maybe Rudy's firm should quietly pick up the tab so Kerik can go back under a rock during the presidential election season. Much of the focus on Giuliani of late has been on his autocratic tendencies as mayor of New York, but his close relationship with Kerik remains one of his biggest vulnerabilities, right up there with the fact that he once married his cousin.

Anti-Drug Ads That Might Actually Work

| Wed Oct. 31, 2007 2:04 PM EDT

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Ever since the first President Bush held up a bag of crack at a 1989 press conference, the federal government has spent many millions of dollars on anti-drug advertising campaigns targeted at teenagers. All those fried-egg spots ("This is your brain on drugs") have been the butt of many a teenage joke, and as it turned out, they were highly effective at actually encouraging kids to smoke pot.

Some new anti-drug ads now airing in Montana, however, might actually be working, perhaps because they weren't made by dorks in Washington. The new campaign was produced by the Montana Meth Project, a private group founded by a local rancher. The ads are way edgier than anything the drug czar's office ever came up with, including one featuring a near-naked girl in a hotel room after her boyfriend pimps her for drug money and another of some kids dumping an unconscious girl on a hospital driveway before speeding away.

A new study suggests that Montana's ads have reduced teen meth use in the state by 45 percent, a figure compelling enough for the White House to get on the bandwagon and broadcast Montana's graphic ads in other states.

A Junket by Any Other Name..

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:12 PM EDT

200px-Mike_Leavitt.jpg So HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt is heading off to Switzerland and the Netherlands next week to learn more about those countries' health care systems, which have been widely touted as a model for what we might do in the U.S. Of course, Bush administration officials tell the New York Times that they have no plans to actually do anything with whatever information Leavitt gleans from his trip.

"We don't have anything cooking that we haven't announced," the department official said. "We would not endorse a system like the Netherlands or Switzerland's. But if there's something we could learn about their system, we should learn about it."

So either the trip is just designed to indulge Leavitt's intellectual curiosity—or it's a chance for him to get out of town on the taxpayer dime and pretend that his boss didn't just derail a major piece of legislation that would have given a few million poor kids health insurance right here at home. No word on whether Leavitt will be commandeering the CDC's private jet for the trip, but hopefully he'll live blog his European vacation.

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