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.

Hillary Clinton Says Bye-Bye to Indicted Trial Lawyer

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 10:16 AM EST

scruggs.imageBad news for trial lawyers, and bad news for Bill and Hillary, too. Famed Mississippi plaintiff's lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who was slated to host a Clinton fundraiser next month, was indicted yesterday for allegedly trying to bribe a state court judge. The indictment comes a day after the FBI raided his office looking for a document, and two days after Scruggs' brother-in-law, Trent Lott, announced his resignation from the Senate.

When the FBI first raided Scruggs' office, Lott said the timing of his resignation was just a coincidence. But you do have to wonder. The indictment is pretty damning, and includes apparently taped conversations between the judge and some of the other lawyers involved in the alleged scheme.

The indictment will no doubt have other political fallout. Scruggs is a high-profile figure, having just used his private jet to ferry the new University of Mississippi football coach to Oxford hours before turning himself in to law enforcement authorities. He made millions off the state's lawsuit against the tobacco companies in the 1990s and has been leading the litigation against insurance companies over denied Katrina claims, including Lott's. Scruggs has been a generous Democratic political donor, particularly in Mississippi, where he used some of his tobacco winnings to found a now-defunct PAC to help elect liberal candidates to state office.

But his political loyalties have always been a little suspect, and not just because of his in-law status. This year, for instance, he has given nearly $30,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and several thousand dollars to Joe Biden. But he's also contributed to Republican John McCain. Next month, Bill Clinton was scheduled to headline a fundraiser for his wife at Scruggs' Oxford home. Not surprisingly, today a Clinton spokesman tells Mother Jones that the event is "not happening."

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Should Spanking Your Kid Be Illegal?

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 2:25 PM EST

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It's a question a political reporter might want to put to Mitt Romney and the Five Brothers, as the Massachusetts state legislature is currently considering legislation that would make it a crime for parents to spank their children in their own homes. Does Mitt support the bill? Inquiring minds want to know!

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Won't Disclose Donors Without a Fight

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 2:18 PM EST

For years, big (and often unpopular) corporations like drug and tobacco companies, have used innocuous-sounding trade associations to lobby on their behalf, without having to disclose who picks up the tab. But a new law Congress passed earlier this year is designed to put an end to the practice. Under the threat of criminal penalties, the lobbying reform act requires trade groups to disclose members who contribute more than $5,000 in a quarter and who are involved in planning or directing lobbying activities. Not surprisingly, big businesses are not happy about this, particularly the criminal penalty part.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers fired the first shot across the bow yesterday, sending a letter to the Secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House asking for "guidance" on how to interpret the new reporting requirements. They're essentially asking to exempt a lot of people who might otherwise be outed by the new law on the grounds that the law is an unconstitutional intrusion into their inner workings.

The chamber isn't fond of disclosure. For instance, the Institute for Legal Reform, the chamber's $40 million-a-year tort reform lobbying arm, failed to disclose to the IRS four years and millions of dollars worth of taxable spending on political races. A few years ago, it secretly bought its own newspaper in Madison County, Illinois, where it was spending millions to defeat liberal state court judges. The paper generated a regular stream of chamber propaganda that got treated like bona fide news until its owners got outed by the Washington Post. Despite the chamber's complaints about the evils of the American legal system, yesterday's letter is a pretty good indication that it will spend some time there before it ever gives up exactly how much radioactive industries contribute to its lobbying efforts.

DaimlerChrysler Financial Forces Army Reservist to Fight Car Rip-Off From Iraq

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 11:13 AM EST

On Monday, I posted a story about one of the new hazards of buying a used car, namely the now-common practice by car dealers of forcing customers to waive their rights to access the legal system as a condition of buying a car. The idea is that if the dealership rips you off, you have to submit to private, binding arbitration, conducted by an arbitration firm hired by the dealership instead of filing a lawsuit. The rules in arbitration are a lot different than the regular courts, in ways that create hardships for consumers. Those hardships are a lot worse if you happen to be deployed to Iraq.

Trent Lott Says Goodbye to All That

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 9:12 AM EST

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This just in: Mississippi senator Trent Lott is calling it quits after nearly 20 years in the Senate. He's not sick, just sick of the Senate apparently, but no word on his future plans. Perhaps he needs to devote more time to his lawsuit against State Farm, which is still refusing to pay the claim on his Katrina-damaged Pascagoula house.

Despite Lott's devotion to Strom Thurmond, in recent months, he's come off as one of the saner members of the GOP (he made early calls for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, for instance, and his dismay over the Bush administration's handling of Katrina prompted him to consider retiring a few years ago). His replacement, though, is likely to be more of a firebrand. Congressman Chip Pickering, who appears in the movie Borat, with a bunch of Pentacostal Christians cheering against the teachings of evolution, is the odds-on favorite to fill Lott's empty seat.

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