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.

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Food Stamp Costs Are Decreasing Without The GOP's Cuts

| Tue Nov. 26, 2013 7:00 AM EST

As Congress debates renewing the farm bill, Republicans have been pressing for big cuts to the food stamp budget as part of the negotiations. House GOP leaders want to slash as much as $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next decade, a cut that would affect nearly four million low-income people. Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), a former funeral director and current House pointman in the negotiations, has called the "explosion of food stamps in this country" the "defining moral issue of our time," and he's set out to "reform" the program by imposing work requirements on recipients.

Southerland would specifically push states to end SNAP benefits for poor families in areas of high unemployment. The premise behind his reform proposals is that the food stamp program is "growing into oblivion." But a new study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that in fact, enrollment in the food program, which hit a record during the recession, has already started to plateau and is projected to decline about five percent next year even if Congress does absolutely nothing. 

Part of that decline is the result of a seven-percent, across-the-board cut that went into effect November 1 with the expiration of about $5 billion in funding increases from the 2009 stimulus bill. But even without that cut, caseloads have been stabilizing since 2011 and remained flat this year. Now, the Congressional Budget Office projects that, barring any major fiscal disasters, the food stamp budget is on track to return to 1995 levels in about five years, falling about two to five percent a year as the economy recovers. All this even if Congress doesn't do anything to "reform" a program that kept nearly five million people (2.2 million of them children) out of poverty last year and is responsible for broad economic and public health gains.

If Southerland gets his way, though, instead of letting a recovering economy pare down food stamp spending, Congress will throw 1.7 million of the nation's poorest people out of the program—people whose annual income is less than $2,500 a year—and incentivize the states to drop even more so they can use the savings on other things, like tax cuts for the wealthy. It's times like these when doing nothing seems like a good idea.

Florida Congressman Arrested on Cocaine Charges Has History With Sex-Themed Websites

| Tue Nov. 19, 2013 7:00 PM EST
Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.)

Who could have anticipated that the former owner of sexguideonline.com might get into trouble as a congressman? On Tuesday, Politico broke the news that freshman congressman Henry "Trey" Radel (R-Fla.) was arrested on cocaine possession charges in DC last month and is scheduled for arraignment Wednesday. (DC Superior Court records on the charges can be found here.)

Radel, a tea party favorite and a Fox News radio host, came to office with an unusual background, having run a business that bought somewhat pornographic sex-themed domain names in both English and Spanish, as Mother Jones reported last year. Radel's business snagged all sorts of un-family-friendly domain names, including www.casadelasputas.com ("whorehouse") and www.mamadita.com ("little blow job").

During the campaign he brushed aside whispers of "domaingate," but eventually admitted to buying the site names after Mother Jones reported their existence. (After our story, he sent an email to supporters attacking Mother Jones as an "ultra-liberal San Francisco rag" whose "attack" on him he wore like a "badge of honor.") Tea partiers I interviewed at the time insisted that the business was no reflection on Radel's family values, and said they were behind him completely. From that story:

Radel supporter George Miller, the president of the Cape 9/12 group, a conservative tea-party-type organization inspired by Glenn Beck, says that he doesn't believe Radel would register raunchy web sites to begin with. "I stand by him 100 percent," he says. "He's an honest guy. He's a family guy. He's the kind of guy I want representing me."

Radel was hand-picked by former Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Fla.) to fill Mack's seat when Mack challenged Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for Senate in 2012. Radel won a crowded Republican primary. Among those he defeated: establishment candidate Chauncy Goss, son of former CIA director Porter Goss. Chauncy Goss was endorsed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Tea partiers dismissed Goss as too much of an insider and threw their weight behind Radel, who had never held elected office before.

Just weeks ago, Radel won some accolades for becoming one of the few Republicans to support drug sentencing reform. He cosponsored the Justice Safety Valve Act, which would provide an exception to mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws to allow shorter sentences for nonviolent, low-level offenders. Radel may get a chance to see how such a law works first hand. He was arrested in DC, which has a special drug court that is designed to funnel low-level addicts into rehab rather than long-term jail time.

Tuesday night, Radel released a statement apologizing to his family and blaming his troubles on alcoholism, a problem he said he would be able to get help with thanks to his arrest. He hasn't said whether he'll try to keep his seat.

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