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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Rep. Allen West Gets New Legal Defense Fund

| Tue Sep. 20, 2011 2:45 PM EDT
Florida Republican Rep. Allen West.

Rep. Allen West (R-Florida) is one of the most endangered freshmen in Congress. The fiery tea party favorite is a natural target for Democrats, in large part because his district is the product of major gerrymandering and is set to be redrawn in a way that will bring in more Democratic voters.

But coming to West's defense this week is none other than Joe Miller, the Alaska tea party candidate who nearly defeated incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) last year after beating her in the GOP primary. (Murkowski ran a write-in campaign and won in the general election.) These days, Miller is running a political action committee called Western Representation PAC with a couple of folks formerly associated with the Tea Party Express. The PAC recently purchased the domain name AllenWestDefenseFund.com as a fundraising vehicle for what the PAC says will be an independent expenditure campaign aimed at keeping West in office and propelling him one day into the White House.

A fundraising appeal the PAC sent out this week explains:

If LTC Allen West seems like Presidential material to you, if you would like to see him someday take a larger leadership role in our nation, he needs your help to get there. Democrats will do everything they can to destroy black conservatives because they threaten their cherished but completely bogus narrative that they are the party that supports minorities. When a Republican nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, the liberals forgot their diversity and instead launched a vicious, vulgar, and vile smear campaign. LTC West is rated by nearly every respected political analyst as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in 2012. That is why our team has bought the domain name AllenWestDefenseFund.com and have made this race one of our highest priorities!

Miller and Co. are hoping to raise between $25,000 and $100,000 this week to kick off the campaign.

One issue that might complicate their fundraising efforts: This isn't the first time West, a former Army lieutenant colonel, has had a legal defense fund. If you Google "Allen West defense fund," you will turn up a lot of old, and thus sticky, links to stories about how he was was investigated for abusing a prisoner in Iraq. Back in 2003, he was fined $5,000 and relieved of his command before being allowed to retire rather than face a court-martial. West's family set up a fund to raise money for his defense.

West's prosecution turned him into something of a cause celebre in certain circles, but it's not something Miller's group is mentioning in its fundraising appeals. The glaring omission suggests, perhaps, that the number of potential donors who'd like to knowingly help re-elect a person who did what West did is fairly small. The fact that his new defense fund will only drag up all those old stories probably won't help cure that particular image problem.

Constitution Day: Not Just for Tea Partiers Anymore

| Tue Sep. 20, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

Back in May, tea party groups began urging their members to "adopt a school" and pressure it to teach students about the Constitution—tea party-style. They set up webinars and provided helpful form letters addressed to school superintendents and principals reminding them of the congressional mandate that requires any school receiving federal money to teach students about the Constitution during the week of September 17. And they offered up kits complete with teaching materials from the National Center for Constitutional Studies, a nonprofit founded by Glenn Beck's favorite "historian," the late W. Cleon Skousen, author of The 5,000 Year Leap.

When word got out that the tea party wanted to give America's impressionable kids a civics leson, liberal lawyers fulminated. "To qualify to teach America's children about the Constitution you need to do more than dress up like James Madison," snipped the Constitutional Accountability Center's Doug Kendall.

After thinking about it, though, I wondered if the tea partiers might be on to something. After all, it's really hard to argue against teaching kids about the Constitution. So I decided to take up the tea party challenge. Or at least, I ordered the school kit.

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