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.

Schools Say No To Tea Party's Constitution Lessons

| Thu Sep. 29, 2011 10:59 AM EDT

Earlier this year, tea party groups sparked a bit of an uproar when they announced plans to pressure public schools into teaching their version of constitutional history during the federally mandated Constitution week that began September 17. Led by a large umbrella group, Tea Party Patriots, activists planned to pressure local school officials into using controversial curriculum developed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS). The NCCS was founded by Glen Beck's favorite pseudo-historian, W. Cleon Skousen, who argued in his book The 5,000 Year Leap that the creation of the US was a divine miracle. When the news got out, liberal legal groups expressed outrage and urged schools to reject the plan.

As it turns out, many schools weren't that keen on having tea partiers in their midst. There have been only scattered reports of the Tea Party Patriots successfully getting their curriculum into schools, but there have also been a number of complaints from educators who say tea party activists have been trying to intimidate them. In northern California's Nevada County, a hot-bed of tea party activism, tea partiers were giving out their materials and surveying local schools to ensure compliance with the federal mandate to teach the Constitution. One educator told the local paper that she didn't appreciate the meddling. The Union reported last week:

When Tea Party Patriots starting demanding proof of lesson plans, suggesting instructional materials and even informing administrators that the media would be notified about their level of compliance, some area administrators felt attacked.

“It seems that we aren't being believed for some reason,” said Debra Sandoval, superintendent of Pleasant Valley and Ready Springs School District, which was singled out by local Tea Party Patriots as being the only district that did not respond to their inquiries.

Then, this week, two districts in Florida rejected donations of pocket Constitutions distributed by local tea party and Glenn-Beck-associated 9/12 groups. The booklets were stamped with tea party information and included some language that the district found either too religious or too political to make them suitable for public schools. Many of the booklets came from NCCS. And the St. Petersburg Times reported that while the booklets contained things like the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, the foreword stated, "Unless Americans remember and preserve our rich heritage of liberty, a new Dark Age of tyranny could lock the majority of mankind into the harsh chains of totalitarian slavery." Other donated Constitutions came with propaganda from the libertarian Cato Institute, which claimed that the Constitution has been misinterpreted, leading to "a government that's effectively unlimited … and increasingly unaffordable."

The school districts said no thanks and send the booklets back. As one of the superintendents told the Times, "When you add all of those things together, it's not just a simple Constitution. You've got to be real careful when you're passing out information to the kids."

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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.

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