Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer


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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Did Rick Perry Really Qualify for Tonight's GOP Debate?

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 9:51 AM EDT

For GOP candidates to earn a spot in tonight's Bloomberg/Washington Post-sponsored presidential debate, they needed to clear a couple of hurdles. According to the published criteria, they had to win measurable support in some polls, raise more than $500,000 by the second quarter of 2011, and have participated in at least three nationally televised presidential debates. Most of the eight candidates on stage tonight make the cut, but one definitely doesn't: Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

GOP candidate Fred Karger, who won't be in the debate tonight and who's been shut out of all the others as well, in part because he's gay, sent a letter to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this weekend complaining about Perry's special treatment. Karger argues that Perry doesn't qualify for the debate because, among other things, he wasn't even a declared candidate before the end of the second quarter of 2011 and he has yet to file a single campaign disclosure form with the Federal Election Commission. Karger says that if Bloomberg is going to let Perry into the debate even though he doesn't qualify, then the debate sponsors have an obligation to let in all the other candidates who don't quite make the cut either, including Karger, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer. Karger writes:

Mayor Bloomberg, since the debate organizers are not sticking to their own rules, then how about letting all serious Republican candidates for President on the stage to debate and talk about our ideas to fix the economy?

Let in former Governor’s Gary Johnson, Buddy Roemer and me. We all have much to add to this all important discussion.

Otherwise, under the organizers "pre-established objective criteria," Mr. Perry should not be allowed to debate Tuesday at Dartmouth.

It's a classic catch by Karger, who spent more than two decades specializing in the dark art of opposition research with such luminaries as the late GOP bad boy consultant Lee Atwater. Karger has used such skills to dog Mitt Romney, whom he accused of potential voter fraud earlier this year after discovering that Romney had voted in Massachusetts while apparently living in California. (Romney claimed to be residing one of his kids' basements in Massachusetts.)

But as for the debate, Karger may have a point. Bloomberg and the Washington Post are giving Perry special consideration they refuse to give to the other candidates. Why not let the other guys in? Karger and Johnson are no more hopeless than Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman, but they at least offer a different perspective that might make the debate far less scripted than it's likely to be. Imagine watching Karger respond to Santorum's gay bashing or Johnson bringing up the merits of pot legalization with straight-laced Mitt Romney. Now that's a debate that might be fun to watch. If nothing else, Bloomberg should think of the ratings!

Herman Cain Wins The Birther Vote

| Fri Oct. 7, 2011 5:35 PM EDT

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain may have made a sudden leap to the top of the polls recently, but he hasn't lost his appeal among the paranoid faction of the Republican Party. After giving a rousing speech Friday at the Values Voter Summit in DC, a large confab of politically active evangelical conservatives, Cain held a book signing in the lobby of the conference hotel. Among the many people lined up to get a book signed was California lawyer and activist Gary Kreep, who told me why he has also decided to line up behind Cain's campaign.

Kreep heads a number of political organizations, including the US Justice Foundation, the Republican Majority Campaign PAC, and even Defend Glenn, an effort to defend Glenn Beck from attacks by liberal interest groups trying to organize boycotts of his advertisers. But he is best known these days as a birther. He has spent years in court trying to challenge the president's citizenship and his eligibility to be president. In 2009, Kreep even created and starred in a "Birthermercial," a 28-minute infomercial that called on viewers to donate $30 to send a fax to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate the president's birth certificate.

Chart of the Day: Clarence Thomas' Non-Disclosure Form

| Wed Oct. 5, 2011 12:20 PM EDT

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is under fire from Democrats and liberal advocacy groups who contend that he may have violated the Ethics in Government Act by failing to disclose the sources of income for his wife Virginia Thomas. Places like the Heritage Foundation, which has been a vocal opponent of the Obama health care reform law, were paying Virginia Thomas large amounts of money during the years that her husband reported she had no income. (The health care law, of course, is likely to come before the Supreme Court in the next year.)

Initially, the liberal watchdog group Common Cause estimated that Virginia Thomas had made about $700,000 in the years her husband was claiming she made nothing. But the group has recently come up with new figures showing Virginia Thomas actually earned around $1.6 million—more than twice as much as the original estimate. That's a decent chunk of change the Thomas family was earning from a party with an interest in what could be one of the court's biggest cases in years.

Thomas has amended his disclosure forms to correct the omissions and has claimed that he misunderstood how to fill out the forms. But Common Cause noticed that Thomas had actually filled the forms out properly for many years before he suddenly stopped recording his wife's employers. "There is now more than enough evidence to merit a formal inquiry as to whether Justice Thomas willfully failed to make legally required disclosures, perhaps for as long as 13 years," Common Cause president Bob Edgar said in a statement. "Given that we now know he correctly completed the reports in prior years, it's hardly plausible—indeed it's close to unbelievable—that Justice Thomas did not understand the instructions."

Common Cause provides a breakdown of the missing income here: Courtesy Common CauseCourtesy Common Cause

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