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.

News Corp.'s Joel Klein Testy About News Corp.

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 11:46 AM EDT
Joel Klein with Caroline Kennedy.

Former New York City school chancellor Joel Klein doesn't seem to be especially happy to take questions these days about his unpopular employer, News Corp., the parent company of Fox News. Klein is in San Francisco today at an education reform conference sponsored by Jeb Bush and his nonprofit Excellence in Education, where he's a member of the board. Klein's boss, Rupert Murdoch, is slated to speak tomorrow morning, and his presence at the education event has caused quite a stir. The local teachers' union is organizing a rally for this afternoon and more protests are expected tomorrow when Murdoch shows up.

While Klein may be here because of his ed credentials, he's currently in charge of overseeing the internal investigation of News Corp.'s now-shuttered News of the World over the British phone-hacking scandal, and even accompanied Murdoch to his appearance before the British parliament. So Klein's also here as a Murdoch guy, and the two roles aren't meshing too well. I caught up with Klein in the swanky ballroom of the Palace Hotel, where he was milling around with state legislators and other ed reform types. I asked him how he felt about the fact that the presence of his boss was generating protests, and he was extremely prickly in response. "Whatever people want to protest they can protest. I'm here to talk about education," he said.

Klein has been in the middle of minor scandal of his own involving News Corp. and its purchase of the education technology company Wireless Generation in 2010. Teachers unions had questioned whether Klein had signed off on sole-source contracts for the company while he was chancellor and then moved on to work for its parent company at News Corp., saying the deal that smacked of a revolving door between business and government. Parents also worried that a company owned by Murdoch might not protect the privacy of students. In late August, New York State cancelled a $27 million contract with Wireless Generation over concerns about its parent company. I asked Klein what was going to happen with the ed tech company given so many concerns about its association with the owner of Fox News. Again, he was testy. "Wireless will be fine," he said, brushing me off, saying of the company, "Stay focused on the children and you'll do fine."

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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!

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