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 the last year 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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Joe Miller Returns!

| Wed Mar. 23, 2011 11:53 AM EDT
Joe Miller, who lost a three-way Senate race in Alaska last year, is back in the news.

Remember Joe Miller? He's the bearded Alaskan lawyer and tea party favorite who surprised the country by beating incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary last year, despite having once been suspended from a government job for ethics violations and having his private bodyguards handcuff a reporter who was trying to ask Miller questions at a public event during the campaign. Miller ultimately lost the election to Murkowski, who ran a write-in campaign to defeat him in the general election. But like so many one-hit wonders in conservative politics, Miller is seizing on his 15 minutes of fame and has resurfaced recently after signing on with a speakers' bureau to start giving paid speeches. Rather than returning to his law practice, he'll be joining B-listers like Joe the Plumber and Arizona's "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio on the tea party lecture circuit in such glamorous locales as Flint Hills, Kansas and northern Idaho.

But that's just the beginning of Miller's new career in politics. He has also been named the new chairman of the Sparks, Nevada-based Western Representation PAC, the political action committee that recently sponsored an aggressive advertising campaign supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). The PAC also supported Miller's campaign in Alaska and spent more than $130,000 in independent expenditures backing failed Nevada Senate candidate and tea party darling Sharron Angle.

"I am thrilled to be joining the Western Representation PAC," Miller said Wednesday. "Despite being formed fairly recently, the PAC was able to gain strong support and make an important impact during the 2010 election cycle. We plan to build on that great start and bring the voice of ‘We the People’ to bear even more as we move towards 2012."

It's Official! Gay Republican Running for President

| Wed Mar. 23, 2011 10:30 AM EDT

Retired California political consultant Fred Karger will be in DC today to file his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission officially declaring his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. It will make him the first openly gay Republican ever to run for president as well as the first GOP candidate to declare officially that he is running for the 2012 race. Karger has already made many swings through Iowa and New Hampshire, laying the groundwork for his campaign in those key primary states. He's run TV ads and met with dozens of young Republican activists to rally the troops. Today's FEC filing simply makes his candidacy official. It also, no doubt, will make it harder for Republicans to keep him out of candidate forums and debates during the campaign, which some have been trying to do

While Karger met this week with officials at the RNC, including chairman Reince Priebus, in what he called a warm meeting, other members of the GOP establishment have not been so welcoming of his historic candidacy. As we reported earlier this month, RNC members in Iowa and a key organizer with Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition have not only threatened to keep Karger out of the race but also intentionally shut him out of a March 7 presidential forum in Des Moines organized by Reed's group. Karger responded by filing a complaint against RNC member and Iowa Faith and Freedom organizer Steve Scheffler as well as his organization for violating federal election laws by discriminating against Karger because he's gay. Karger's official candidate status now will only help his complaint.

Still, it's likely that he faces an uphill battle getting into future debates, even with the friendly reception at the RNC in DC this week. That's because the RNC has appointed Indiana campaign finance lawyer and right-wing stalwart James Bopp to oversee the 18 debates expected to take place during the campaign. Bopp represents many anti-gay marriage organizations that have been battling in court to protect their donors and supporters from state disclosure laws. Many of those lawsuits have been inspired by Karger himself, who was instrumental in organizing boycotts of the major donors to California's Prop. 8, which banned gay marriage in the state. Bopp has argued in court that the Prop. 8 donors were harassed and subjected to potential violence because of their outing and is fighting to eliminate many of the laws that made Karger's boycott possible. Bopp has actually subpoenaed Karger in one of those cases in California, and has been defending the group Protect Marriage from a state ethics complaint Karger filed against the group in Maine.

Karger has said he plans to ask the RNC to remove Bopp because of the obvious conflict, but the odds are slim that the RNC will jettison one of their own just to placate a gay candidate when the party's platform basically demonizes him as an abomination to God. Still, the fight will definitely make for some good political theater and help highlight the party's hypocrisy on gay rights. After all, the RNC itself was run for a couple of years during the Bush administration by Ken Mehlman, who finally confirmed the not very well kept secret that he is gay. Perhaps Karger should recruit him to run his campaign.

Rep. Weiner Thanks GOP For Saving America From Car Talk

| Thu Mar. 17, 2011 3:34 PM EDT

You have to give Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) credit: He knows how to make a point. After the House today voted to ax public funding for National Public Radio, Weiner offered a big sarcastic kudos to his GOP colleagues for killing off Click and Clack, the Boston mechanics/MIT geniuses/brothers who host NPR's beloved weekly Car Talk radio show. (The Senate still has to approve the measure before it's final, an outcome that's far from certain.) Holding up a "Save Click and Clack" poster of the Magliozzi brothers, Weiner went on a tear, congratulating Republicans for finally discovering, in a time of crisis, "a target we can all agree on." Weiner thanked his Republican friends for ridding the airwaves of the brothers' horrible Boston accents, and especially for putting some of the show's staffers out of work—people like customer care guy "Haywood Jabuzoff," or their corporate spokesperson,"Hugh Lyon Sack." "I'm so relieved we had this emergency session...so we can finally get these guys off the radio," he fumed.

Really, print doesn't do the rant justice, so watch for yourself here:

Mark Meckler's MoJo Vendetta

| Thu Mar. 3, 2011 12:19 PM EST

Over the past six months, Mother Jones has published a series of articles investigating one of the nation's largest tea party organizations, the Tea Party Patriots. The stories have not gone over very well with at least one of the group's leaders, Mark Meckler, who ignored repeated requests to be interviewed for the stories.

While he's dodged speaking to me, Meckler has given a couple of comments lately to extremely sympathetic and unquestioning interviewers bashing Mother Jones and accusing me personally of spreading lies and falsehoods about his organization. The most recent appeared in a NewsReal blog post by Walter Hudson, the founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots. Hudson asked Meckler whether he planned to respond to my stories on the group's startling lack of transparency—issues no other news outlet has covered. Here's his reply:

No. I don’t want to give them credence. That’s not journalism. I respect journalists who criticize us. That’s fine. Feel free. And plenty of them do. The only journalist in the world who I won’t speak to is Stephanie Mencimer [the author of the Mother Jones series]. I mean literally. I talk to Dave Weigel, of JournoList fame, who came across as hating conservatives. We still speak, because why? He’s always covered us fairly. He doesn’t agree with us, I don’t think, philosophically. But he’s never lied about us. He’s never mischaracterized anything about us. He’s just critical of us sometimes. I don’t care. Criticize us. That’s absolutely fair. That’s fair game. If we choose to be out there in the public, then people can criticize us. But when you step over the line, when you fabricate, when you accept lies without doing the research, that’s not journalism and I just don’t participate in it.

As Meckler hasn't identified a single specific inaccuracy in any of our coverage of him or Tea Party Patriots, and now that he's called me a liar, here is a follow up question Hudson and others might want to ask him: What exactly were the lies in those stories?

  • Meckler was once a top distributor for Herbalife, a company accused of running a pyramid scheme and sued successfully for injuring people with products loaded with the now-banned herbal stimulant ephedra?
  • Two years after its founding, Tea Party Patriots has failed to file tax returns that would reveal information about how it's spending all its donated money?
  • The group has cozied up with people implicated in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, including former Oklahoma congressman Ernest Istook and Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed?
  • Several former TPP employees report having been offered (donated) money to sign confidentiality agreements to prevent them from ever criticizing TPP or disclosing information about the group's finances? And that people who have asked questions about its finances have been drummed out of the organization?
  • TPP has put a man who owes the IRS more than $500,000 in charge of managing its money as the assistant treasurer? Or that he happens to be married to Meckler's co-coordinator Jenny Beth Martin?
  • TPP hired two GOP-connected telemarketing firms that are harassing tea party activists with fundraising calls, from which the firms will keep 75 percent of any money raised?
  • Meckler and Martin accepted the use of a private jet from a wealthy Montana businessman without disclosing the name of the donor?
  • TPP was spreading false Internet rumors that Sarah Palin would be attending the group's policy summit in Phoenix last month to announce her presidential candidacy?

If there are any errors in these stories Mark, please let us know. We'd be happy to correct them.

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