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.

The Tea Party's Hatfield and McCoys

| Tue Oct. 18, 2011 3:42 PM EDT

Amy Kremer is the co-chair of the Tea Party Express, a fairly successful tea party enterprise created by a couple of California GOP political consultants. Jenny Beth Martin is a co-coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, a large tea party umbrella group which Kremer helped found. Both women are from Georgia. They were once friends. Today, though, it's safe to say that they basically hate each other.

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The Tea Party's Debt Commission

| Tue Oct. 18, 2011 11:38 AM EDT

The congressional "supercommittee" is due to produce a report next month recommending ways to reduce the federal budget deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. But the tea party movement looks like it's going to try to preempt the committee by not only releasing its own report of budget cutting recommendations, but by having Congress hold hearings on its plan a week earlier.

The tea party-associated group Freedomworks, which is headed up by former House Minority Leader Dick Armey, has created its own "Tea Party Debt Commission," the New York Times reports. Freedomworks' commission held a series of hearings around the country and also crowd-sourced some ideas through a web site. None of its ideas, of course, involve actually raising revenue.

Rupert Murdoch Compares US Education System to Third World Country's

| Fri Oct. 14, 2011 1:48 PM EDT
Rupert Murdoch

News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch has spent the last six months or so battling a rash of bad press over allegations that his UK-based News of the World tabloid engaged in phone-hacking and other unseemly journalistic practices that resulted in his closing the paper all together. His most public appearances have been before the British Parliament, defending his company from a high-level investigation. But on Friday, Murdoch made an altogether different sort of appearance in the US, headlining an education summit hosted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Murdoch has taken a sudden interest in the plight of poor American school children languishing in substandard schools, which he says have lower standards than "American Idol." Of course, Murdoch's interest in public schools seems mostly because of the money to be made there. He's said that he sees the American education sector as a $500 billion market that's largely been untapped by companies like his. News Corp. ventured into this world last year by purchasing the ed tech company Wireless Generation and hiring former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein.

Reporter Ejected From Jeb Bush's Ed Summit for Asking About Rupert Murdoch

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 4:25 PM EDT

Rupert Murdoch's attempt to corner the education market is not going to go smoothly, it appears. On Thursday, Joel Klein, vice president of Murdoch's News Corp., which owns Fox News, appeared on a panel discussion about school board governance at Jeb Bush's Excellence in Education summit in San Francisco. Klein was at the conference in his role as the former long-serving chancellor of the New York City school system. But there was no getting around his current position. Klein was testy when I asked him about the protesters preparing to descend on the hotel to greet his boss on Friday morning, when Murdoch is scheduled to speak. And he didn't escape his panel discussion without having to face more questions about News Corp.'s education ventures.

During the Q&A session, Steve Begley, a blogger from the K-12 News Network, asked Klein about what Murdoch had in mind for his foray into the education business, which Murdoch has said is a $500 billion market largely untapped by the corporate world. After noting Klein's $4.5 million annual compensation, Begley asked him what sort of "revenue goals" Murdoch had set for him, and "what kinds of goods and services are you going to sell to meet those goals?" Before he could even finish his question, the panel moderator Chester Finn, from the Fordham Institute, cut him off. He told Begley that he was out of line, and that his question was inappropriate. He demanded that Begley pass the microphone to the person behind him. Begley persisted with his questions, until the audience booed him and a woman came up and asked him to leave. As he was being kicked out, he asked Klein, "Don't you want to answer the question?" Clearly Klein did not.

Somehow Begley's ejection seemed appropriate in a session devoted to bashing what Klein called the "small bore" democracy of school boards. But it also highlighted the ongoing problems that Klein is going to encounter as he tries to turn the parent company of Fox News into a player in the education market. Given News Corp.'s recent phone-hacking scandal and Murdoch's reputation as a tabloid publisher and purveyor of conservative propaganda through Fox News, people in the education world are, not surprisingly, suspicious about his motives.

Begley, for his part, thinks Klein should have answered his questions, because beyond News Corp.'s purchase of Wireless Generation last year, Murdoch and Klein have largely remained mum on their plans for the education sector. "I asked real questions on a real issue," he said later. As he was shutting him down, Finn told Begley that he could take the matter up with Klein outside the session. Begley tried. But, he says, Klein "took off like a shot."

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

| Thu Oct. 13, 2011 12:46 PM 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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