Thursday, September 6, 2007

UPDATE: Romney Forced to Fire 2nd Crucial Campaign Backer

September 6, 2007
By BHDC Staff

Big scoop coming from Radar: Mitt Romney, just days after ousting disgraced Sen. Larry Craig from his Presidential campaign, has had to fire another well-connected state campaign organizer due to tawdry dealings — this time involving abuse and fraud toward troubled teens.

“Mitt Romney has asked his Utah finance committee co-chair, Robert Lichfield, who is affiliated with a controversial network of schools for troubled teens and has been dogged by allegations of abuse and fraud, to step down,” according to Radar’s report.

Lichfield is Utah’s largest political donor, and organized a fundraiser in February in his hometown of St. George that made nearly $300,000 for the Romney campaign. Members of the Lichfield family have donated $17,000 to Romney thus far.

But besides being rich, Lichfield was also named in a June 2007 complaint filed in federal court in Utah by the families of 133 children who allege kids under his supervision ”were subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.”

Radar notes that one plaintiff, Chase Wood, “claims he was fondled, forced to eat his own vomit, and locked in a dog cage at the Cross Creek Center for Boys, a school that Lichfield founded in the late 1970s.”

UPDATE: Romney Cans Golden Goose Over Abuse

September 5, 2007
By John Cook

Mitt Romney has asked his Utah finance committee co-chair, Robert Lichfield, who is affiliated with a controversial network of schools for troubled teens and has been dogged by allegations of abuse and fraud, to step down, Radar has learned.

Ken Kay, the president of the Worldwide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP), a nonprofit group co-founded by Lichfield that provides consulting services to schools specializing in "behavior modification" for wayward teens, said in an e-mail that Romney has asked Lichfield to stop participating in fundraising activities for the campaign.

Lichfield was named in a June 2007 complaint filed in federal court in Utah by the families of 133 children who have attended schools associated with WWASP, alleging that they were subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. One plaintiff, Chase Wood, claims he was fondled, forced to eat his own vomit, and locked in a dog cage at the Cross Creek Center for Boys, a school that Lichfield founded in the late 1970s.

"Gov. Romney has asked Mr. Lichfield to step down and not be involved in any more fundraising until the lawsuit is resolved in the positive, which we are confident will happen," Kay said.

Lichfield is Utah's largest political donor. He organized a fundraiser in February in his hometown of St. George that netted nearly $300,000 for the Romney campaign, and members of the Lichfield family have donated $17,000.

According to a class-action lawsuit filed against him in New York in 2006 for fraud, Lichfield makes $90 million a year through a complicated network of businesses based around behavior modification and has owned or operated a total of 26 schools worldwide, some of which have been closed by local authorities for mistreatment. The lawsuit claims that the Academy at Ivy Ridge, a school that sits on land owned by Lichfield and for which he has provided consulting services, admitted students for five years without any accreditation as an educational institution from the state.

Last week Randall Hinton, an educational counselor who has worked at Cross Creek and many other schools affiliated with WWASP, was convicted of third-degree assault and false imprisonment for slamming the head of a 15-year-old student at Royal Gorge Academy in Colorado into a stairwell and forcing a 17-year-old to lie flat on his stomach for so long he had to vomit. Hinton faces up to three years in prison.

Kay, a longtime associate of Lichfield's, says WWASP simply provides marketing and other business services to schools, does not deal directly with students, and is not responsible for any mistreatment.

Lichfield could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the Romney campaign did not immediately return messages.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Isabelle Zehnder: Mitt Romney / Mel Sembler / Robert Lichfield Connection

Governor Mitt Romney Announces National Finance Chairs And Co-Chairs

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Kevin Madden (857) 288-6390
Click here

Boston, MA – Today, Governor Mitt Romney named the Romney for President National Finance Chairs and Co-Chairs. These men and women will offer valuable support and counsel to Governor Romney as he travels the country communicating his vision of bringing conservative change to Washington.

"At home and abroad we are facing unprecedented challenges that will test our strength and resolve as a nation," said Governor Romney. "With the help of such committed leaders, we will overcome these challenges and bring innovation and transformation to our nation's capital. I am grateful for their strong support."

For the past seven months, the National Finance Chairs have been leading efforts to build the resources for Governor Romney's national campaign.

The Chairs serve as regional leaders of the National Finance Committee.

The Co-Chairs are responsible primarily for fundraising efforts in their respective states.

Romney For President National Finance Chairs:

- Christopher Collins – Managing Partner of First Atlantic Capital, LLC, Massachusetts

- Mark Guzzetta – President of Gemstone Development Corp., Florida

- John And Vicki Miller – John Miller is CEO and Founding Member of the National Beef Packing Company, LLC, Kansas/Utah

- David and Patricia Nierenberg – David Nierenberg is the President and General Partner of the D3 Family Funds, Washington

- John and Terry Rakolta, Jr. – John Rakolta, Jr. is the Chairman and CEO of Walbridge Aldinger, Michigan

- Ambassador Mel Sembler – Former United States Ambassador to Italy, Australia, and Nauru and Chairman of the Board of The Sembler Company, Florida (former owner of Straight, Inc.)

- Thomas R. Tellefsen and Stephanie Spencer – Tom Tellefsen is the Principal of Tellefsen Investments, Inc., California - Meg Whitman And Griff Harsh

– Meg Whitman is the President and CEO of eBay and Griff Harsh is a Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University, California

Romney For President National Finance Co-Chairs:

- Scott Baugh – Former California Assembly Republican Leader, California

- Bruce and Marcy Benson – Bruce Benson is the Owner & President of Benson Mineral Group, Colorado

- Governor Matt Blunt – Governor of Missouri, Missouri

- David Bradford – Founder/CEO Galactic Networks and, California

- Ambassador and Mrs. Stephen Brauer – Stephen Brauer is the President and CEO of Hunter Engineering Co., Missouri

- Jonathan and Julie Bullen – Jonathan Bullen is the Owner and President of Provo College, Eagle Gate College, and Evolution Fitness, Utah

- Kelly and Laurie Burt – Kelly Burt is the Chairman & CEO of Price Self Storage, California

- Al Cardenas – Senior Partner at Tew Cardenas, LLC, Florida

- Nancy Heffner Donovan and Steve Donovan – Nancy Heffner Donovan is the President of Ames Travel Service, Ohio

- Spencer F. Eccles – Chairman Emeritus of the Intermountain Region of Wells Fargo Bank, Utah

- David and Jennifer Fischer – David Fischer is Chairman & CEO of The Suburban Collection, Michigan

- John Fish – President & CEO of Suffolk Construction, Massachusetts

- Jeff Fox – CEO of Harbour Group, Missouri

- Jim and Debbie Francis – Jim Francis is the President of Francis Enterprises Inc., Texas

- Kem Gardner – Founder of The Gardner Company, Utah

- Jack Gerard – President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, Virginia

- Paul and Susan Gilbert – Paul Gilbert is a Partner at Beus Gilbert, PLLC, Arizona

- Terry Graunke – Founder and Chairman of Lake Capital, Illinois

- Bill and Chrissy Hagerty – Bill Hagerty is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of Hagerty Peterson and Company, LLC., Tennessee

- Bill Harrison – Chairman of the Board of JPMorgan Chase, New York

- Jon M. Huntsman – Chairman of the Huntsman Corporation, Utah [Governor of Utah]

- Chris Jenny – Senior Partner at The Parthenon Group, Massachusetts

- Darlene and Gerald Jordan – Darlene Jordan is on the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, Massachusetts

- Shelly Kamins – Co-owner of Blum, Frank and Kamins Companies and of DuVal Development, Maryland

- Hersh Kozlov – Managing Partner at WolfBlock, New Jersey

- Steve Lessing – Head of Client Relationship Management at Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., New York

- Carl H. Lindner, Jr. – Chairman of American Financial Group, Ohio

- S. Craig and Frances Lindner – S. Craig Lindner is the Co-President and Co-CEO of American Financial Group, Ohio

- Hadi Makarechian – Chairman, CEO & President of Capital Pacific Holdings, California

- Bill Marriott – Chairman and CEO of Marriott International, Maryland - Dick Marriott – Chairman of Host Marriott Corp, Maryland

- Don Miller – Chairman of Axiom International Investments, LLC, Connecticut

- David and Lauren Parker – David Parker is the Managing Partner & Principal at SRS Capital Partners, California

- Craig Pattee – President of Dutko Worlwide, Virginia

- Don and Susan Peay – Don Peay is the Founder of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, Utah

- Bob Pence – President of Pence Friedel Developers, Inc., Virginia

- Blake Roney – Chairman of the Board, Nu Skin Enterprises, Inc., Utah

- Muneer Satter – Partner at Goldman Sachs, Illinois

- Edward A. Schwartz – President of Gregory J. Schwartz & Co., Inc., Michigan

- Wally Schwartz – Director at Gregory J. Schwartz & Co., Inc., Michigan

- L.E. Simmons – Founder and President of SCF Partners, Texas

- Jim Sims – Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Gen3 Partners, Massachusetts

- Boyd Smith – Partner at WSJ Properties, California

- Pete and Cam Starrett – Pete Starrett is with private equity firm, Freeman Spogli, California

- Eric Tanenblatt – Senior Managing Director at McKenna Long & Aldridge, Georgia

- Ted Welch – Owner of Ted Welch Investments, Tennessee - Frank Vandersloot – President & CEO of Melaleuca, Idaho

Romney Lichfield - Lawsuits hit a Romney money man

June 20, 2007
By Alexander Bolton

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars through the fundraising efforts of a supporter targeted by several lawsuits alleging child abuse.

In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, 133 plaintiffs have alleged that Robert Lichfield, co-chairman of Romney’s Utah finance committee owned or operated residential boarding schools for troubled teenagers where students were “subjected to physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.”

The complaint, which plaintiffs amended and resubmitted to the court last week, alleges children attending schools operated by Lichfield suffered abuses such as unsanitary living conditions; denial of adequate food; exposure to extreme temperatures; beatings; confinement in dog cages; and sexual fondling.

A second lawsuit filed by more than 25 plaintiffs in July in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of New York alleges that Lichfield and several partners entered into a scheme to defraud them by operating an unlicensed boarding school in upstate New York. The suit does not allege physical or emotional abuse.

These are two active lawsuits against Lichfield. Several others suits have alleged child abuse on behalf of dozens of plaintiffs, but judges have thrown out the suits for procedural reasons. As a result, the merits of the allegations have not been weighed.

In some suits, plaintiffs have settled their cases for undisclosed amounts of money. The allegations could force Romney to re-examine his relationship with his Utah finance co-chairman or put pressure on him to give away the contributions Lichfield helped raise.

Lichfield helped to organize a February event in St. George, Utah, that raised about $300,000 for the Romney campaign. Romney has six finance committee co-chairmen in Utah. Since the beginning of 2003, Lichfield has given money to at least seven other Republican candidates and also to the National Republican Congressional Committee and Bush-Cheney ’04 Inc.

Overall, Romney has raised $2.7 million in Utah for his presidential campaign, far more than any other candidate, according to data compiled by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has raised the second most in the state, $113,000.

“Mr. Lichfield is one of 6 Co-Chairman of our Utah finance team,” said Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho in a statement. “He has donated to numerous Republican candidates and committees. The Romney campaign will continue its policy to make our fundraising efforts as transparent as possible.” Lichfield did not respond to requests for comment made through the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS). WWASPS is his co-defendant in several lawsuits and Lichfield sits on its board of directors.

Plaintiffs represented by the Dallas-based Turley Law Firm claim Lichfield and WWASPS helped to run boarding schools where staff abused students and “acted in concert” to “fraudulently conceal the extent and nature of the physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse occurring at its [member] schools,” their complaint states.

The plaintiffs include former boarding school students and their parents.

The president of WWASPS, Ken Kay, said in an interview the lawsuits are a ploy to get money and dismissed the credibility of former students making allegations. “Most of them are ludicrous,” Kay said of the claims made against his organization and the boarding schools. “A certain percentage of the kids [who participate] are never going to be happy. They weren’t happy with public schools, they weren’t happy with law enforcement, and they have a long history of lying, fabricating and twisting the story around to their own benefit.

“Many of them have done poorly and have filed suits [since leaving the schools],” he added. “They have had problem with their families, churches, public schools and outpatient therapy. A large percentage of these kids have been [in] other treatment programs.”

The legal disputes shine light on the obscure world of boarding schools for troubled teens. Years ago, parents set their troublesome teenagers to military schools. In recent years, boot-camp boarding schools, where staff emphasize discipline, have become popular. The schools affiliated with Lichfield and WWASPS fit this mold.

The parents suing Lichfield sent their kids to WWASPS-affiliated schools such as Cross Creek Center for Boys in LaVerkin, Utah; Majestic Ranch Academy in Randolph, Utah; and The Academy at Ivy Ridge in Ogdensburg after they got into trouble for insubordination, drug use or petty theft.

The parents learned of the boarding schools through Teen Help, a business owned by Lichfield that matched parents and their children with boarding schools around the country and in Mexico, Costa Rica, and American Samoa.

Lichfield had consulting relationships with nearly all the schools, according to Kay. In some instances Lichfield rented property to the schools, said Kay, who did not name the properties specifically.

Plaintiffs have alleged that Lichfield made millions from the schools. Former students allege they were transported against their will — sometimes in handcuffs — by operators such as Clean and Sober Solutions and Teen Escort Services to far-away locations.

Once at the boarding schools, they say they were subject to harsh treatment. Some students say they never attended classes and simply received books to read on their own without supervision.

Others allege that staff at the schools threatened them with cattle prods and punished severely violations of school rules. Several students alleged in legal complaints that they were forced to lie face down on the floor for hours at a time, forbidden from moving their arms or legs.

Kay said WWASPS worked only with the schools and never had direct contact with the students. He also said only a very small percentage of former students have brought complaints. Kay also said that the vast majority of former students never alleged abusive treatment.

A survey by The Hill found at least nine lawsuits filed in the last nine years against specialty boarding schools affiliated with Lichfield. Judges threw out more than half of the complaints because of procedural objections.

For example, a suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2005 on behalf of more than 20 plaintiffs was dismissed by a judge who found California did not have jurisdiction over the matter, according to Henry Bushkin, the plaintiffs’ attorney. Bushkin said he would gather more evidence to show a California court could hear the suit.

One of the lawyers making allegations against Lichfield is Thomas M. Burton, by his own account, a relative of Romney through marriage and a one-time friend of the ex-governor’s late father, George Romney. Burton said he has filed six unsuccessful suits against Lichfield. He said judges have thrown out his complaints because of various procedural difficulties.

Citing an example, Burton said one case could not proceed because his client, Clayton Bowman, a resident of the state of Washington, could not bear the psychological anguish of testifying about his experience at one of the WWASP-affiliated schools.