By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in News
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm
|The Straights dot com|
|Mel Sembler still brags that the abusive Straight Incorporated "drug rehab" was a "remarkable program"|
Republican financier Mel Sembler, a major donor to the Romney presidential campaign who formerly chaired the GOP's finance committee -- and that of Mitt himself -- made his fortune founding "drug rehab" facilities which are notorious for abusing teenagers.
The 82-year-old Florida shopping mall multi-millionaire switched his political affiliation from the Democrats to the Republicans in 1979 -- because of his opposition to marijuana use, reports Lloyd Grove at the The Daily Beast.
"Jimmy Carter made me a Republican," Sembler said. "And when Carter was dong all this pot smoking and stuff in the White House, I found it terribly distasteful."
Sembler, a close pal of Dick Cheney's, has been raising money for Romney since he had a bonding talk with the one-term Massachusetts governor back in 2007, when Mitt was gearing up for his first presidential campaign. "In the past five years, Sembler has bundled many millions of dollars for the presumptive Republican nominee," Grove writes.
|Mitt Romney, Melvin Sembler, and billionaire casino owner, "drug treatment" magnate and GOP contributor Sheldon Adelson|
The millions of ill-gotten dollars Sembler possess came as a result of his involvement in abusive "addiction treatment," reports Maia Szalavitz at The Fix. His rehab centers "treated" some 50,000 American teens with a daily routine which often included beatings, sleep deprivation for days, brutal restraints that often left teens urinating or defecating on themselves, public humiliation -- including misogynistic and homophobic insults -- lack of privacy, and even kidnapping and false imprisonment of both adults and youth, according to Szalavitz.
Straight Incorporated, Sembler's "drug treatment" outfit, got such a bad reputation that just three years later, it found it necessary to change its name to the Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF), a group that is still, to this day, fighting to make drug laws as harsh and punitive as possible.
For example, 95 percent of the money donated to oppose Colorado's cannabis legalization initiative, Amendment 64, comes directly from DFAF's sister organization, "Save Our Society from Drugs" (nice name, that), also founded by Sembler and his wife Betty. Recent ad buys with Sembler's money have tightened the legalization race in Colorado, where the amendment started out being supported by a majority of voters.
DFAF has a lucrative federal government contract; taxpayers forked over $250,000 in 2010 to a Sembler group to oversee a "drug-free workplace program" for the Small Business Administration. The group also produces copious anti-marijuana literature (Sembler seems to have a particular hard-on for cannabis).
The fact that Straight Incorporated used abusive methods in its "drug treatment" program was never an accident. It was based on an organization called The Seed, which a Congressional investigation compared to the brainwashing conducted by North Koreans on Americans during the Korean War.
Sembler was inspired to create Straight because The Seed had treated one of his children and he wanted its brutal methods to continue to be used after that program was discredited by the federal investigation.
Straight faced lawsuits and investigations in every one of the seven states where it operated from 1976 to 1993, due to its abusive and inhumane practices. "The abuse wasn't an aberration," writes Szalavitz. "It was the 'therapy.' "
Every teen at Straight Incorporated was forced to sit up straight in a plastic chair for hours at the time; the only movement allowed was "motivating," which is what they call wildly waving your hands asking for permission to speak. If children refused to participate, they were restrained for hours -- and participating meant telling your darkest secrets, only to then have them used to break your will.
It gets worse. Straight often "treated" youth that were only suspected of drug use. When the poor kids, some of whom hadn't actually done any drugs, tried to tell their "counselors" the truth, they were subjected to hours of so-called "confrontation" to break through their "lies" and "denial." Many kids were so traumatized they admitted to "being addicted" just to stop the abuse.
Hundreds of former Straight and DFAF participants developed post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and worse drug problems after the "rehab" than before. Dozens of suicides have been directly linked to the program, according to survivors of the "treatment."
The Semblers never apologized for what they'd done; they never renounced Straight's methods. What's more, Mel Sembler's biography boasts that it was a "remarkable program" and claims that "12,000 teens" graduated.
When the American Civil Liberties Union described it as a "brutal program" and a "concentration camp," Sembler bragged that the ACLU's opposition "just shows that we have been doing things right."
The Fix: Mitt Romney's Big Drug Problem