Related story: The Sphinx Crist by Lee Drury De Cesare
A lot of you have been demanding some sort of legal action against the state of Florida and/or a claims bill by the state of Florida for its documented collusion with Straight, Inc. (here and here), and for the consistent failure of former State Attorney for Pinellas County, James T. Russell (R) and his successor Bernie McCabe (R), to indict and prosecute Straight and its officers. Now, in addition to time, another hurdle may have been placed before those seeking action--Charlie Crist. Along with Jeb Bush's reelection came Charlie Crist, Florida's first Republican attorney general, who finally passed his bar exam on his third try. In early 2005 Mr. Crist seems to be the man the Sembler Republican Party machine is grooming for governor.
While you might want Charlie
Crist to look into the activities of Straight, Inc., Crist could feel
some sort of obligation to Straight cofounder Mel Sembler. After all,
the Semblers are big financial backers of Crist and Florida's Republican
Party. Mel and Betty Sembler, limited to maximum personal contributions
of $500 per person per election for a candidate, gave $500 apiece
to Crist's campaign on two separate occasions in 2000 and Betty gave
another $500 in 2001. Their sons and daughters-in-law contributed
to Crist's campaign also. Brent forked over $1,500 between 2000 and
2002 with Debbie making matching contributions. Greg gave $500 in
2001 and 2002; Diane and Steve gave $500 each in 2000. Mel's friend
Walter Loebenberg, former President of Straight Foundation, former
President of Drug Free America Foundation, and founder of the Florida
Holocaust Museum, gave $500 twice in 2000 and once in 2001. Edith
Loebenberg gave $500 in 2002. Actually Charlie Crist had almost 10,000
individual donors like Wackenhut which donated $500 in both 2000 and
2001. But like Jeb Bush, Charlie got his real money from committees.
The Republican Party of Florida boosted his campaign with a donation
of over $275,000. Of course, between 1996 and 2002 Mel Sembler and
his clan donated $100,012.75 to the Republican Party of Florida. Mr.
Loebenberg kicked in another $21,000 to the Republican Party of Florida
during the same period.�[Source for Florida state contributions: Florida
Department of State Division of Elections]���At the national level
Mel donated $2,000 to Crist in 1997. Betty gave $2,000 in 1996 and
1997; Brent $2,000 in 1997, and Greg $1,000 in 1996. [Source: Center
for Responsive Politics and/or by FECInfo.]�
Was Charlie Crist in The Seed? The Seed was a chain of controversial juvenile drug rehab programs founded in Ft. Lauderdale in 1970 by a Playboy Club comedian named Art Barker. The St. Petersburg times once reported that Barker had a mail order degree in psychology. The US Senate studied The Seed in 1974 and determined that it was using brainwashing methods like those employed by North Koreans on American servicemen in the Korean War. Pinellas County School Board Chairman Reverend A. L. Albers visited The Seed - Fort Lauderdale in 1973 and reported, "I didn't get any feeling of brainwashing, but even if there were, we're all brainwashed somewhat and is it really bad if it's for the good?" [SPI, 3/21/73, p. 5A.]
Programs like The Seed and Straight indoctrinate parents to make positive public pronouncements about the program in what is called "paying back." Parents find themselves proudly releasing to the media that they had a kid in Straight the way they normally boast about having a kid in Harvard or West Point. Like Straight, The Seed seemed to get its share of children from wealthy and prominent families. The local newspaper reported that Pinellas County residents Dr. and Mrs. George Moench had a son in The Seed - Fort Lauderdale; banker Ed Frost had a child there too. Most board members and activists for theStraights get involved because they have a child in the program. Dr. Jack D. Taylor, Ph.D. (education and psychology) was the acting president of Broward College in 1973. He publicly stated that Barker saved his daughter. Dr. Taylor joined the Seed staff as administrator. Pinellas County Judge Jack E. Dadswell had two of his three kids in The Seed. From his bench he sent many kids to The Seed in lieu of jail. In 1973 Mel Sembler placed his son Brent into The Seed. The US Senate report on brainwashing and The Seed was headlined in the St. Petersburg Times and was instrumental in drying up The Seed, but that did not deter Mr. Sembler. He founded his own chain of destructive drug rehab programs that he based on The Seed model and called it Straight, Inc. If anything, Straight was far, far worse than The Seed.
The Seed was controversial, but those who had a kid in the program swore by it. No one though, especially the parents, was allowed behind the curtain to see how Barker performed his magic. So why would a prominent citizen stick his neck out for a controversial program like The Seed unless he too had a child in the program and was convinced of its effectiveness. How in the world did Dr. Charles J. Crist, MD, then vice chairman of the Pinellas County School Board (other times its chairman) get involved in The Seed? According to the local newspaper, not only was he on The Seed's Advisory Board, but on several occasions he asked the school system to cooperate with The Seed. Imagine a man of letters pushing a program founded by an alleged, academic fraud! Like Straight, one of The Seed's most effective recruitment methods was having Seedlings rat on brothers and sisters, and friends. Brent Sembler, who is now vice chairman of the Sembler Company, has been good friends with Charlie Crist since high school. Brent Sembler was in The Seed. Could Brent Sembler have gotten Charlie Crist into The Seed, or vice versa? Former Seed Advisory Board member Dr. Charles Crist is Attorney General Charlie Crist's father.
In 1996 Crist ran unsuccessfully
for US senator. Mel, who has a BS degree in communications and is
noted for his ability to communicate, had this to say about Crist
during his Senate race, "They [Connie Mack and Charlie Crist] are
both very attractive, articulate, personable candidates with a great
many human skills". [Saint Petersburg Times, 9-7-96]. After his unsuccessful
bid for Congress, Crist went on to successfully run for Jeb Bush's
Commissioner of Education in 2000 (a cabinet level position). Brent,
who was in the same fraternity as Charlie at Florida State, was active
in Charlie's Education bid. Brent's mother was Jeb's finance cochairman
and his daddy has been the finance chairman of the National Republican
Party. Here's a
photo of Charlie and Brent together.
Donald Ian Macdonald, MD is the former National Medical Research Director for Straight, Inc. His daughter used to work for Congressman Bilirakis. Bush I made Straight co-founder Mel Sembler the US Ambassador to Australia and Straight co-founder Joseph Zappala the US Ambassador to Spain. A lot of people think Bush had appointed Mel and Joe ambassadors because they each contributed $125,000 to the Republican war chest in 1988. But they weren't the only ones. Straight board member Roy Speer, founder of cable TV's Home Shopping Network, forked over $100,000 to them Republicans in 1988 too. And on Christmas Eve 1988 George H. W. Bush made a TV commercial for Straight on HSN. While Joseph Zappala was in Spain, the planning for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona was underway. Roy Speer got the concession agreements for those summer Olympics. But Roy Speer didn't get everything he wanted in 1992. That was the year Congressman Bilirakis lost his battle with the Federal Communications Commission. In 1992 Michael Bilirakis was unable to convince the FCC to put the Home Shopping Network in every home in America that had cable television!�