Thursday, June 21, 2007

We're Still $40,000 From Our Goal. Don't Make Us Hurt The Kids

Generally we try not to spend too much time actually reading the stuff we write about. We find the less we know about a particular story, the better able we are to cast it in a useful and productive light for our burgeoning readership (Hi Mom! Hi Aunt Pat!). It is much easier and more efficient to unleash our formidable powers of analysis if we remain fact free. We call this the Bill O'Reilly corollary to the Fox News approach.

Still, we occasionally run across a lede that is so compelling, so provocative, so bizarre that we find ourselves compelled to read beyond the first line our two. A lede like this:

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. "We should make very clear that the money was not collected from the children," said an aide to Romney. "They were abused for marketing purposes only."

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, and having to listen to Rommney's stump speeches.”

Sure, but I need to reiterate again that we never asked them for money," said the aide.

“Mr. Lichfield is one of 6 Co-Chairmen 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 effective as possible. You'd be surprised how bringing a couple of kids with black eyes, or bruises in to a room full of potential donors can loosen wallets up. Particularly if the doors are locked.”

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."You remember the Board of directors, don't you?" asked an aide to Litchfield. "Or maybe at your school it was the Board of education. Very motivating if you get my drift."

The president of WWASPS, Ken Kay, said 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. It's like they're troubled or something. I don't know what they expect from us."

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 Romney position statements to read on their own without supervision. Others allege that staff at the schools threatened them with cattle prods and punished them severely when they pointed up Romney flip flops. 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 until they could recite current Romney positions on abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage. "We pride ourselves on using best practice techniques," Kay said.

Kay said WWASPS worked only with the schools and never had direct contact with the students. "The schools sent in their dues, we sent them membership cards. We're an oversight organization. Heck we didn't even know they had students until a couple of months ago."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Students? Books? Why, we would have to be a school to have those things." This post was all too painfully true, yet nonetheless funny. If you could only add visuals of the rather chubby bumbling henchmen at WWASP (Lichfield, Farnsworth, Kay),it would make a great Saturday Night Live skit. That would make Romney sort of the ..Chevy Chase.. of this whole escapade, wouldn't it? Good hair, likable ner-do-well. Maybe a little vacation to romney world ? Hard to believe these fools have actually managed to harm so many teens and families. Unfortunately it is true.. and the abuse continues.
Never under estimate the power of a Lifespring seminar, physical restraint, a little time in OT, or of good hair.