He is known as "Honorable" by an official act of Congress. When his attorney recently notified Ray Bradbury that he was representing Melvin Sembler he stated that he was representing the "Honorable Ambassador." Officially he is called His Excellency The Honorable Melvin Floyd Sembler Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Italy, former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia, former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Nauru, the Order of Australia, Boy Scouts Distinguished Citizens Award, National Conference of Christians and Jews Honoree, Golda Meir/Kent Jewish Center's Humanitarian Award, Florida Enterprise Medal, past president of the International Council of Shopping Centers, Past Honorary Chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and the St. Petersburg Times' Sour Orange Award. But just how "honorable" is Melvin Sembler? Mr. Sembler is the former ambassador to Australia and Nauru and now, fifteen years later, the US Ambassador to Italy. On October 31, 2001 Melvin Sembler addressed the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee which was then considering his nomination for ambassadorship to Italy and told the assembled Senators this:
What he told the Senators was that he and his wife Betty were philanthropists who had helped thousands of American kids overcome the plague of drug addiction and that is a major reason why the Senate should approve his nomination for the ambassadorship to Italy. Melvin Sembler is no different from hundreds of others who have sought to buy the right to attach a high-level office to their name. But what sets him apart from so many of his contemporaries is Straight--the juvenile drug rehabilitation program he and his wife Betty founded. Read now about the court cases against Straight; about what professionals like the state authorities who closed Straights around the country have to say about Straight; and a few newspaper headlines about Straight:
Straight is about child abuse. It is about child abuse on a grand scale. It is about depriving American kids of food and sleep; of beating them and painfully restraining them without cause. It's about making kids discuss their deepest, darkest sexual fantasies and activities in front of other kids; about making kids soil their pants; about watching kids while they defecate to make sure Straight hasn't made them so depressed they will commit suicide. It is about spitting in a child's face. Straight is about cajoling or scaring a kid into admitting to drug use or sexual activity he hasn't actually engaged in to frighten parents into paying; it is about showing parents pictures of dead kids in morgues to scare parents further into submission. It is about paying politicians to say nice things about Straight.
Marketing to white families. As you found out from the above links, Straight is in reality a very destructive, mind-control cult. Straight is responsible for the intentional physical and mental abuse of tens of thousands of American teenagers. What's more Mel and Betty Sembler and Straight marketed their program almost exclusively to white families as described in the following link:
Making $95 million by treating white kids for addictions they did not have. Another disturbing fact about Straight is that Straight treated many kids for addictions they simply did not have as documented in the following link:
SUICIDES. Straight is about stripping a child down of all self respect and then trying to build him back up in a desirable image hoping that you won't drive him over the edge along the way. Animal trainers and contemporary psychologist call this behavior modification. Cult awareness specialists and military intelligence officers call it Chinese thought reform. The Communist Chinese themselves call it re-education; Straight calls it re-acculturation. But most people call it just plain ole brainwashing. In his seminal book on brainwashing Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of "Brainwashing" in China psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton, Jr. warns of the dangers of driving a person to suicide by severely depriving and depressing him. He writes:
Mel Sembler will tell you that he treated druggie kids who are in a high risk population for suicide anyway. But we now know that he treated many kids for addictions they simply did not have. Over 40 former clients have committed suicide including many from his "12,000 successful graduates." People like Dan Brown who graduated from Straight - Southern, California and later committed suicide and Aaron Smith who graduated from Straight - Saint Petersburg before dying of a drug overdose. Sarah (not her real name) carved on herself while she was in Straight - Springfield though she says she was not trying to commit suicide. She says, however, that her brother John (not his real name) was trying to kill himself when bit through his wrist while on First Phase at Straight - Springfield. John quit Straight when he turned 18 and Sarah graduated and became a counselor at Straight - Virginia Beach along with Glen Steepleton--another Springfield graduate. She says she will always be grateful to Glen for reviving her brother the night he tried to hang himself from a tree in her backyard. Later Glen Steelpleton committed suicide. Christine Stottlemeyer is another Straight - Springfield graduate turned Straight counselor who has committed suicide. Jeff Leugers graduated twice from Straight and was president of the Cincinnati chapter of Sembler's Seventh Step Society (an exclusive organization of Straight graduates) before taking his own life. What does Mel Sembler consider to be a successful graduate? Did Straight contribute to the cause of the more than 40 deaths? Follows is an incomplete list of post-Straight (including Straight-related programs) suicides:
Straights closed all over the country under mounting civil suits and criminal investigations. In 1989 state health authorities in Florida tried to close the flagship Straight treatment camp in St. Petersburg but there is strong evidence to suggest that Mel Sembler personally interceded to quash that attempt as documented in the Clary Report in following link:
The 500 page, 1983 Gardner Report substantiated massive incidences of child abuse at Straight-Sarasota which included affidavits given to the States Attorney that children had been forced to clean toilets with their bare hands! The Dale Report of 1978 substantiated that child abuse was occurring at Straight almost as soon as it had opened as documented in the following link:
Mel Sembler says that Straight graduated 12,000 kids. Since it is well known that most children never graduate Straight, perhaps as many as 50,000 kids were intentionally abused at Straight, either physically, or mentally, or both. The survivors of Straight call it The Great Straight Holocaust. Mel Sembler may be the only living American to be able to say that he has been ambassador to three countries. He has been bestowed these honors because he purchased the positions as we shall see next. But worse for him he has the gall to brag that it was his work at Straight that got him his titles!
Where did Sembler get his idea from?
In 1974 Mel and Betty Sembler had a son in the Saint Petersburg , Florida branch of a juvenile drug rehabilitation chain called The Seed. But The Seed had been accused of child abuse all over the place. In a letter of the times from Jeffery J. Elenewski, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, The Children's Psychiatric Center, Dade County, Florida to Mr. Alex Miller, Youth Coordinator, Florida State Drug Abuse Program, Miami Mr. Elenewski had written about kids he had interviewed coming out of The Seed:
In December 1974 the US Senate released a report that accused The Seed of using Communist North Korean brainwashing techniques on American teenagers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, under direction from the US Senate, notified The Seed that it would have to get signed consent forms from clients and their parents acknowledging that Seed clients were participating in human experimentation (e.g. brainwashing). Under the weight of allegations of abuse and the Senate report The Seed closed its expansion programs. So Mel Sembler hired some Seed graduates and formed his own Seed which he called Straight. A half dozen original board members resigned in the first 18 months of Straight's operation with board member Art Bauknight writing in his letter of resignation that no "basic safety rules" had been developed by the corporation "to protect others from unreasonable risk of bodily harm, loss or damage." In August 1977 three board members resigned in mass issuing a joint statement declaring that neither Hartz nor Peterman [Straight's clinical directors] "have the necessary qualifications to rehabilitate preteens or teens who have a drug or alcohol problem ... "furthermore," they wrote, "we feel we cannot recommend Straight Inc. to our friends or citizens of our community." Director Theodore Anderson wrote in his letter of resignation that, "It (Straight) has many of the poor points of the Seed and few of the good points . . . If I had to recommend one (program) I'd recommend The Seed." As bad as The Seed was Mel Sembler's Straight was worse.
Buying Power and Influence.
In 2001 President Bush nominated Mel Sembler for the ambassadorship to
Italy because Mel Sembler had bought the job as shown by this sales slip:
Truth is, like too many other successful businessmen
Mel Sembler has been raising money for the Republican Party for many years
and he and his family have personally contributed a bundle of loot to
them Republicans in return for political favors and offices. A tally sheet
of Sembler family donations is at the following link:
In 1988 Straight founders Mel Sembler and Joseph Zappala made a spectacle of themselves trying to become ambassadors. Each gave almost identically matching amounts of $126,000 to get George Bush, the father, elected president. [Check out Mel Sembler's Republican Party political contributions here.] On December 6, 1988 Florida Governor Bob Martinez had a meeting with President-elect George Bush at the White House. Afterwards he had lunch with Joe Zappala and Mel Sembler. Subsequently Bush and Martinez agreed to make a TV appearance for Straight. In mid-February 1989 Bush announced his recommendation to make Mel Sembler ambassador to Australia and Joe Zappala to be ambassador to Spain. [Earlier in the year Martinez had led a trade mission to Spain.] On May 6 Sembler and Zappala were selected as Tampa Bay Region, National Conference of Christians and Jews honorees. Later Governor Martinez was implicated in a Straight document that reported that he would help Straight get its license. The press had a field day with the two as they tried to explain to Congress that they had been selected because of the humanitarian work they do for Straight and because they were honorees of the National Conference of Christians and Jews--and not for the money they had given to George Bush. On his application form Joe Zappala told the US Senate that he was a founding board member of Straight (and Mel Sembler let him get by declaring it) but if you look at the original articles of incorporation Joe Zappala's name is not on it.
Zappala was just a high school graduate who spoke no Spanish. Like a mischievous school boy, in the application block for languages, Sembler indicated, "English (fluent)". The two were just too lazy to fill out their own application forms so an aide filled in almost identical wording for the two. "I have been known as a coalition builder, able to organize my colleagues and peers to action in support of worthy civic, charitable and political causes, " Sembler said in his form. "I am known as a coalition builder. I am able to organize my colleagues and peers to action in support of worthwhile civic, charitable and political causes," Zappala wrote on his. Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes wasn't amused. "This is an absolute insult to the process," he told his fellow Senators from the floor of the Senate. "It's incredible. It's the sort of thing where a teacher in school would hand the exam back, or better yet flunk the student." The Washington Post editorialized calling the two forms "modular testimony" and asked the question, "Can the would-be ambassadors be trusted to enter into dialogue with their host governments if they, apparently, cannot be trusted to write a few lines on their own qualifications?"
Two zealots for George Bush. Not surprisingly Gary Treadeau ran a series of cartoons mocking the dynamic duo in Doonesbury; and an organization of career diplomats called the two "klutzes." In 1988 Mel Sembler, who has a degree in communications from Northwestern University, explained to a reporter why he had helped make Bush president. "The support I've given him is very zealous," he had said. "We like this man. We like the way his head works, we like his loyalty, we like his great intelligence. The man has a winner syndrome." [Tell me Mel Sembler doesn't belong in the announcer's booth on Monday Night Football!] Zappala is normally camera shy and doesn't say much publicly. But when he does he often mimics his big brother Mel. During his Senate hearing for his ambassadorship, Joe Zappala told the assembled Senators, "I did contribute substantial monies to the campaign. I was a zealot for George Bush, and I'm proud of my involvement." That is why Sembler and Zappala are known as the "Saint Petersburg Twins".
Loving them Democrats too. Sembler and Zappala gave a lot of money to the Republicans in return for being nominated for ambassadorships. But there were Democrat Senators as well as Republican. So after they got nominated they worked out some sort of deal with Jerome Berlin who from 1986 to 1988 had been the National Finance Chairman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Sembler, Zappala and Berlin made the rounds at the Senate office building, pushing themselves on Democrat Senators. When Zappala asked Arkansas Senator Dale Bumpers for his vote, Berlin walked into Bumper's office with him. [Berlin had contributed $1,000 to Bumper's election. It is not known how many other times Berlin walked into a Senator's office with either Sembler or Zappala.]
The George Washingtons of Florida. But others looked beyond the buffoonery of the two opportunists. Some seriously suggested that a monument be built to the two zealots for Bush so that they could be honored in stone with the like's of George Washington, Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc, and Napoleon Bonaparte. On September 27, 1991 Paul Getting, executive vice president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and chamber member Howard P. Ross, business partner of Straight's attorney Anthony Battaglia, unveiled plans to build a shrine to Straight founders Mel Sembler and Joseph Zappala. The idea was quite understandably laughed right out of the chamber. [From his web-page biography Mr. Ross states that he is "available to serve as a voluntary Trial Resolution Judge" in Florida.]
Attorney Roy G. Harrell, Jr. is a past president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce who has worked for Mel Sembler. In 1988 Sembler tried to build a shopping center in St. Petersburg around 38th and Park Street but 24 residents at Tyronne Village condominiums said no. They were upset enough to sign a petition to stop it. The traffic is murder down here already said condominium dweller Lewis Stofell. Besides Tyronne Mall had 150 stores just a mile away and there was Crossroads Shopping Center plus at least two other malls nearby as well. The city planning commission agreed with its citizens. It recommended against zoning the area commercial because of the existing traffic problems, another shopping center would just add to it. Even the council's own staff advised against allowing Sembler to build yet one more mall. Seems nobody wanted it but Sembler Company. After all Sembler can't make money if he doesn't build any more than a surgeon can't make money unless he cuts. That's when Sembler hired Roy Harrell who also happens to be best friends with City Council member Ron Mason. Before the City Council met to decide the issue, Roy Harrell or one of the Semblers had personally met with all nine council members. They said they would help put in two turning lanes. The final vote for the shopping center nobody wanted? 9 - 0 in favor! That's what Mel Sembler thinks about his neighbors.
In 1987 Mel Sembler teamed up with Scarborough Construction company to plan a 950 new home community in Land O'Lakes, Florida. They were even willing to build a 70 foot wide, 45 MPH roadway to get the people in and out of there. But the state Department of Transportation had been eying the land too. The state was planning a major overhaul of I-275 and needed an express roadway down there, not a little, two-lane roadway. The state was thinking more of an expensive eight lane, 70 MPH highway. When you are in the new home/shopping center building business, traffic lights and roadways are always a headache. After all why should the state build access roads for your projects just so you can make more money? Today James W. Holton, Commissioner of the Florida Transportation Commission, is on the board of directors of Straight now calling itself DFAF. In 1988 when Hillsborough County Commissioner Pick Talley left office he became president of Summer Property and Development a company he formed with Mel's son and Sembler Company president M. Steven Sembler. Ten years later when St. Petersburg councilman Larry Williams and the rest of the city council voted to grant a contract to Sembler's STP Redevelopment company to build the gigantic BayWalk shopping mall, councilman Williams did not disclose immediately that he was a former business partner with Fred Bullard, one of the principals in Sembler's redevelopment company. (The city agreed to build an $11 million parking garage for the venture.)
I sold them some swamp land in Florida!!! Mel Sembler may be a
political clown but he does invest his money wisely to get political favors
that are good for business. When he was having problems over the Cooper's
Point matter he hired attorney Timothy Johnson who just happened to have
been campaign aide for Pinellas County Commissioner George Greer. In 1987
Michael Kenton, then the environmental management director for the city
of Clearwater, Florida, passed up a chance to buy Coopers Point, a mangrove
swamp in Pinellas County, for use by the city as a park. Instead he approached
the Sembler Company and struck up a deal. Together they bought the property
for $1 million using $15,000 of Kenton's own money. Kenton was paid a
management fee of $50,000 by the Semblers. Two and a half months later
the team almost got away with selling the swamp to the city of Clearwater
for $2.6 million when the Saint Petersburg Times learned of the deal and
had a field day. All eyes then turned to State Attorney James T. Russell
to see what he would do. As usual in matters dealing with Mel Sembler's
schemes Russell did absolutely nothing. He decided this was not a criminal
matter since Kenton had been a state employee and thus the state ethics
commission should handle the matter. There was never any consideration
to prosecute anybody at Sembler Company--after all they weren't city employees!
But Sembler still had some swamp land to unload. That's when he hired
Tim Johnson to lobby his case before the man Johnson had helped get elected
County Commissioner George Greer and to the other County Commissioners.
Now that was an amazing feat because the county wasn't interested in buying
the swamp, the city of Clearwater was. Well ole' Tim Johnson convinced
the county to front 66% of the money but not share in the ownership. And
that's what happened. Clearwater came up with $650,000 and the county
with $1.3 million. Clearwater got the deed and Sembler made a cool $1
million in seven months. He had succeeded in actually selling some swamp
land to his neighbors even though they would not own it! And Michael Kenton?
Mr. Kenton had to turn over his earnings to pay for the fine the ethics
commission put on him.
The privitization of government and forcing kids to pee on command.
Most people think that Mel Sembler has always backed George Bush, Jr. but that is not true. His first choice to run against Bill Clinton was fellow Tennessean Lamar Alexander, former governor of Tennessee, now US Senator. Why? Because Alexander favors the privatization of prisons. When he lost the battle to get Alexander on the Republican ticket, Sembler switched over George Bush, Jr. The businessmen who pull Sembler's strings have directed him to privatize the federal government. Mel Sembler is on Florida's Committee of 100--100 businessmen who run a shadow government for Jeb Bush. They favor and are implementing a plan to privatize government jobs in Florida. Why? They want to bid on the management of federal, state and federal government activities. They want to make money by operating the government at all levels. And they've found another way to make money. Our Constitution guarantees its citizens against unwarranted searches of their homes and personages, yet Mel Sembler and his Drug Free American Foundation were behind last year's Supreme Court decision to allow for the random, suspicionless drug testing of all students involved in any activity. For this one time, Sembler had told the court, deny them their Constitutional rights--for their own good. But what really motivated him? His cronies get paid to do the drug testing! [See Who makes money by forcing American kids to pee in a bottle.]
It would appear that Mel Sembler has a master plan for parents to pay his cronies to drug test all teenagers who want to get a drivers license and to put them into treatment programs like Operation Par on whose board sits his wife Betty if they show up positive on their drug test. And to put them into private prisons from which his cronies will receive revenues if they prove to be distributors of drugs. He wants to fire federal and state workers and let the likes of himself and his management companies be paid even more money to manage these government jobs. Mel Sembler has made a career of cronyism and political paybacks. He has done selfish things to enhance his own pocket book at the expense of his neighbors. He is not a good neighbor. He is only "honorable" because he has bought the right to be called so in an era where steroids and robocops can make you governor. A new Orweillean order where President means puppet and where "honorable" means "dishonorable." PumpGate is not about Ray Bradbury's penile pump. It is about Mel Sembler's efforts to have the press portray him as a savior of our youth; as a savvy businessman who helps make presidents. PumpGate is about squashing anybody who knows the truth and is willing to stand up to the Machine. The intentional infliction of emotional distress and mental anguish on 50,000 kids and he has the gall to sue one of them for the intentional infliction of emotional distress and mental anguish. Forty dead young people and Mel and Betty whopping it up at a toga party in their Magic Kingdom in Rome. What Mel Sembler has done and what he stands for is dangerous to the Republic. Melvin Sembler is not an honorable man.
SLAPP Suits, the Florida Holocaust Museum and the big lie. On his official US government web site Ambassador Sembler brags about the "12,000 successful graduates of Straight" that he and Betty have saved. But Kathy Martin in Virginia is one of those successful graduates. She recalls post-Straight going around to area schools giving testimonials on how Straight saved her from drug addiction. Now she says she never had a drug problem to begin with. She has even founded a web discussion forum to give aid and comfort to former Straight clients. She is one of scores of the "12,000" successful graduates who have renounced their graduate status from Straight at:
For two weeks in May 2002 FOX News ran this front page article trying to tell the truth about the "12,00 successful graduates":
But Sembler threatened to sue and FOX management removed the story. In fact Mel Sembler has a history of using the courts to keep the world from knowing what he did at Straight as shown here:
So disturbed are former students of Mel Sembler's destructive brainwashing and violation of human rights and civil liberties that some have contacted the Florida Holocaust Museum to complain. Why? Because the Florida Holocaust Museum was founded by Mel Sembler's good friend Walter Loebenberg. Walter Loebenberg is the former president of Straight Foundation. Mel and Betty Sembler were founding board members of the museum. Mel's attorney Leonard Englander is on the board. Former Straight board member Jay Snyder is also on the board along with Jan Sher, wife of Sembler Company CEO, Craig Sher. In the midst of the complaints Larry Wasser, president of the foundation died. So what did the Florida Holocaust Museum do to placate the protesters? They made Bruce Epstein the interim director. Dr. Epstein is another Straight board member!
ISSAC is a watch dog group which reports on abuse in teen rehabilitation programs. ISAC has reported Mr. Sembler to the United Nations for crimes against humanity. They have gotten this response:
Fifty years ago Mel Sembler went to work for a man named Schlessinger who sold lady's apparels in Dyersburg, Tennessee. He married the boss's daughter; took over operations of the business; expanded it and the little shopping center it is in; discovered he could make more money by building shopping centers and renting space to other businesses than by selling ladies underwear. In 1968 he expanded his shopping center business into the growing Tampa Bay area and made more money than he could have ever imagined. He did this by hiring people politically connected as consultants whenever it was to his advantage. He has a gigantic ego and wants his name headlined as much as Frank Sinatra so he founded a juvenile drug rehabilitation program and paid Nancy and Ronald Reagan and George Bush handsomely to make it the world's biggest teen rehab. And while Straight may be Mel and Betty's plum to the unsuspecting, the reality is that Straight is a criminal activity. Straight has been involved in fraud and Mel Sembler may have committed an illegal act to keep his program open. Tragically, Straight may be responsible for the deaths of scores of young people. To cover his political ass Mel Sembler has gotten Rich Baker, the Mayor of St. Petersburg to join the advisory board of Straight under its current name Drug Free America Foundation. Along with the mayor he has brought on board the former chief of police for St. Petersburg, the chief of the state police, the state drug czar, the lieutenant governor and even Governor Jeb Bush and his wife Columba. Walter Loebenberg is on the Board of Directors of the DFAF. Jointly he would have them share the culpability of Straight with a "you can't prosecute us all mentality."