The impossibility of fully disclosing Straight-related political campaign contributions
by Wesley Fager (c) October 18, 2003

  This report started off as a simple investigation into the influence of Florida Sixth Circuit Court judges by campaign contributions made to them by former Straight officials and their family members. What we are trying to determine is whether Ray Bradbury can get a fair trial in Pinellas County or Pasco County, Florida. During the course of our investigation we discovered that it is virtually impossible to fully determine the full extent of those political contributions without further modification to the procedures currently available for the release of state and federal campaign finance data.

After the Great Depression Americans were reluctant to place their hard-earned money in banks and savings & loans companies. So Congress pass legislation authorizing the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) to guarantee the savings of a family up to $40,000. But that all changed in 1980 when savings & loans companies were deregulated by the federal government and restrictions were lifted so much that owners of savings & loans companies could loan to themselves. The new law also raised the limit that the FSLIC would insure to $100,000. Worse still for tax payers a loophole was written into the law to allow for any permutation of family members to have a guaranteed savings. For example suppose there is a wealthy family of five: mom, dad, and three daughters who have millions to invest. Each could now securely invest $100K for $500K. The family of all five could invest another $100K as a unit. Mom and dad were good for another $100K, mom and Jane ($100K) , mom, Jane and Karen ($100K), Jane and Karen ($100K) and so on. So, like the Small Business Administration which had originally been set up to guarantee minorities a chance to operate a business, another government initiative had been bastardized from its original charter to help the rich get richer.

Without government regulation savings & loans companies started making thousands and thousands of unsecured loans well beyond their abilities to cover. When the bottom fell out eight years later it was left to the American tax payer to bail the system out, to guarantee the savings of the wealthy savers. The final cost to the American tax payer was $1.4 trillion. I read once that the savings & loan bailout will cost every American citizen $6,000 (I think that was the figure). With an immediate family of four, the cost of the scandal to my family has been $24,000!
I see a similar situation in the efforts of the rich trying buy political influence. Aside from soft money which is a special loophole allowing wealthy people to donate large sums of money to political parties, law makers have placed ceiling caps on individual campaign contributions in an effort to keep one person or group of persons from buying an election. The Oakton Institute has previously reported on the buying of political influence by Melvin Sembler in the following report which includes political contributions of Melvin Sembler, his wife Betty and their sons and daughters-in-law:

Now the Oakton Institute has extended that effort by looking at records from the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations to determine what businesses the Sembler family are involved in with the intention of marrying up those businesses to federal and state campaign donations. What we found is that there are literally scores of Sembler-family companies interwoven into complex matrices sometimes so complicated that they are called names like Sembler Family Partnership #8 and Sembler Family Partnership #9. Many Sembler companies like Bay Area Advertising & Promotion, Inc. and Tayllor Promotions, Inc. don't use the name Sembler at all. The complete list is here. A similar array of companies can be found for Sembler's good friend Walter Loebenberg, formerly president of Straight Foundation, and his wife Edith and their relations Michael and David Loebenberg as you can see for yourself by linking to and entering the name "loebenberg".

If one wants to learn the campaign contribution influence of those tied to Straight, just for the state of Florida, one would have to query the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections database for the names Sembler and Loebenberg plus all the names in the following two links:

Straight, Inc. officials:
Straight Foundation, Inc. officials:

Next a list of all companies related to Sembler, Loebenberg and to all the other officials in the above two links that do not have the names Sembler, Loebenberg nor any of the other names as part of the company title would have to be made and that list would have to be run against the Division of Elections database. Under the present set up it is impossible without an very large staff to do all those searches. Therefore there is a public need that the department of state in all 50 states and the Federal Election Commission provide for an expanded search capability whereby a citizen can build a file of company names and submit that list to the various state departments' databases to find out which companies have made contributions to which candidates. Until then, it is impossible for the Oakton Institute to fully ascertain for our readers the total political campaign contributions by Mel Sembler and other former Straight officials.