Robert Lichfield is named among 140 defendants in a child-abuse lawsuit involving schools for troubled youths
September 7, 2007
By Thomas Burr
More Romney / Lichfield news ...
WASHINGTON - A top Utah fundraiser for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign - who has links to an organization facing a civil lawsuit alleging child abuse - is off Romney's state finance team.
Robert Lichfield left as one of Romney's campaign fundraisers in July, though there are disputing accounts whether he was pushed out or left on his own.
Lichfield, who founded the umbrella group called the Worldwide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, brought in about $300,000 earlier this year for Romney during a single Utah event and has donated tens of thousands to the former Massachusetts governor and other Republicans in recent years.
Lichfield is named in a federal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for Utah charging that students of the "behavior modification" schools with ties to WWASPS were subjected to "physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse." The suit had 140 defendants at last count.
WWASPS president Ken Kay declined to comment to The Salt Lake Tribune but told www.adaronline.com that the Romney campaign asked Lichfield to resign from the finance team. Lichfield could not be reached for comment.
"Governor Romney has asked Mr. Lichfield to step down and not be involved in any more fundraising until the lawsuit is resolved in the positive, which we are confident will happen," Kay said via e-mail to the Radar Magazine's online version.
Romney's campaign counters Kay's account, saying Lichfield resigned on his own.
"Mr. Lichfield was not urged by the governor, he resigned from his campaign position on his own accord," Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said Thursday.
The lawsuit against Lichfield, WWASPS and others involved in the schools alleges brazen acts of child abuse, including that students of the various programs had been forced to eat their own vomit, clean toilets with a toothbrush and brush their teeth afterward, were chained or locked in dog cages, kicked, beaten, thrown and slammed to the ground and forced into sexual acts.
Kay has called the lawsuit's allegations "ludicrous."
"We don't condone any type of child abuse and it's highly unlikely that any of the incidents ever happened," Kay said, noting that troubled teens often have a record of fabricating stories.
Lichfield and family big donors Robert Lichfield, a La Verkin entrepreneur, founded the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools. The organization has been affiliated with a number of schools for troubled youths, several of which schools have been closed amid allegations of abuse or neglect.
Lichfield and family members began donating heavily to Republican candidates and causes in 2001. In the 2002 and 2004 elections, a Salt Lake Tribune investigation found more than $1 million in contributions from family members and business associates.