TOUGH LOVE Romney (Photo: Getty Images)
Mitt Romney has asked his Utah finance committee co-chair, Robert Lichfield, who is affiliated with a controversial network of schools for troubled teens and has been dogged by allegations of abuse and fraud, to step down, Radar has learned.
Ken Kay, the president of the Worldwide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP), a nonprofit group co-founded by Lichfield that provides consulting services to schools specializing in "behavior modification" for wayward teens, said in an e-mail that Romney has asked Lichfield to stop participating in fundraising activities for the campaign.
Lichfield was named in a June 2007 complaint filed in federal court in Utah by the families of 133 children who have attended schools associated with WWASP, alleging that they were subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Plaintiff Chase Wood, who attended the Cross Creek Center for Boys (founded by Lichfield in the late 1970s) and another WWASP-affiliated school, claims he was fondled, forced to eat his own vomit, and locked in a dog cage.
"Gov. 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.
Lichfield is Utah's largest political donor. He organized a fundraiser in February in his hometown of St. George that netted nearly $300,000 for the Romney campaign, and members of the Lichfield family have donated $17,000.