Excerpt: "Bush Mixes Fund-Raising and Business in Florida," NYT, October 13, 2007
... [Bush] took a trip to Pinellas Park, not far from Clearwater, where 60 people paid up to $25,000 each to have lunch with him.
The luncheon , Mr. Bush’s 21st fund-raiser this year and the 13th behind closed doors, was at the expansive house of BRENT SEMBLER, a shopping mall developer from a family of major Republican donors.
The Semblers have long been close to the Bushes. Mr. Sembler’s father, Mel, was a major backer of Mr. Bush’s father, as well as of the president himself. He was rewarded when Mr. Bush named him ambassador to Italy; he served from 2001 to 2005.
The fund-raiser demonstrates what Republican leaders know. With the clock ticking and his administration saddled with the weight of the Iraq war, Mr. Bush is nevertheless a big money draw, even in a non-election year. ...
" ... Having played a significant role in many successful campaigns, Sembler has clearly demonstrated his abilities as an active political fundraiser for the Republican Party. Sembler was Finance Co-Chairman for the campaign of State Senator Charlie Crist. He also served on the committee for the successful election of Charlie Crist for Florida Education Commissioner and subsequently Crist’s successful campaign for the post of Florida’s Attorney General. In addition, Sembler served on the committee for the Bush/Brogan campaign for the re-election of Florida Governor Jeb Bush. He is actively involved in the current drive to bring the GOP Convention to Tampa. Currently, Sembler is Finance Chairman for the gubernatorial campaign of Charlie Crist for Florida Governor. ... "
• Finance Chairman - Charlie Crist for Governor
• Committee Member - Bush/Brogan campaign 2002 for the re-election of • • Florida Governor Jeb Bush
• Finance Co-Chairman for the campaign of Florida State Senator Charlie Crist
• Committee Chairman for the election of Florida Education Commissioner Charlie Crist
• Finance Chairman for the campaign of Charlie Crist for Florida Attorney General
BRENT SEMBLER'S DRUG-DRENCHED PAST
" ... Mel Sembler makes his money by developing and administering shopping centers at The Sembler Company. While he is off to Italy, the company is run by CEO Craig Sher and Mel's son BRENT who is vice chairman of the company. Craig Sher's wife Jan Miller Sher is another board member of the Florida Holocaust Museum. And while Brent Sembler had nothing intentionally to do with Straight, he was Mel Sembler's inspiration for Straight. As a teenager Brent had been in a juvenile drug treatment program called The Seed whose methods had been likened, in a report by the United States Senate, to the methods of brainwashing used on American POWs during the Korean War. Publicity like that caused The Seed to close. After the Saint Petersburg Seed closed, Mel and Betty Sembler opened Straight and patterned it after The Seed. If anything Straight was worse than The Seed. The Semblers ran Straight as an almost exclusive charity for affluent white children. ...
" ... Brent Sembler and his wife Debbie were also awarded the 'To Life' medal for their efforts to teach tolerance and fight racism, notwithstanding the fact that Sembler Company is currently being accused of racism by a prominent black group. Ms. Scherzer noted that Brent and Debbie thanked Mel and Betty 'with full hearts' and noted, as all Times' reporters do, that "Mel Sembler is the U.S. Ambassador to Italy.'
"The Florida Holocaust Museum's 'To Life' Award was started in 2000. Former Straight Foundation president Walter Loebenberg and his wife Edie were the first recipients. In 2001 former Straight board member Dr. Bruce Epstein, his wife Amy, and Mel Klinghoffer received the award. Last year's recipients were Loebenberg's former Colony Bank business partner Barry Alpert, his wife Judith, and Erwin and Wendy Katz. ... "