Richard Mellon Scaife

Richard Mellon Scaife

Billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife may have single-handedly funded the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton claimed was plotting against her husband.

In 1999 the Washington Post declared Richard Mellon Scaife the “funding father of the Right.” A billionaire philanthropist and owner-publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Scaife became so active in his efforts to dig up dirt against President Bill Clinton that many Democrats were convinced that Hillary Clinton’s claim that a “vast right-wing conspiracy” was persecuting her husband was a reference to Scaife.

Scaife was the principal backer of the American Spectator and the “Arkansas Project,” whose mission was to discover the “real facts” about Clinton. Although the “project” did publicize Paula Jones and her accusations of sexual harassment against Clinton, the allegations of financial misconduct and a number of additional sexual indiscretions were largely dismissed. The greatest misfire of the Arkansas Project was the claim that the Clintons had worked with CIA rogue agents in a drug smuggling ring out of Mena, Arkansas, and that they had ordered the murder of Vince Foster to silence him.

Richard Mellon Scaife became interested in politics when his father, Alan Scaife, served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II and the family lived in Washington, D.C. In 1956 the younger Scaife became a committeeman for the Allegheny Republican Party, and in 1964 he was drawn to Barry Goldwater’s campaign for president because of his mother’s friendship with the candidate. For a time, Scaife headed Forum World Features, a publishing company that was later exposed as a front organization for the CIA. His first venture into circumventing campaign finance laws occurred when he donated $999,000 to the 1972 reelection fund of Richard M. Nixon. After the Watergate scandal broke in 1973, Scaife refused to speak with Nixon ever again.

Scaife is regarded by those who know him as a very private, taciturn man who never grants interviews and who seldom speaks—even during his own board meetings.

Over the past thirty years, the Scaife Foundations have given over $340 million to such right-wing groups as the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Cato Institute. Although he has received the most publicity for his generous financial support to conservative political causes, Scaife also controls the Carthage Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Allegheny Foundation. He is key benefactor for many art galleries, museums, orchestras, and educational institutions, such as the University of Chicago, Boston University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Bowling Green State University. He controlled the Scaife Family Foundation until 2001, when that position was shared by his son and daughter. In 2005, Scaife, the principal heir to the Mellon banking, oil, and aluminum fortune was ranked No. 283 on the Forbes 400.

Although Scaife’s efforts to remove President Bill Clinton from office were well-known, in the autumn of 2007 he reversed his opinion of Clinton because of the work that the former president’s foundation was accomplishing on a global basis. To the astonishment of all who had followed Scaife’s anti-Clinton machinations over the past several years, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, a Scaife-controlled newspaper, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president two days before the Pennsylvania presidential primary.

To the chagrin of some of his fellow conservatives, Scaife is a major donor to prochoice advocates and has given millions to Planned Parenthood. His mother Sarah’s favorite causes were population control, environmental conservation, and hospitals. Jonas Salk developed his polio vaccine in a Sarah Scaife–sponsored laboratory.

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