Richard Mellon Scaife

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Richard Mellon Scaife

Richard Mellon Scaife ("Dickie") (1932 - 2014) was a billionaire contributor to the Republican Party and right-wing think tanks, one of the most influential men behind the American conservative movement[1]. Scaife has helped establish their biggest institutions and supported some of their most radical ideas through donations from his Scaife foundations.[2] His father was Alan M. Scaife.


Scaife (1932-2014) was the principal heir to the Mellon banking, oil, and aluminum fortune.[3] As of March 2013, Richard Scaife's net worth was $1.4 billion and he was number 347 on the Forbes 400.[4]

Scaife's source of wealth is the Mellon bank's "19th century fortune, which grew steadily with diversified investments, including major coal, steel, and real-estate interests, and Gulf Oil Corporation," according to a 2008 Vanity Fair exposé.[1]

Philanthropic Foundations

Scaife was a major funding source of conservative causes through the Scaife Foundations. He controlled the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, and the Alleghany Foundation. Until 2001, he also controlled the Scaife Family Foundation, which is now controlled by his son and daughter.[3]

Bankrolling Right-Wing Organizations

Scaife's money established or supported "activist think tanks that have created and marketed conservative ideas from welfare reform to enhanced missile defense; public interest law firms that have won important court cases on affirmative action, property rights and how to conduct the national census; organizations and publications that have nurtured conservatism on American campuses; academic institutions that have employed and promoted the work of conservative intellectuals; watchdog groups that have critiqued and harassed media organizations, and many more."[5]

Scaife and his family's charitable foundations have given over a billion dollars to right-wing organzations, resulting in the creation of a vast conservative infrastructure. As the Washington Post reports:

Together these groups constitute a conservative intellectual infrastructure that provided ideas and human talent that helped Ronald Reagan initiate a new Republican era in 1980, and helped Newt Gingrich initiate another one in 1994. Conservative ideas once dismissed as flaky or extreme moved into the mainstream, and as the liberal National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy concluded in a recent report, "The long-standing conservative crusade to discredit government as a vehicle for societal progress has come to fruition as never before."[5]

Among the right-wing organizations substantially funded by Scaife are the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Judicial Watch, the Cato Institute, FreedomWorks, and the American Legislative Exchange Council.[6][7][8]

Funding Anti-Immigrant Groups

Richard Scaife, through his management of the Carthage Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and together with the Scaife Family Foundation (controlled by Richard Scaife's children since 2001) donated more than $4 million to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and more than $3 million to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) from the early 1990s through mid-2013. The foundations gave ProEnglish $285,000 and NumbersUSA $987,500 between 2001 and 2013. The Scaife Family Foundation was also the sole funder of ProEnglish as of mid-2013.[9]

Scaife's sister Cordelia Scaife May, founder and director of the Colcom Foundation until her death in 2005, was an environmentalist committed to population control and believed limiting immigration was the best way to do it. She founded the Colcom Foundation to advance this goal, providing tens of millions to anti-immigrant groups as well as funding legitimate environmental organizations. Since 2001, Colcom has been the primary funder for many groups in the anti-immigrant John Tanton Network, giving over $17 million to NumbersUSA, almost $15 million to FAIR, and more than $6 million to CIS.[9]

Media ownership and influence

Scaife has owned the newspaper the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which is home of global warming skeptic Bill Steigerwald (columnist) since 1969. He donated large grants to the magazine American Spectator from 1970 to 1997. Scaife owned the Sacramento Union from 1977 to 1989.[10]

Christopher Ruddy and The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In 1993 White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster committed suicide. The discovery of his body and his manner of death sprouted a variety of conspiracy theories that Foster had not in fact committed suicide but instead had been murdered as part of a White House cover up. Scaife hired Christopher Ruddy, who wrote for the New York Post at the time, to investigate possible alternative theories to Foster's death for his paper The Pittsburgh Tribune Review.[11] Ruddy's articles began appearing in the Tribune-Review in January 1995.[10] In 1997 Ruddy published his book The Strange Death of Vincent Foster. When the book got a bad write-up in the American Spectator, saying Ruddy sounded like a "right-wing nut," Scaife cut off the magazine's money. American Spectator Editor-In-Chief R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. said, "Dick was angered by the review. And called me and said he didn't care to support the American Spectator any further."[12]

Arkansas Project against Clinton

Scaife was a primary source of money for the "Arkansas Project," an effort by the American Spectator to attack President Bill Clinton during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky eras of his presidency. He gave a $3.2 million grant to American Spectator and an additional $2.3 million specifically to fund the "Arkansas Project." The specific aim of the Arkansas Project was to locate or create dirt on the Clintons in order to smear them, in hopes of removing Clinton from office.[13] Most of the articles that resulted attacked the Clintons portraying them as a slick political couple addled by greed and ambition, a view that reflected the magazine's unrelentingly critical view of the President.[14]

There were reports that the Arkansas project was used to fund witness tampering in the Whitewater scandal. [14] Through an Arkansas bait shop, Spectator operatives kept in touch with Clinton accuser David Hale, even supplying Hale with $200 to make phone calls from prison.[12] Further investigations determined that Hale was not paid to alter his testimony.[15]

Scaife v. Journalism

Scaife has been criticized by sections in the media for attempting to corrupt the practice of journalism and dilute it with a very specific agenda.[16] Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor who runs the blog Informed Comment wrote, " ... In essence, Murdoch, Scaife and other far rightwing super-rich propagandists succeeded in maligning the NYT and in pushing it off its liberal perch even further to the Right."[17]

Other activities

Private Memoir

Jane Mayer, in her book Dark Money, describes how Scaife wrote a memoir before his death that has not been published,

"In 2009, however, five years before he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer, Scaife penned a previously private, still-unpublished memoir, "A Richly Conservative Life," that serves as a secret tell-all about the building of the modern conservative movement. In his memoir, Scaife describes how he and a handful of other influential conservatives who shared the view that American civilization faced an existential threat from progressivism began meeting during the Cold War years, at first informally, to plot against the country's liberal drift....Out of this discussion was born the League to Save Carthage, an informal network of influential, die-hard American conservatives..." This network would become the Carthage Foundation."[18]

Support for attacks

Scaife has a long history of supporting attacks on organizations and institutions that go against right-wing interests.

Westmoreland libel suit against CBS

In 1985, Scaife reportedly financed most of retired Gen. William Westmoreland's libel suit against CBS over a documentary, "The Uncounted Enemy". This documentary claimed that Westmoreland deliberately underestimated enemy troop strength in Vietnam. [19]

Buying up books to influence bestseller lists

Scaife has been known to purchase mass quantities of conservative books by right wing speakers like Sarah Palin and books published by Regnery Press to push them into and up the bestseller lists.


Organizations Funded Through Scaife Foundations

Affiliations with local organizations


Scaife passed away on July 4th, 2014.

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Resources


  • Karen Rothmyer (1981-07). Citizen Scaife. Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved on 2010-01-11. “Press-shy publisher Richard Mellon Scaife has used his immense wealth to shape today's political climate. A close look at the prime funder of the media-savvy New Right”

External Articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 Michael Joseph Gross, "A Vast Right-Wing Hypocrisy," Vanity Fair, February 2008.
  2. Right Web profile on: "Scaife Foundations", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 Richard Mellon Scaife in Wikipedia.
  4. "Richard Scaife" Forbes, accessed May 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Robert G. Kaiser and Ira Chinoy, "Scaife: Funding Father of the Right", Washington Post, May 2, 1999
  6. Bridge Project profile on: "The Carthage Foundation", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  7. Bridge Project profile on: "Sarah Scaife Foundation", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  8. Bridge Project profile on: "Allegheny Foundation", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 Katie Lorenze, "Scaife-Funded Network Works Hard to Kill Immigration Reform," PRWatch, May 31, 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 Robert G. Kaiser and Ira Chinoy, Scaife: Funding Father of the Right, The Washington Post, May 2, 1999.
  11. Terry Krepel, [The money behind Ruddy (and maybe Newsweek): Richard Mellon Scaife], Media Matters, June 2, 2010.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Brooks Jackson, Who Is Richard Mellon Scaife?, CNN, April 27, 1998.
  13. John Mintz, "Anti-Clinton Billionaire Goes Before Grand Jury", Washington Post, September 29, 1998.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Neil A. Lewis, Almost $2 Million Spent in Magazine's Anti-Clinton Project, but on What?, The New York Times, April 15, 1998.
  15. National News Briefs; Whitewater Report Finds No Proof of Tampering, The New York Times, July 29, 1999.
  16. "O'Reilly really dislikes Media Matters," Media Matters for America, October 28, 2005.
  17. Judy, "'Fox Effect' Blamed for Mess Judy Miller Made at NYTimes", News Hounds, October 25, 2005.
  18. Jane Mayer, [Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right], 2016.
  19. Morning Call, (Allentown, PA), March 1, 1985, Westmoreland Suit backed by Mellon Heir, Associated Press
  20. Trustees, Brandywine Conservancy, accessed October 3, 2011.