Richard Mellon Scaife

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Richard Mellon Scaife

Richard Mellon Scaife (born July 3, 1932) is an American billionaire philanthropist and owner–publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He is known for his generous financial support of conservative political causes in the U.S., mostly through the charitable foundations he controls: the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Carthage Foundation, and Allegheny Foundation, and until 2001 the Scaife Family Foundation, now controlled by his children.



Scaife was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Alan Scaife, scion of a prominent Pittsburgh family, and Sarah Mellon, daughter of Richard B. Mellon (brother of Andrew W. Mellon) who, with her brother R.K. Mellon, was heir to the Mellon fortune, including the Mellon Bank and major investments in Gulf Oil and Alcoa aluminum.

Raised at the family estate of Penguin Court, the environment of Scaife's upbringing was allegedly a cold one, and when he inherited Penguin Court later in life, he had it demolished.

He was educated at Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts. He struggled at Yale University and left it twice, eventually graduating with a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1957. When his father Alan died unexpectedly in 1958, Richard inherited his positions on various corporate boards, but had little hope of success: his family had become estranged from his more successful uncle, R.K., who retained control of the companies. His mother encouraged Richard to involve himself in the family's philanthropic foundations, and this pursuit eventually became his primary occupation. (See management of Scaife family foundations.)

There are several theories about the origins of Scaife's interest in politics:

  1. the influence of Robert Duggan, his sister Cordelia's boyfriend and later husband, who helped him become a committeeman of the Allegheny County Republican Party in 1956 and on whose campaigns he worked;
  2. a fondness for newspapers he read during his isolated childhood;
  3. his involvement in the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, with whom his mother was acquainted;
  4. his father's service with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II, during which the family lived in Washington, DC for a time.

Whatever the origins, events soon permitted Scaife to pursue his interests. In 1965, Sarah Scaife died, giving her son new influence over the family foundations, which had begun to donate to anti-communist organizations in addition to its regular roster of arts and population control projects. In 1969 he purchased the Tribune-Review of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

In 1973 he became estranged from his sister Cordelia Scaife May, and took full control of the family foundations. Over the years, however, their relationship grew warmer. Scaife eulogized her when she died in 2005, lauding "Cordy" for devoting her life and resources to "worthwhile causes." [1] (

Scaife gained notoriety for navigating around campaign finance laws to donate US$990,000 to the 1972 re-election campaign of Richard Nixon. Some $45,000 went to a fund linked to the Watergate scandal, but, by all accounts, Scaife was repulsed by the scandal and refused to speak with Nixon after 1973. After Watergate and Duggan's death, Scaife refocused his political giving away from individuals and toward anti-communist research groups, legal defense funds, and publications.

Scaife's mother was an alcoholic, and he allegedly became an alcoholic as well. He was also affected by the family's poor relationship with the Mellon family; after his mother's death, he had the "Sarah Mellon Scaife Galleries" at the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh renamed the "Sarah Scaife Galleries" and also removed the name from the Sarah Scaife Foundation. His first marriage, to Frances L. Gilmore Scaife, ended acrimoniously after a lengthy divorce.

Scaife is known to be extremely private and taciturn, rarely speaking publicly or in board meetings or granting interviews. In one incident, when a Nation reporter attempted to interview him for a Columbia Journalism Review in 1981, he responded by calling her a "fucking Communist cunt" and telling her to "get out of here".

For a time, Scaife headed Forum World Features, a publishing organ later publicly named as a front organization of the CIA. The CIA, however, has long denied any involvement with Scaife.


Since 1990, however, positive changes in Scaife's life have reportedly reflected in changes in his personality. In that year, he swore off alcohol. In 1991 he married his longtime companion, Margaret "Ritchie" Battle Scaife, who has influenced the giving pattern of the Scaife foundations and made the couple active in the social and cultural life of patrician Pittsburgh. They also reportedly befriended John F. Kennedy, Jr.. Scaife granted a rare interview to Kennedy, which was published in his George magazine in 1999. Scaife also has granted a series of interviews to Detroit Free Press reporter Marisol Bello, a former Pittsburgh Tribune-Review journalist. She portrayed him as affable and kind, with little interest in daily newsroom affairs.

He directed his attention against President Bill Clinton. He was the major backer of The American Spectator, whose Arkansas Project set out to find facts about Clinton and in which Paula Jones' accusations of sexual harassment against Clinton were first widely publicized.

In a 1999 series of articles on Scaife and foundations that support conservative causes, the Washington Post named a close Scaife associate, Richard Larry, and not Scaife himself as the man who drove the "Arkansas Project."

Regardless of his role, the project not only accused Clinton of financial and sexual indiscretions (some later verified, others not); but also gave root to hyperbolic conspiracist notions that the Clintons collaborated with the CIA to run a drug smuggling operation out of the town of Mena, Arkansas and that Clinton had arranged for the murder of White House aide Vince Foster as part of a coverup of the Whitewater scandal. The possibility that money from the project had been given to former Clinton associate David Hale, a witness in the Whitewater investigation, led to the appointment of Michael J. Shaheen as a special investigator. Shaheen subpoenaed Scaife, who testified before a federal grand jury in the matter.

So involved was Scaife in efforts against Clinton that many Democrats believed Hillary Clinton's statement condemning a "vast right-wing conspiracy" against her husband was a direct reference to Scaife himself. President Clinton later admitted to sexual indiscretions, but the other allegations that came out of the "Arkansas Project" were never proven.

Coincidental to the Lewinsky scandal and Clinton's impeachment and subsequent acquittal, Scaife endowed a new school of public policy at Pepperdine University. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr was named the first dean of this school, although Pepperdine denies any connection. Starr accepted the post in 1996, but in the ensuing controversy, Starr gave up the appointment in 1998.

That same year Scaife's friend and Pittsburgh attorney, Yale Gutnick, denied that there was any connection between Scaife and Starr:

I can tell you unequivocally that there is absolutely no linkage between Scaife and Starr in any way, shape or form. Had Ken Starr's picture not been all over the television and newspapers in recent weeks, I don't think Dick Scaife would recognize him at a social event. They have never communicated, they have never seen each other personally, and there's no relationship whatsoever
Dick Scaife has been involved with Pepperdine I think before Clinton became governor of Arkansas, and clearly long before he was president and before the special prosecutor ever was even a dream in anybody's imagination. His giving to Pepperdine has been consistent over the years and it's been generous. [2] (

However, once the investigation was behind him, Starr was appointed to the original post in 2004.

Kangas incident

An unusual incident regarding Scaife occurred at his Pittsburgh office building in 1999. Steve Kangas, operator of a political website that promoted liberal causes and conspiracy theories about Scaife's campaign against Bill Clinton, travelled to Pittsburgh and entered Scaife's office building with a handgun in his backpack. Kangas went immediately to the 39th floor of the building where he apparently attempted to locate Scaife. Kangas locked himself in a bathroom stall outside of Scaife's office and was later observed by a security guard making incoherent statements in the restroom. Shortly after encountering the guard, according to the official narrative, Kangas committed suicide with the handgun he was carrying.

One Oxford Center videotape showed Kangas had been in the building nine hours before his body was discovered. According to the Washington Post, Pittsburgh police found a pistol Kangas had bought only two weeks earlier in Las Vegas. He had $14.63 in his pockets and his backpack contained 47 bullets and a copy of Hitler's "Mein Kampf." His blood alcohol level was 0.14 percent -- legally drunk in Pennsylvania. [3] (

This odd incident has given rise to much speculation, including the possibility that it was an aborted attempt to assassinate Scaife. [4] ( Kangas defender and Scaife conspiracy website operator Doug Bashford suggest that Kangas himself may have been the victim of a Scaife-directed conspiracy.[5] ([6] (

The Allegheny County Coroner's office and Pittsburgh police detectives insist, however, that Kangas killed himself and likely had journeyed from Nevada to murder Scaife [7] ( [8] (


The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review continues to challenge the Post-Gazette in the Pittsburgh media market. Twelve years after Scaife's newspaper began publishing, the Post-Gazette reported major financial losses, and the unions representing its employees agreed to wage concessions to keep it afloat. According to the Audit Board of Circulation, the Trib has a combined 221,000 regional circulation, about 7,000 subscribers fewer than its competitor.

However in 2005 the paper announced that operations of its suburban editions would be consolidated, with "staff reductions" in the newsrooms, business, and circulation departments. [9] (

Two managers were immediately "reduced," but there was no record of further layoffs [10] (

Management of the Scaife family foundations

When Scaife refocused his political giving away from individuals and toward anti-communist research groups, legal defense funds, and publications, the first among these was the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Through contacts made at Hoover and elsewhere, Scaife became a major, early supporter of the fledgling Heritage Foundation, which became an influential public policy research institute. Scaife attended a meeting in 1985 at which various theories in opposition to Lyndon LaRouche were discussed.[11] (

Later, he supported such varied conservative and libertarian organizations as the American Enterprise Institute, Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, Intercollegiate Studies Institute (which operates the Collegiate Network), National Association of Scholars, Judicial Watch, David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture, Foundation for Economic Education, Freedom House, Newt Gingrich's GOPAC, Reason Foundation, Atlas Economic Research Foundation, Landmark Legal Foundation, Pacific Legal Foundation, Independent Women's Forum, the Federalist Society, Pittsburgh World Affairs Council, and Brent Bozell's Media Research Center. By 1998 his foundations were listed among donors to over 100 such groups, to which he had disbursed some $340 million by 2002.

Scaife is identified with his contributions to conservative and libertarian causes — The Washington Post dubbed him "funding father of the Right" in 1999. However, he has also supported policy research groups which are not explicitly conservative, such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) at Georgetown University, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Foreign Policy Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, among others.

Possibly to the chagrin of many pro-life advocates, Scaife has been a major donor to abortion rights advocates, including Planned Parenthood, giving "millions" to the organization, according to The Washington Post. In the late 1990s, during the height of the Clinton scandals, Scaife nevertheless continued to provide more than $1 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the prime benefactor of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). His donations to restore and beautify the White House led to an invitation by Hillary Clinton for a black-tie celebration. She warmly received him and posed for a photograph on the same day her husband's sex scandal hit the press [12] (

Scaife told the N.Y. Post that he appreciated Mrs. Clinton's invitation.

"I'm honored," he said. "Lord knows, it's more than I got from George Bush." [13] (

Scaife supports other non-political groups and is a key benefactor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Sarah Scaife Galleries at the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh art museum, the Brandywine Conservancy, the Phipps Conservatory, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, as well as Goodwill Industries of Pittsburgh. He and his foundations have contributed to Sarah Scaife's favorite causes: population control (e.g. Planned Parenthood), environmental conservation, and hospitals — Jonas Salk developed his polio vaccine in a Sarah Scaife-funded laboratory. He also supports a variety of educational institutions, notably the University of Chicago, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Carnegie Mellon University, Boston University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Rochester, Smith College, and Bowling Green State University.


  • Baer, John M. "Hardly a Right-Wing Cause He Can Refuse," Philadelphia Daily News
  • Kaiser, Robert G. "Money, Family Name Shaped Scaife (," Washington Post, 3 May 1999
  • Kaiser, Robert G. and Chinoy, Ira. "Scaife: Funding Father of the Right (," Washington Post, 2 May 1999
  • Kennedy, John F., Jr. and Scaife, Richard Mellon. "Who's Afraid of Richard Mellon Scaife? JFK, Jr. Interviews Richard Mellon Scaife," George, January 1999
  • "Richard Mellon Scaife ("
  • Rothmyer, Karen. "The man behind the mask (,", April 1998
  • Rothmyer, Karen. "Citizen Scaife (," abridged excerpt from Vetter, Herbert F., ed.Speak Out Against the New Right (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982)
  • Savage, David G. "Richard Scaife: A 'Savior' of Right, a Scourge of Left," Los Angeles Times, 17 April 1998
  • Bello, Marisol, "Another Voice in Town," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Dec. 1, 2002.

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