Richard Mellon Scaife, Fortunate Son

From the NYTimes:

Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh philanthropist and reclusive heir to the Mellon banking fortune, whose support for right-wing causes laid the foundations for America’s modern conservative movement and fueled the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, died on Friday at his home in Pittsburgh. He was 82…

Mr. Scaife (pronounced Skayf) inherited roughly $500 million in 1965, and with more family bequests and income from trust funds and investments in oil, steel and real estate, nearly tripled his net worth over his lifetime. But unlike his forebears, who were primarily benefactors of museums, public art collections, education and medicine, he gave hundreds of millions to promote conservative political causes.

He never ran for public office or gave speeches to promote his political views. Indeed, he was notoriously withdrawn, rarely giving interviews or addressing controversies that regularly engulfed him. He had a longstanding drinking problem, engaged in bitter feuds with relatives, friends and employees, and found his troubled life examined in the press and online, despite phalanxes of lawyers, spokesmen and retainers paid to insulate him from endless public fascination with his wealth and power…

In his first foray into national politics, in 1964, Mr. Scaife backed Senator Barry M. Goldwater, the Arizona Republican, who lost his presidential bid in a landslide. In 1972, Mr. Scaife gave $1 million to the re-election war chest of President Richard M. Nixon, including $45,000 to a secret fund linked to the Watergate scandal. And in the 1980s, Mr. Scaife ardently supported Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

But, disillusioned by Watergate and Nixon, he switched his focus from officeholders to ideologies, and his influence in the rise of neoconservatism stemmed primarily from his contributions to think tanks, lobbyists and publications that promoted free-market economics, lower taxes, smaller government and cuts in social welfare programs. Beneficiaries included the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute and Judicial Watch…

In another approach, in the 1990s, he poured millions into what critics called a moral crusade against Mr. Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, financing investigations by publications, notably the conservative American Spectator and his own Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that were aimed at discrediting the Clintons…

As the old saying goes, The good die young.

61 replies
  1. 1
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Was a stake driven through the cavity where his heart should have been? Are they sure the foul creature is actually dead?

    The role of this creature and his foul minions, if any, in the death of Steve Kangas has never been adequately investigated.

  2. 2
    AxelFoley says:

    Didn’t the Clintons try to woo him in 2008?

  3. 3
    Suffern ACE says:

    Unfortunately, they keep minting more. So once the Koches, Peterson, Adelson, And Broad pass on in the next decade, we’ll have 20 years of Peter Thiel and who knows what is emerging in California and Connecticut.

  4. 4
    El Caganer says:

    He’s far from the only one. I work as a grantwriter and spend a lot of time looking at foundations’ tax returns. There are loads of them out there that give heavily to the right-wing think tanks. Yes, it’s their money (let’s not question where it came from right at this moment), but it’s still depressing to see all of these “charitable” dollars supporting some very uncharitable causes.

  5. 5
    NotMax says:

    “The good die young – because they see it’s no use living if you’ve got to be good.”
      – John Barrymore

    “I like a man who’s good, but not too good – for the good die young, and I hate a dead one.”
      – Mae West

  6. 6
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @El Caganer:

    supporting some very uncharitable causes.

    “Uncharitable” is too kind. “Evil” is more the right tenor of them.

  7. 7
    Suzanne says:

    It’s probably wrong of me to think that we just got a little bit freer today. But I’m an asshole.

  8. 8
    wmd says:

    we lost a good one this week too – Stephen Gaskin died on July 1. Sometimes the good don’t die young.

  9. 9
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    Lamentably, they’ll continue to appear. They’re like mushrooms and there are copious amounts of bullshit these days.

  10. 10
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    A Neo-Con, must have been nice to spend his golden years seeing that chosen philosophy was an utter disaster. It’s a pleasant though to think the future American Emperor’s primary job with be to publicly humiliate silver spoon clowns like this.

  11. 11
    Elizabelle says:

    What NYTimes editor insisted on this? From the obit:

    Mr. Scaife gave millions to what he called nonpolitical campus, community and church organizations that promoted conservative causes; public interest law firms; and consumer and environmental groups that actually promoted business interests. Critics say liberal groups have long acted with similar deceptions.

    What critics, and doesn’t the statement stand on its own? Otherwise, you could hedge with “consumer and enviro groups that SOME SAY actually promoted business interests.”

    The groups either do what the NYTimes alleges, or they don’t. What unspecified “critics” say about liberal groups is not germane.

  12. 12
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:
    Neo-Cons are like Libertarians; whenever their Great Ideas are actually tried the wheels come off the whole damn works, then it goes into a ditch, flips over, and bursts into flame.

  13. 13
    Elizabelle says:

    He told Vanity Fair his favorite TV show was “The Simpsons,” and his favorite book was John O’Hara’s “Appointment in Samarra,” about a rich young Pennsylvanian bent on self-destruction.

    The Simpsons? That seems out of character, unless he was messing with Vanity Fair.

    He supported Planned Parenthood. Family planning was a favorite philanthropy of his mother, the Mellon.

  14. 14
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    It’s only typical of the pull-it-out-of-your-ass tripe that passes for political reporting these days. Some say I’m a millionaire playboy…

  15. 15
    Elizabelle says:


    In 2008, Mrs. Clinton, then a Democratic senator from New York running for president, met Mr. Scaife and editors and reporters of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for an interview. The newspaper endorsed her, and Mr. Scaife, in a commentary, said: “I have a very different impression of Hillary Clinton today. And it’s a very favorable one indeed.”

    Linky to 2008 NYTimes article about the Scaife-Clinton meeting. Informative article:

    During the meeting at The Tribune-Review, Mr. Scaife said in his article, he found common ground with Mrs. Clinton on the need to pull troops out of Iraq; on the bumbling federal efforts to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; and on the “increasing instability in Pakistan and South America.”

    Aides to Mrs. Clinton said they had not known what to expect from the March 24 meeting with Mr. Scaife and the staff of his newspaper. But sitting next to Mr. Scaife, Mrs. Clinton quickly broke the ice, remarking that she had agreed to the meeting because “it was so counterintuitive, I just thought it would be fun to do.” The line drew laughter from those in the room.

    There is, of course, a healthy dose of skepticism over Mr. Scaife’s motives. Some wonder if he is rooting for the candidate whom some Republicans view as easier to defeat in the general election.

    “Some wonder”-ing in this case being Robert Shrum.

  16. 16
    Ruckus says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:
    Talking to someone the other day, we were discussing the selling of bridges and I made the comment that I had made millions in that lucrative trade, and you should be able to tell that by the mere fact that I rent a cheap room and drive an old POS van.

  17. 17
    Elizabelle says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    Some say I’m a Pulitzer prize contending commenter. Some say …. The New York Times has less balls than it needs, on occasion.

    I’ve been looking for Scaife’s 2008 endorsement of HRClinton; they don’t link it in this article:

    Tribune-Review owner and philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife, whose vision and funding reinvigorated conservative politics in America, died Friday, July 4, in his home.

    His death early Friday, a day after his 82nd birthday, coincided with Independence Day — fittingly auspicious for a man widely recognized for his deep-rooted patriotism.

    Why yes. That is an obit from his own newspaper.

    Read more:
    Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

  18. 18
    DissidentFish says:

    @Elizabelle: He preferred to think of The Simpsons as “The Mr. Burns Show”.

  19. 19
    Elizabelle says:


    I’d not heard of Gaskin previously. Interesting man. He walked the walk.

  20. 20
    Ruckus says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:
    He would never had believed his philosophy was wrong, only that it wasn’t pursued with enough vigor.

  21. 21

    Started with $500M and only tripled it in 50 years? What a fuckup. Assuming that’s not adjusted for inflation he lost over half the fortune. If it was adjusted for inflation, he could have put the money in an S&P 500 index fund (his broker would have had to invent it, naturally) and wound up in the same place and not had to do a damn thing his entire life.

  22. 22
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    Another grave to piss on. Reagan, Jarvis, Mellon Scaife…

  23. 23
    Ruckus says:

    Have to start drinking more beer. There is a duty to be done.

  24. 24
    James E. Powell says:


    Why is it that right-wingers pushing radical agendas are called patriots? Wasn’t Howard Zinn a patriot?

  25. 25
    Elizabelle says:


    He preferred to think of The Simpsons as “The Mr. Burns Show”.

    You hit it.

    PS: like your nym.

  26. 26
    Betsy says:

    Aaaaagh! Ad with d’nesh d’sooza’s hideous puckered leprechaun face in the sidebar! Get rid of it now!!!!!

  27. 27
    Elizabelle says:

    Not turning up that 2008 HRC endorsement easily. Know it ran on or before April 4 of that year; only item that came up (so far) in Pittsburgh Trib search was a reader letter referencing the Scaife endorsement. (And personally endorsing Barack Obama …)

    The major Pittsburgh paper, the Post-Gazette, says Scaife was reported in 2010 to be a six-figure donor to the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation.

    P-Gazette obit seems pretty fair, actually. Think what you will of his politics, Scaife supported a lot of good causes in the region. Also, surprisingly, pro-choice (and a funder of Planned Parenthood), supported gay marriage and marijuana legalization.

    P-Gazette needs to clean up this sentence:

    His mother was the son of Richard Beatty Mellon and sister of Richard K. Mellon

    and they handled this better than the NYTimes did:

    More relevant to his local roots, he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 1990s to spur creation of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, which became a conservative voice on Western Pennsylvania issues long dominated by liberal or centrist Democrats.

    Read more:

  28. 28

    @Betsy: Use my stylesheet (linked from my handle) and it’ll go away.

  29. 29
    Elizabelle says:

    @James E. Powell:

    Yup. The words patriots, freedom, and liberty have all been subverted to the rightwing cause.

    Sad, but maybe we can reclaim them. (The words. Who wants the rightwingers?)

  30. 30
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Ruckus: Have to be water, I quit the boozey stuff 4 years ago.

  31. 31
    WereBear says:

    Makes you wonder about a political philosophy that must be propped up with so much money from so few.

    Why can’t it pull itself up by its bootstraps? Why can’t it pay its own way?

  32. 32
    Elizabelle says:

    Hillary Reassessed, March 30, 2008, by Richard M. Scaife

    Not a full-blown endorsement; he hedges, but a nice writeup. Includes audio links (untested) of HRC’s 90 minute interview with the Pittsburgh Trib.

    ETA: My bad. Scaife endorsed HRC on April 20, calling Obama untested. Not gonna hunt for it.

    I see from 2007 on reporting that Bill Clinton had been making inroads with Scaife.

    Free Republic had a Scaife archive, with full text of a Newsweek article on WJC-Scaife detente that came with a “MAJOR BARF ALERT”.

  33. 33
    It's Not The Fall, It's The Landing says:

    Glad he’s dead, the rat bastard. Too bad he didn’t die in a fire, though.

  34. 34
    bago says:

    @It’s Not The Fall, It’s The Landing: Don’t glorify death ever.

  35. 35
    Alex S. says:

    @⚽️ Martin:

    Yes, I thought the same. He cannot have been a good investor. But then he also backed Barry Goldwater and failed to remove Clinton from office.

  36. 36
    geg6 says:


    Bull. Happy as hell that rat bastard died and, based on what I know about him (being from Pittsburgh and having had a friend who was once his personal assistant), he died a lonely and unloved death. Which is exactly what he deserved. I hope it was painful, too. A quiet death in his sleep was too good for this fucker.

  37. 37
    Chris says:

    @El Caganer:

    Yes, it’s their money

    People like this, in and of themselves, are enough of a reason for me to support Eisenhower era tax rates. So are many other things, but if it means that people like this can’t buy political movements or build them from scratch, that alone is reason enough.


    Critics say liberal groups have long acted with similar deceptions.

    Whenever I mentioned the Kochs, Murdochs, Scaifes and Adelsons of the world, people usually bring up George Soros.

    Considering that most of that guy’s efforts go towards promoting the conversion of former Soviet Bloc countries into market democracies, it’s a really fucking weird person to build your Vast Left Wing Conspiracy fantasies around, but I suppose it’s no less strange than everything else they believe. After all, we’re talking about people who missed the point of “Green Eggs And Ham.”

  38. 38
    AnonPhenom says:

    To paraphrase, I won’t be attending the funeral but I’ll send an email saying I approve of it.

  39. 39
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:

    @⚽️ Martin:

    Started with $500M and only tripled it in 50 years?

    That was my first thought when I read this. Even minimally competent management, with low risk, should have increased that amount of money tenfold. He must have made some major screwups to have only added a billion to it over half a century.

  40. 40

    To sum up, the guy was a rich mean drunk who spent his time and fortune trying to mess up other people. He’s better serving the world by leaving it.

  41. 41
    Aardvark Cheeselog says:

    It’s always important to note that Both Sides Do It.

  42. 42
    dan says:

    Scaife’s positive view of Clinton shoud tell you more about Clinton than Scaife.

  43. 43
    Mike in NC says:

    Good riddance to the fucking scumbag. May Adelson and the Kochs join him in hell very soon.

  44. 44
    GHayduke (formerly lojasmo) says:


    Makes me even happier I supported the dude we have.

  45. 45
    Elizabelle says:

    @Alex S.:
    @⚽️ Martin:

    Believe I read that Scaife was losing $20-30 million a year on his newspaper “investments.” We know that from disclosures during a nasty divorce.

    Who knows what else was more expensive than expected.

    Expensive hobbies, and the political ones left our country much worse off.

    I do wonder what he thought of the Hobby Lobby decision, if he was conscious enough to register it at end. (Cancer death.) He was not a religious right figure **, and was pro-contraception and libertarian in some ways.

    ** Aside from the Church of “The left/center is ruining America” and The Cathedral of Let’s Destroy the Clintons, 1990s-2007.

  46. 46

    @Elizabelle: He may have said untested, but I bet that wasn’t what he meant.

  47. 47
    Marcelo says:

    According to Talking Points Memo he was a major supporter and donor to Planned Parenthood.

    People are complex. I feel like had he come along later he’d be small potatoes to folks like the Kochs and Adelson, persona non grata due to his support of babykilling.

  48. 48
    Chris says:


    I seem to vaguely remember that one of the Kochs was socially liberal, though I don’t know if he donates.

  49. 49
    Elizabelle says:

    Vanity Fair 2008 expose of the second Scaife divorce; haven’t read it, but it might be fun.

  50. 50
    gocart mozart says:

    You should always have something good to say of the dead.

    He’s dead? Good.

  51. 51
    C.V. Danes says:

    Goodbye Mr. Richard Mellon Scaife. May you enjoy your special seat in Hell.

  52. 52
    Goblue72 says:

    @geg6: agreed. And I hope the fires of the afterlife have him spending an eternity in constant pain.

    He made his bed – he was born into great wealth & privilege, and decided to use it to make others suffer. No one forced him to be an evil a-hole..

  53. 53
    Joel Hanes says:

    people who missed the point of “Green Eggs And Ham.”

    To say nothing of “The Sneetches”, “Yertle The Turtle”, “Horton Hears A Who”, and (especially) “The Lorax”

    Seuss was and is subversive, still perfect and relevant.
    Make sure the kids in your life can chant it from memory.

    “A person’s a person, no matter how small”

    “Sneetches are Sneetches, and no kind of sneetch is the best on the beaches”

  54. 54
    Elizabelle says:


    I agree.

    I do wonder if the “severe head injury” when he was 9 played a role in his nutjob turn.

    But he used his immense wealth to torment the middle and working class, whether he realized it or not, and may have lived long enough to realize contraception (the rare societal good he endorsed) was under attack by the very whackjobs he financed.

    Shorter: we would have been better off without Mr. Scaife in this world, and one hopes his next world is hotter than our own will be with the coming global climate change.

  55. 55
    Betsy says:

    This is the problem with colossal inherited wealth. It distorts everything from politics (regulatory capture) to commodity markets (creating bubbles).

    We’d all be much better off if just earning a living paid pretty well, instead of having the entire middle and poor classes desperate to just keep their household systems going, while these giant cancers of great wealth draining our economic metabolism.

    What im saying is, without his inherited millions Scaife would have been just another drunk asshole with opinions.

  56. 56
    Elizabelle says:


    Well said, Betsy.

  57. 57
    AxelFoley says:


    Thank you. I thought I remembered this going down in 2008.

  58. 58
    Mike G says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:

    A Neo-Con, must have been nice to spend his golden years seeing that chosen philosophy was an utter disaster.

    These reptiles never admit fault or responsibility for anything. If they had any self-awareness or intellectual honesty they’d be either racked with crippling guilt or they’d have turned away from their bankrupt ideology long ago.
    If you can get them to admit failure at all, it’s always the fault of either librul undermining or not being pure/extreme enough.

  59. 59
    Kyle says:


    Whenever I mentioned the Kochs, Murdochs, Scaifes and Adelsons of the world, people usually bring up George Soros.

    Soros was arguably the (non-government-affiliated) private individual most responsible for the collapse of the Soviet bloc through his funding of opposition groups. You’d think the rightards would praise him for that, but he embarrassingly highlights the similarities between communism and the authoritarianism of corrupt corporatist right-wing ideologies.

  60. 60
    Lurking Canadian says:

    Here’s hoping he shows up, festooned with chains, in the home of Messrs. Koch & Koch, on the evening of 24 December.

  61. 61
    xian says:

    @Betsy: omg – i thought it was only me. his dimpled kewpie doll head haunts me. that rug on top! oy.

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