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The Passing of the Vast Right-Wing Conspirator
July 4, 2014 4:15 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times reports the death of Richard Mellon Scaife, the Mellon heir and noted financial backer of conservative organizations and publications such as the Heritage Foundation, The American Spectator, and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, following his battle with cancer. Scaife is perhaps best known for funding a staggering number of anti-Clinton projects in the 1990s that set the stage for the Whitewater investigation, efforts which won him derision from some quarters and approbation from others.

Scaife spent close to two million dollars backing investigations into Bill and Hillary Clinton as part of The Arkansas Project. (He eventually pulled the plug when he became concerned about how how the money was being spent.) At one point, Scaife was called to testify before a grand jury over questions about how the anti-Clinton initiatives were funded. His efforts were criticized in the documentary The Hunting of the President, which identified Scaife as a key figure in the conservative effort to oust or discredit Bill Cllnton. Hillary Clinton famously referred to the privately-funded investigations as a "vast right-wing conspiracy".

However, Scaife's opinions of at least one of the Clintons changed in more recent years, and in 2008 his newspaper, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, endorsed Hillary Clinton in her bid for the Democratic nomination. Scaife himself remarked, "I have a very different impression of Hillary Clinton today. And it’s a very favorable one indeed."

Somewhat less known is his longtime support of Planned Parenthood and of birth control and access to abortion in general, such that he wrote a full-page editorial that was published as a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. However, some have tied Scaife's support of birth control and abortion access to his and his late sister's opposition to immigration.
posted by kewb (42 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
RIP another scumbag who worked hard to make peoples lives worse and who didn't have to suffer for it ever when he was alive.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:26 AM on July 4 [9 favorites]


He will be missed, as soon as we find the time to miss him.... first I have to make a sandwich... How about that amazing USA soccer goalie Tim Howard, eh? Really amazing!
posted by zaelic at 4:30 AM on July 4 [5 favorites]


[Bridge:]
You analyze me, pretend to despise me,
You laugh when I stumble and fall.
There may come a day I will dance on your grave
If unable to dance, I will crawl across it
Unable to dance, I'll still crawl.
posted by mikelieman at 4:48 AM on July 4 [3 favorites]


Despite the obstruction of the liberal New York Times, though, the terrible truth about Whitewater finally emerged.
posted by thelonius at 5:16 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


However, Scaife's opinions of at least one of the Clintons changed in more recent years, and in 2008 his newspaper, The Philadelphia Tribune, endorsed Hillary Clinton in her bid for the Democratic nomination. Scaife himself remarked, "I have a very different impression of Hillary Clinton today. And it’s a very favorable one indeed."

How nice for him.
How very nice.

(Incidentally, today I discovered there are FOUR Koch Brothers.)
posted by Mezentian at 5:20 AM on July 4


Rood riddence.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:22 AM on July 4


Saying that he endorsed Hillary Clinton is a bit misleading. He endorsed her over Obama in the primary.
posted by srboisvert at 5:23 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


About the only time I find myself inclined to act in accordance with the maxim "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all" is immediately after a given person's death.

So here goes:
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:28 AM on July 4 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, his death doesn't mean all cash is cut off to those extremist groups immediately: I'm sure they'll continue to be funded by his will and/or various trusts.

And to be honest, while I'm not thrilled by WHY he funded Planned Parenthood or supported legal abortion access, at least he DID fund them.
posted by easily confused at 5:41 AM on July 4 [3 favorites]


*
posted by Optamystic at 5:52 AM on July 4 [4 favorites]


And to be honest, while I'm not thrilled by WHY he funded Planned Parenthood or supported legal abortion access, at least he DID fund them.

There was a time in Republican politics when the treasurer of the first Planned Parenthood national campaign was friggin' Prescott Bush.
posted by PenDevil at 6:02 AM on July 4 [10 favorites]


"However, Scaife's opinions of at least one of the Clintons changed in more recent years, and in 2008 his newspaper, The Philadelphia Tribune, endorsed Hillary Clinton in her bid for the Democratic nomination. Scaife himself remarked, "I have a very different impression of Hillary Clinton today. And it’s a very favorable one indeed.""

I distinctly remember conservatives encouraging Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries for Clinton, specifically because the prevailing view was that she would be easier to beat in the general election. In fact, I knew several unrelated people in Texas who did exactly that, and for that exact reason. Given Scaife's past, I'm highly skeptical that this was a genuine about-face.
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 6:07 AM on July 4 [3 favorites]


He also spent a lot of money trying to bully the Episcopal Church. He did not like its positions on ordaining women and gays.
posted by humanfont at 6:08 AM on July 4


The Philadelphia Tribune?

It's the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Seriously? Philadelphia?
posted by octothorpe at 6:20 AM on July 4 [3 favorites]


.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:22 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


So what does it mean that with his last dying gasp he whispered the word "Rosebud?"
posted by localroger at 6:26 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


I know nothing about this person. He sounds like the bogey man.
posted by NiteMayr at 6:27 AM on July 4


I wonder what will happen to his empire now. It was revealed in his sleazy divorce a few years ago that the paper loses $20 to $30 million a year that he was funding out of his inheritance. Now that he's gone, I wonder if his heirs will be willing to keep shoveling money into that hole just to keep the propaganda flowing?
posted by octothorpe at 6:36 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


Proportionally he spent 1/600 of his money backing investigations into Bill and Hillary Clinton. 0.1667%. I spend a proportional amount on beer each week. When I'm taking a week off.

It's pocket change if you have one point two billion.
posted by vapidave at 6:44 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


It's the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Seriously? Philadelphia?

Groan....that's what I get for trying to write the post before breakfast. Thanks for the correction.
posted by kewb at 6:49 AM on July 4


[Fixed it in the post.]
posted by taz at 6:55 AM on July 4


For whatever it's worth, here's Scaife's editorial presenting reasons for the primary endorsement.
posted by kewb at 7:07 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


He was born 1932. Charles Koch 1935 and his brother 1940. These are all Silent Generation (also known as the "Lucky Few"). They work quietly behind the scenes to maintain the institutions and ideas that arose in the 50s and 60s when they came of age. There's a lot of them out there but in the next 10 years or so they will fade. There are also a lot doing good things so it will be a loss and somewhat disruptive as they leave a power vacuum.
posted by stbalbach at 7:38 AM on July 4 [3 favorites]


Also was largely responsible for funding anti-environmental legal campaigns and other affiliated groups.
posted by destro at 7:38 AM on July 4


I would love to know what groups he willed major cash to.
posted by salvia at 7:52 AM on July 4


Okay, so he was an asshole say, 95% of the time?

. for the other 5%.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:03 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


(Incidentally, today I discovered there are FOUR Koch Brothers.)

Yes...mustn't forget about Gummo and Zeppo.
posted by PlusDistance at 8:11 AM on July 4 [5 favorites]


octothorpe: "It's the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Seriously? Philadelphia?"

Sorry for being pissy about that but for better or worse, the Mellon Family is an integral part of Pittsburgh's history. Scaife's great grandfather Thomas Mellon not only owned a huge part of the city, including a big chunk of the east end, but was the venture capital for the giant corporations that made this city: Carnegie Steel, Westinghouse, Alcoa, Gulf Oil, Koppers Coke, etc. You really can't overstate his influence on this city.

This quote from Thomas Mellon is prophetic about his decendents:
"The normal condition of man is hard work, self-denial, acquisition and accumulation; as soon as his descendants are freed from the necessity of such exertion they begin to degenerate sooner or later in both body and mind."
posted by octothorpe at 8:16 AM on July 4 [5 favorites]


The book "Blinded by the Right" sketches out a pretty nightmarish insider's view of the guy and his massive, self-referential propaganda generating machine. Whatever miniscule good he may have done in propping up certain older institutions, the harm he did to people's ability to make informed and self-interested democratic choices outweighs it all in my opinion. He was one of the pioneers of the media controlling, reality-making model that the second Bush administration put to such disastrous use in the run up to the Iraq War. He was on the same level as the Kochs and Berlusconi, trying to substitute media control and perception manipulation for democratic legitimacy.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:31 AM on July 4 [8 favorites]


My aunt was a childhood friend of his sister Cordelia. She (my aunt) remembered him as an unpleasant young boy. Of course, most children remember the younger siblings of friends as unpleasant, so it may be indicative of nothing.
posted by BWA at 8:32 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


Scaife himself remarked, "I have a very different impression of Hillary Clinton today. And it’s a very favorable one indeed."

"We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why."
--Robert McNamara, 1995
posted by fatbird at 9:16 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


I remember this guy as being basically the Koch brothers of the 1990s.
posted by univac at 10:45 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to me that these guys always pull their (financial) punches. Sure they spend a lot of money but it's always just a small fraction of their resources. For example, the Koch brothers are old and, demographically speaking, running out of time. Why haven't they gone all-in and spent all of their money, billions of dollars, to buy every congressional and presidential election at once?
posted by LastOfHisKind at 12:16 PM on July 4


However, some have tied Scaife's support of birth control and abortion access to his and his late sister's opposition to immigration.

And while immigration is a hot button issue, why not claim racism and dig up the old birth control-> racism stuff VS the class-based argument of "poor breeders ruining it for the rich" argument that could instead be made. (and here I typed in a series of keywords expecting to get infowars and instead found this gem instead.)

Because keeping some class of immigrants as illegal works to the benefit of the 'owners of capital' as a floor to keep wages down.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:34 PM on July 4


Now, if only the Koch brothers can get hit by a bus.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:23 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]


Scaife is dead? I feel more patriotic already!
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:24 PM on July 4


Silent Generation? Not nearly silent enough.

I always associate Scaife's name with Steadman's images.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:15 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]


.
posted by learnsome at 7:29 PM on July 4


Why haven't they gone all-in and spent all of their money, billions of dollars, to buy every congressional and presidential election at once?

I can think of lots of reasons: ...That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but I assume this is something they cover in week two of Advertising & Sales, so I'm sure there are lots more reasons.
posted by Orb2069 at 8:48 PM on July 4


He was the textbook example of why this country needs to go back to high inheritance taxes.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:55 PM on July 4 [4 favorites]


Why haven't they gone all-in and spent all of their money, billions of dollars, to buy every congressional and presidential election at once?

In addition to the reasons Orb2069 points out, it's also unnecessary to buy every election. You can get by with enough of them to create a de facto legislative consensus while leaving in candidates and officeholders that dissenters can vote for as a "safety valve."

Also, you don't have to spend much to get the results you want most of the time. The ROI is quite disproportionate for campaign contributions, for instance, where a five- or six-figure donation can get you support for a bill or policy worth much more.

There's also a network multiplier effect, where prominent or influential donors who provide early or steady funding to magazines, candidates, and think tanks can subsequently muster a lot of the influence without spending additional money. At that point, other stakeholders in the network are very receptive to a longtime or well-connected funder's position statements and will amplify and broadcast them for no additional fee.
posted by kewb at 6:44 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]


But what other publisher of a major newspaper has pursued a rumor that Russian soldiers had landed in the Allegheny National Forest, and then marched a reporter into the woods to investigate, as Scaife did in 1999?
posted by Chrysostom at 3:32 PM on July 16


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