Richard "Dickie" Mellon-Scaife the reclusive billionaire publisher and heir of the 19th century Mellon Bank robber barons died at 82 on Friday, the final punctation of a dark biography of political manipulation and democracy demolition equal or greater to his more public friends the Koch brothers.
Scaife's history in American politics has always gravitated to the most extreme of conservative politics. Dickie:
- Backed Senator Barry M. Goldwater, the extremist Arizona Republican who lost his presidential race in a landslide in 1964.
- Gave a million dollars to the Committee To Re-Elect the President (CREEP), for President Richard M. Nixon. $45,000 of that was connected to a secret fund linked to the Watergate scandal.
- A big backer of Ronald Reagan and the radical right infrastructure that was launched in his presidency;
- Backed anti-immigrant organizations and political movements.
- Funded the Gen. Westmoreland lawsuit against CBS to break down the strong 4th estate news division created by CBS founder William Paley.
Scaife, the Kochs and others launched a decades-long programs to develop a vast radical-right infrastructure.
They spent billions to breed a new generation of ignorant warrior-candidates, to break down American journalism's watchdog role over government, and to politiform the sociopolitical landscape of the United States back into their limited 19th century world view of an America where women, minorities, and the working classes are subservient to the will of that 1% white right minority.
It is that ground came that erupted as the Tea Party in 2010, and has made that sect of the GOP politically mighty even as membership in the Republican Party has declined to historic lows.
Scaife is identified as a publisher, but most of his personal wealth, according to Forbes in March of 2013, some $1.4 billion, comes from the diversified family holdings in oil, aluminum, real estate and banking.
The family's great wealth comes from his great-uncle, Andrew Mellon, who amassed a fortune as banker to the Robber Barons. His father Alan married Sarah Mellon and her fortune.
It is his control of mother Sarah's sizable "charitable" foundations that has bankrolled much of Mellon-Scaife's political activity.
- The Sarah Scaife Foundation;
- The Carthage Foundation;
- The Alleghany Foundation
- The Scaife Family Foundation (Until 2001. After that it was passed to his daughter and son, Jennie and David.
Scaife and his family's charitable foundations have given over $1 billion to right-wing organizations over decades, and was key in the creation of a far right infrastructure designed to destroy the New Deal America that sent his family and the other empire builders of the 19th century into the shadows after the Great Depression.
The Washington Post noted back in the Clinton era:
"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."
According to PRWatch, Scaife and the family foundations have worked hard to kill immigration reform and to fund anti-immigrant groups.
They 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) since the early 1990s. Since 2001, the foundations have given ProEnglish $285,000 and NumbersUSA $987,500. The Scaife Family Foundation is also the sole funder of ProEnglish.
Scaife was rabidly anti-Clinton, spending millions to discredit him, and keep his administration from undoing any of the damage to New Deal government done over the Reagan years.
Dickie gave a $3.2 million grant to the American Spectator and then an additional $2.3 million specifically to fund the "Arkansas Project" to find dirt on the Clintons or manufacture it in order to smear them, in hopes of ousting President Clinton from the White House, that was alleged to have transgressed into witness tampering.
On the legal front, he was a funder of Judicial Watch and his right wing propaganda outlets trumpeted the call to end "judicial activism," even though, as we have seen, appointees to the SCOTUS whom he endorsed have engaged in quite a bit of "activism" in favor of Mellon-Scaife's political philosophy.
Perhaps Mellon-Scaife's greatest legacy in the undermining of American democracy is the extensive damage that he has done to American journalism. He bought into the publishing world, buying the newspaper that became the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, and the Sacramento Union. He was a funder of special projects for the American Spectator. With Rupert Murdoch, he launched extensive campaigns at labeling and branding the media as being too liberal.
He reportedly funded the 1985 libel lawsuit against CBS News by Gen. William Westmoreland over the documentary "The Uncounted Enemy," which claimed that Westmoreland deliberately underestimated enemy troop strength in Vietnam.
His print and radio empire, along with Murdoch's used the 9-11 tragedy and the roll out of the Iraq War as a means of casting doubt on the "loyalty" of organizations like the New York Times. Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor, said "Rupert Murdoch, and Richard Mellon Scaife, and other far rightwing billionaires have deeply corrupted our information environment. They are in part responsible for what happened at the NYT."
Recognizing the growing importance of the Internet for news, he invested in the fledgling right-wing web newser NewsMax.com.
In the publishing world, it has been alleged that he is one of the right-billionaires buying up conservative books to turn them into best sellers. Sarah Palin's authorial prowess may have been influenced by Scaife's wholesale purchase of millions of dollars in books.
Richard Mellon-Scaife leaves this life with a legacy opposing social justice, breeding fear of immigrants and a hatred of government and the media, the only purpose of which is the desperate attempt to turn the clock back to an America that his family ruled without compromise.
Given that the fountainhead of money from the foundations which he controlled remain beyond his time on this Earth, it is unlikely that his family will do much less than continue his mission to bring the 21st century in line with the 19th.
My shiny two.