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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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February 1998


Reporters Question Only Conservative Donations
A Special Scaife Standard?

America’s grant-making foundations rarely make it into the news. But over the past few weeks — in the wake of First Lady Hillary Clinton’s charge that her husband is the victim of "a vast right- wing conspiracy" — the political donations of Richard M. Scaife have been the subject of unusual scrutiny.

The same reporters who don’t even blink when the Carnegie Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Mott Foundation, or the Pew Charitable Trusts support liberal causes feel it necessary to run stories about Scaife’s donations to conservative groups.

The main concern of reporters is that Scaife, through the Allegheny, Carthage, and Scaife Foundations, is orchestrating a campaign to bring down President Clinton which is so broad-based that it even includes independent counsel Kenneth Starr. For instance, in a February 1 CNN Impact story, Kathy Slobogin said: "Finally, there is the Clintons’ arch nemesis Ken Starr." Among his links to Clinton detractors: a "year ago he almost took an academic job funded by millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, a relentless Clinton opponent."

Rita Braver saw sinister connections in a February 8 CBS Evening News report. "Christopher Ruddy, a reporter at Scaife’s newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, wrote a spate of articles claiming former White House aide Vincent Foster was murdered rather than committed suicide," reported Braver.

In addition, "Scaife foundations have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the American Spectator, which broke the story that led to the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit against Mr. Clinton. Scaife also funded a special Clinton investigative unit at the magazine. Scaife also helped underwrite the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University where, the school says, purely by coincidence, independent counsel Ken Starr is slated to work."

The February 9 Time also saw suspicious undertones in Starr’s connection to Pepperdine. "Last year, in a decision he later reversed under pressure from Republican lawmakers, Starr announced that he was leaving his job to become dean of the law and public policy schools at Pepperdine University," wrote Walter Kirn. "The chair Starr had set his sights on, as it happened, was endowed by a certain Richard Mellon Scaife, an archconservative Pennsylvania billionaire" whose employee Christopher Ruddy "is notorious for his own conspiracy theories" and whose "billions have also bankrolled the American Spectator, the magazine that broke the Troopergate story."

Nine articles in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today since the Clinton sex scandal broke have mentioned that Starr had planned to leave the independent counsel’s office to take the job at Pepperdine funded by Scaife, implying a conflict-of-interest for Starr.

But a February 11 Investor’s Business Daily editorial pointed out that if "this was a conspiracy, it sure was an odd one. Here was Scaife helping fund a new position that tempted Starr — allegedly ‘his’ man — away from the work of probing the president." And none of the media reports mentioned, as Accuracy in Media’s Reed Irvine has pointed out, that Scaife cut off funding for the American Spectator after the magazine published an article critical of those who dismissed Starr’s conclusion that Foster had not been murdered. Reporters didn’t ask if such independent actions from Starr and the Spectator seem likely from mere pawns in a Scaife-controlled conspiracy.

Big-money foundations supporting political causes is not at all unusual in America. Most of the richest foundations are distinctly liberal, with the Ford Foundation giving away over $300 million annually, the MacArthur Foundation donating over $100 million, and the Carnegie Foundation over $50 million. The conservative Bradley, Scaife, and Olin foundations each give less than $50 million.

Reporters don’t find it newsworthy when, for instance, the Ford Foundation supports such leftist groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Children’s Defense Fund. But the smaller political donations of Scaife generate media controversy.


Rich Noyes


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