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
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
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
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
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.