Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire philanthropist whose financial support helped define modern conservatism, died on Friday. Schaife was the heir to the Mellon family banking and oil fortune and became widely known in the 1990’s for his investment in organizations attacking then-President Bill Clinton. Here’s more from the New York Times:
Decades before David and Charles Koch bankrolled right-wing causes, Mr. Scaife and Joseph Coors, the beer magnate, were the leading financiers of the conservative crusade of the 1970s and ’80s, seeking to reverse the liberal traditions of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society…
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.
They accused the Clintons of fraud in the Whitewater case, a failed real estate venture in the 1970s and ’80s, when Mr. Clinton was governor of Arkansas, and Mr. Clinton of sexual misconduct in liaisons with Paula Jones in Little Rock and Monica Lewinsky in the White House. They also charged that Vincent W. Foster Jr., a White House counsel and former law partner of Mrs. Clinton, had been murdered in 1993 in a Whitewater cover-up. Several investigations found that Mr. Foster had committed suicide. The accusations, which prompted Mrs. Clinton to say on national television that her husband was the target of a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” troubled the administration for most of its tenure.