Richard Mellon Scaife wasn’t all bad. It just seemed that way.
First, let’s get the billionaire thing out of the way. It’s not like this guy was hurting for money. The Forbes 400 list puts his fortune at $1.4 billion.
By no means is that chump change. But to put the number in perspective, he was tied with nine other men for slot #371. Still on the list, but close to bringing up the rear with Gates and Buffett and the Waltons and Kochs at or near the front and at or close to the pole position.
Scaife is universally described as the “heir to the Mellon banking and steel fortune.” And that he was when he died the other day, a day after turning 82 years old.
He also was the owner and publisher of the Tribune Review newspaper of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And Scaife’s right wing politics notwithstanding, it is a decent sheet, especially by today’s standards.
And he was the chief benefactor of the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, which is where the story gets interesting.
The head shyster at the Pepperdine law school is a fellow named Kenneth Starr. If you are older than your early 20s, that name means something to you.
Starr was the chief overprosecutor in the Clinton scandals. A pit bull of a guy who tried to twist everything Bill Clinton did, was alleged to have done, and didn’t do into misplaced moral outrage.
Scaife was hard on Starr’s side until one day he accused the lawyer of being a Democratic Party plant. Huh? So it’s pretty safe to assume that Scaife could have kept Starr out of Pepperdine, but didn’t.
He obviously hated Hillary who called him a ringleader of the “vast right wing conspiracy,” which he was. But days before the ‘08 presidential primary, the Tribune-Review endorsed her bid against Barack Obama. And the Tribune-Review did no such thing without the consent of its owner.
So, when as first lady, Mrs. Clinton invited him to a black tie shindig at the White House and treated him warmly, he was quoted in the New York Post as saying he was honored and “Lord knows it’s more than I got from George (HW) Bush.”
Scaife was the heart, soul and bankroll of the extreme right wing in this country well before the Kochs arrived on the scene. But he also was a major donor to abortion rights and public broadcasting.
Since he identified “libertarian,” the abortion rights thing passes muster. So does his favoring same sex marriage. But PBS? The government owned broadcasting monolith?
Goldwater was his boy. Nixon. All the old pre-tea party right wingnuts. Note, that they weren’t nearly as foolish, stubborn, impractical as today’s versions. And not nearly as nuts.
Scaife wielded a good pen or typewriter or computer terminal if the stuff he published in the Tribune under his name was “all his own work” as your middle school history teacher liked to say.
So we say goodbye to this pioneer of the trouble he helped get us into today and note that while in his time, much of the country thought he was all bad. They were wrong. Just mostly.
(Notes: The quote attributed to the NY Post was attributed first to the Washington Times and reprinted by Wikipedia. The other billionaires said to be worth 1.4 billion each on the Forbes List:
David Einhorn, Chase Coleman III and Lou Bacon -- hedge funders.
Gary Burrell -- navigation equipment. John Clark -- Netscape. Chris Cline -- coal. William Ford Sr. -- cars. Patrick Ryan -- insurance and Richard Yuengling, Jr. -- Beer.)
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014