The Scaife Foundations are a collection of conservative foundations—the Sarah Scaife, the Allegheny, and the Scaife Family—that served as the primary vehicles for the philanthropic activities of the late Richard Mellon Scaife, a major patron of the American Right for decades whose wealth shortly before his 2014 death was estimated to be $1.45 billion. The Carthage Foundation was for years also a part of the Scaife Foundations, until it merged with the Sarah Scaife Foundation in late 2014. The Scaife Foundations' support for groups like the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, and Hoover Institution have been instrumental in pushing right-wing domestic and foreign policy agendas, from the anti-communism of the 1970s to the neoconservative ideas that influenced the George W. Bush administration's "war on terror."
TheNew York Times' July 2014 obituary of Scaife stated that his "support for right-wing causes laid the foundations for America's modern conservative movement." According to the Conservative Transparency website, the Scaife Foundations gave a total of $635 million during the period 1985-2012. A 1999 Washington Post profile of Scaife also credited his philanthropy as having had a singular role in nurturing the conservative movement: "[B]y concentrating his giving on a specific ideological objective for nearly 40 years, and making most of his grants with no strings attached, Scaife's philanthropy has had a disproportionate impact on the rise of the right, perhaps the biggest story in American politics in the last quarter of the 20th century."
A writer for CounterPunch opined about Scaife after his death in July 2014: "[H]is lasting legacy will not boil down to any one action, whether it be bankrolling the 'conservative intellectual infrastructure' behind the victories of Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and the rise of the neocons (according to the Washington Post) or trying his damnedest to unseat a democratically elected President of the United States. In the end, Scaife will be remembered as one of the key figures in the re-imagining of American Politics as a zero-sum battle between ideologies."
Scaife was the sole donor to both the Carthage and Allegheny Foundations, which he founded and presided over as chairman. He also served as chairman and head of the Sarah Scaife Foundation, a position he assumed following his mother's death in 1965. After his own death, chairmanship of the Sarah Scaife Foundation passed to its former president Michael Gleba while chairmanship of the Allegheny Foundation went to its former executive director, Matthew Groll.
After his death, much of Scaife's wealth passed to the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Allegheny Foundation, with each receiving $367.5 million. Allegheny chairman Matthew Groll said at the time: "For the last five years, we distributed an average of $3 million to $4 million a year, and approximately $100 million since Mr. Scaife established the foundation in 1953. Those amounts will be eclipsed in short order, as our new distribution requirements increase to more than $20 million annually."
The Sarah Scaife Foundation's annual contributions, according to chairman Michael Gleba, also increased to $38 million per year from the approximately $19 million it gave annually before Scaife's death.
The Carthage Foundation's merger with the Sarah Scaife Foundation at the end of 2014 further boosted the assets of the Scaife Foundation by $40 million. During its time as separate entity, Carthage had limited most of its grants to programs that addressed "public policy questions concerned with national and international issues."
The Sarah Scaife Foundation's grant-making, meanwhile, has targeted "public policy programs that address major domestic and international issues," while the Allegheny Foundation "concentrates its giving in the Western Pennsylvania area and confines most of its grant awards to programs for historic preservation, civic development, and education."
The Scaife Foundations have been identified by the Center for American Progress as "one of the biggest contributors to the Islamophobia network" in the United States. CAP's 2011 report, "Fear Inc.," revealed that the Scaife Foundations "contributed $3.4 million to the David Horowitz Freedom Center, $1.575 million the Counter Terrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation (CTSERF), and $2.9 million to Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy."
In 2013 alone, the Sarah Scaife Foundation gave roughly $625,000 to the American Enterprise Institute, $40,000 to the neoconservative Commentary magazine, and $125,000 to the American Foreign Policy Council.
The Scaife Family Foundation broke away from the other three in the early 2000s. According to the Palm Beach Post, Scaife's daughter, Jennie, moved the foundation's offices to Palm Beach, Florida, after differences arose concerning the foundation's support for Planned Parenthood. Jennie claimed the Scaife Family Foundation "became more independent from her family in 2000." As of 2003, the Scaife Family Foundation was "increasingly giving a higher percentage of money to drug-treatment programs, disease-fighting groups, and colleges than it grants to think tanks, though it still financially backs measures to restrict immigration and abolish affirmative action."
Origins and History
Scaife's philanthropic activities began in 1962, when he gave several grants to various organizations, including the American Bar Association's Fund for Public Education for "education against communism." Scaife subsequently developed funding relations with the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, and Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies. In 1974, Scaife provided the seed money, along with beer magnate Joseph Coors, to help establish the Heritage Foundation, which has become one of the largest and most influential conservative think tanks in the United States.
According to a Washington Post exposé, Scaife became disillusioned with electoral politics during the presidency of Richard Nixon, to whom he had donated some $1 million, and the Watergate scandal. The Post reports: "His experience with Nixon, according to several associates, persuaded him to invest his hopes and his money in conservative institutions and ideas, not politicians. Though he has continued to give thousands to political campaigns and political action committees, his interest in electoral politics receded."
Although Scaife's foundations claim to not accept proposals from individuals, they provided the seed money for Elliott Abrams' 1997 book, Faith or Fear, which came out while Abrams was president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Both Abrams and Leslie Lenkowsky, then president of the Hudson Institute, approached Scaife about the project. Scaife specified that he would give the project a $175,000 grant if another "Jewish donor or group" also supported the book. The book, which dealt with American Jewry, prompted Scaife to comment to Abrams how surprised he was that this ethnic group identified more with liberals than with conservatives.
Scaife gained notoriety in the 1990s for his at times outlandish efforts to oust President Bill Clinton. Among his efforts, he funded conservative magazine The American Spectator's "Arkansas Project," a controversial effort to investigate President Bill Clinton's dealings while governor of Arkansas. The stories published by Spectator reporter David Brock ranged from Clinton's infidelity to more hyperbolic, conspiracy-minded items. Scaife also used his newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, to push the theory that the suicide of former Clinton aide Vince Foster was really a murder, and that the Clintons were covering it up.
The largest recipient of Scaife largesse over the decades has been the Heritage Foundation. Since 1985, the Heritage Foundation has received $19.6 million from the Sarah Scaife Foundation and smaller amounts from the Carthage Foundation. The Allegheny Foundation concentrates most of its giving on conventional organizations in western Pennsylvania.
Among the Sarah Scaife Foundation's largest recipients of grants have been the Frank Gaffney-run Center for Security Policy, the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
According to PRWatch, the Scaife Foundations have "worked hard to kill immigration reform and to fund anti-immigrant groups." The Huffington Post has reported that the Scaife Foundations have "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."
According to the Carthage Foundation's 2007 annual report, it gave out $2.09 million in grants in 2006, including to the Federation for American Immigration Reform ($300,000), the Counter Terrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation's Investigative Project ($125,000), and the Institute for Religion and Democracy ($200,000).