Justice

Voter Suppression: Brought To You By Conservative Billionaire Oil Heir

Since launching its 2012 Election Integrity Project in February, the right-wing Judicial Watch has been a leading player in the push for more voting restrictions. The group — best known for its Clinton-era lawsuits — has demanded more voting roll purges like Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) failed efforts in Florida. But a ThinkProgress examination of tax filings reveals that the group has received millions of dollars from foundations tied to conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife since the start of 2001.

Though other rich right-wing funders like Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess have gotten more attention in this campaign, Scaife has bankrolled the conservative movement for decades. A 1998 Washington Post story dubbed him the “funding father of the right.” Since the 1960s, the Pittsburgh media baron and heir to the Mellon banking and oil fortune has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative causes including the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and the Hoover Institution. He controls the Scaife Foundations — a group of conservative and philanthropic tax-exempt organizations. Between 2001 and 2010, the Allegheny Foundation, Carthage Foundation, and Sarah Scaife Foundation — all part of the Sciafe empire — gave at least $5.8 million to Judicial Watch.

The Carthage and Sarah Scaife Foundations focus on “public policy programs that address major domestic and international issues.” Each has given millions to Judicial Watch. The Allegheny Foundation claims it “concentrates its giving in the Western Pennsylvania area and confines most of its grant awards to programs for historic preservation, civic development and education,” yet it too gave $67,000 annually to Judicial Watch in 2009 and 2010.

Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity Project has pushed states to purge what it believes to be ineligible voters from the voter rolls, criticized voter registration efforts, and fought for voter ID laws. While the group claims “election fraud was a significant concern during the 2008 and 2010 election season,” studies show that you a more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud. And while these tactics to combat the alleged problem are likely to suppress voter turnout and registration, especially among minority groups, they would do little to stop actual voter fraud even if someone did want to commit it.