Scaife has become a reliable funder of right-wing causes and, as the principal heir to the Mellon family banking, oil and aluminum fortune, he has $1.2 billion at his disposal for influencing the U.S. political and cultural landscape.
Serving as the vice chairman of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank (Heritage president Edwin Feulner serves as a trustee for the Sarah Scaife Foundation), Scaife has positioned himself as a central figure in conservative politics.
A closer examination of his philanthropy reveals that, in 2009 alone, the Sarah Scaife Foundation supported neoconservative mainstays such as the American Enterprise Institute ($550,000), the American Foreign Policy Council ($125,000), and Commentary magazine ($40,000).
Scaife has a nearly 50-year history in philanthropy and has left his mark by staying focused on specific ideological objectives. In 2009, the National Journal reported:
The intellectual flowering of the conservative movement at AEI, Heritage, and elsewhere was possible not only because a few visionaries distilled a movement’s discontent but also because a handful of deep-pocketed, committed, and unusually patient wealthy benefactors such as John M. Olin, Richard Scaife, and foundations affiliated with them were willing to underwrite the broad ideological movement.
Indeed, Scaife has shown himself to be one of the more strategic right-wing philanthropists, more interested in influencing the political and cultural discourse than investing directly in electoral outcomes.
His ownership of the Pittburgh Tribune-Review proved valuable in the campaign to attack then-president Bill Clinton as the small publication emerged as the chief source for editorials claiming that Clinton was responsible for the death of Deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster.
Finding relative success in keeping the Vince Foster conspiracy theories alive, Scaife has since expanded his media holdings to include a 42 percent share in NewsMax, a conservative online news outlet that regularly gives a platform to Islamophobes.
The Scaife Foundation’s support of the Islamophobia network is a fraction of Scaife’s overall philanthropy, but it falls in line with his long-history of both creating right-wing echo chambers while, at the same time, funding the “experts” who feed it with soundbite fodder. To our knowledge, Scaife hasn’t publicly commented on whether he supports the anti-Muslim ravings of the people he funds.