Skip to comments.Foundation's move to area concerns liberals [Scaife relocates to West Palm Beach]
Posted on 06/09/2003 7:55:31 AM PDT by summer
Foundation's move to area concerns liberals
By Marc Caputo, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 9, 2003
WEST PALM BEACH -- The so-called "vast right-wing conspiracy" has touched down in Palm Beach County.
The Scaife Family Foundation moved its home office here last month to continue its mission of strengthening families and promoting animal welfare.
Since the 1980s, the foundation was headquartered in the same Pittsburgh suite with three other family organizations headed by billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. He was singled out by the Clinton White House as one of the seminal figures in the "vast right-wing conspiracy" to topple the president.
Now, liberals fear, the Scaife foundation is riding a wave of conservative organizations that are expanding in Florida to influence the nation's agenda as well as the 2004 elections.
"Florida in many respects is the most important state in the nation," said Jorge Mursuli, Florida director for People for the American Way, a liberal policy group. "Change something here and you can change it on the national level, whether it's school vouchers or gay rights. Obviously, the foundation sees some benefit to being here."
Which begs the question: Who has benefited locally from the Scaife Family Foundation's largesse?
Puppies, cats and other stray animals at Safe Harbor Animal Rescue and Clinic. The foundation contributed $800,000 in February to help the clinic buy land near Jupiter to build a no-kill animal shelter. It also has contributed money to Palm Beach Cat Rescue and the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League.
All of which is proof that the foundation is committed to advancing its mission of helping animals as well as people, according to Chairwoman Jennie K. Scaife, the daughter of Richard Scaife. She scoffs at the suggestion that she's a point-person for a national conservative movement, or even her father's agenda.
"You gotta laugh," she said. "It's ridiculous. My father has nothing to do with this."
Nowhere in the organization's paperwork does Richard Mellon Scaife's name appear. He's more involved with three other Pittsburgh-based family foundations: the Allegheny Foundation, Carthage Foundation and Sarah Scaife Foundation.
Still, Jennie Scaife acknowledges that her organization has contributed to groups supported by her father, including some of the biggest names in the conservative movement -- such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute -- and major players in the get-Clinton movement.
Jennie Scaife said she wanted the office moved here so it could be closer to her Palm Beach home, which she bought eight years ago.
She doesn't have to be in Palm Beach to underwrite state or national causes. The foundation had $75 million in assets in 2002 and gave $3.8 million in grants.
She said her foundation became more independent from her family in 2000, when she took over from her brother, David. She said he doesn't support her spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on liberal-leaning Planned Parenthood, which supports abortion rights. The foundation is 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.
The 'funding father'
All the Scaife foundations were endowed with money from the massive steel, banking and oil fortunes of the Scaife and Mellon families, whose charitable gift-giving has helped shape American culture for the past century. Richard Scaife's mother, Sarah Scaife, championed causes for the disabled, the sick and the environment. She contributed $35,000 to help equip the University of Pittsburgh lab where the polio vaccine was invented.
When Richard Scaife took over, he began dumping money into conservative causes after the defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964. Richard Nixon counted Scaife as one of his "fat cats" who donated $1 million to the Committee to Reelect the President, known as CREEP.
Scaife bought his own newspaper, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and began generously supporting think tanks and legal groups to counteract the more liberal Brookings Institution and the American Civil Liberties Union.
He contributed so much that The Washington Post dubbed him the right's "funding father."
The Scaife-funded organizations provided the initial intellectual muscle to publicize the movement to reform welfare, improve the nation's missile defense and scale back affirmative action. After Republicans took over Congress in 1994, Newt Gingrich said Scaife "really created modern conservatism."
Along the way, he helped create the get-Clintonism of the early 1990s.
Scaife granted $1.8 million to American Spectator magazine to investigate the Clintons' actions during the period when they held power in Arkansas. In 1994, following a Spectator article, Paula Jones filed her sexual harassment suit against Clinton.
In that year, the Scaife Family Foundation for the first time contributed money -- $100,000 -- to help run the Landmark Legal Foundation, whose lawyers volunteered advice for Jones. The foundation defended the state of Wisconsin's school voucher program. Also on the defense team: Kenneth Starr, who later would be tapped as independent counsel to investigate Clinton.
The Clinton White House struck back with a 331-page report linking the "Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce" to Scaife, who was described as the "wizard behind the curtain."
Months later, five billboards appeared in Little Rock, Ark., that stated: "Sexually harassed by Bill Clinton? Contact our hotline at 1-888-HARASSU or www.clintonontrial.com. All information kept confidential."
It was part of a $250,000 radio and television blitz coordinated by the Free Congress Foundation, which had long publicized conservative causes. In 1993, it got a $100,000 boost from the Scaife Family Foundation as part of its "national empowerment" drive.
Jennie Scaife said many of the grant-giving decisions at the time were made by a board of trustees who are no longer with her foundation.
Gov. Bush tied to Scaife
The nationwide family-values push wasn't enough to get Jeb Bush elected Florida's governor in 1994, though two years later Republicans won control of the state legislature for the first time in 120 years.
Bush helped the effort, having stumped for Republican candidates. He also penned a book about the "cultural decline" of Florida, started up a conservative foundation of his own and joined Richard Scaife on the board of trustees of the Heritage Foundation.
When elected in 1998, Bush and the GOP legislature quickly began shrinking government, slashing taxes and privatizing aspects of the school system. They had a scare two years later, when his brother, George W. Bush, barely eked out a win in Florida.
In the contested recount, the Clinton-hunting Judicial Watch team swooped into Palm Beach County to eye the punch-card ballots. Judicial Watch was financially stable thanks to the Sarah Scaife and Carthage foundations, which gave $1.5 million in 2000 -- nearly double from the previous year. Conservative-minded readers also could track the recount via a new West Palm Beach-based Internet site, NewsMax, whose third-largest contributor is Richard Scaife.
When Jeb Bush faced reelection, Republicans wanted to ensure his win wouldn't come down to a few hundred votes. Republicans out-raised Democrats by tens of millions; Richard Scaife personally chipped in $20,000 to the state GOP.
Religious groups lended a hand. Among them: the Florida Family Association, which split in the late 1990s from the Mississippi-based American Family Association, whose foundation has received money from the Scaife Family Foundation.
Expanding out of its Tampa office, the Florida Family Association energized South Florida religious conservatives last year and helped fuel the unsuccessful drive to repeal Miami-Dade County's gay-rights law.
Months before, the anti-homosexuality Christian group Exodus International moved its headquarters from Seattle to Winter Park -- just in time to lobby against Orlando's proposed gay-rights law.
Another newcomer to the Sunshine State, the Pacific Legal Foundation, defended the GOP's state voucher plan in court last year after opening a Miami office. It has received more than $2.5 million from the Sarah Scaife Foundation.
Dark plot vs. lure of sun
Now, with the Scaife Family Foundation's move to West Palm Beach, liberals are intrigued. The People for the American Way plans to release a study before the 2004 elections charting the flow of conservative dollars.
"With Bush as governor and all the changes to your school system, it's clear that Florida is at the forefront of the conservative movement," said self-described liberal Rob Levine, who maintains a Minnesota-based Web site, mediatransparency.org, to track conservative organizations.
Gov. Bush doesn't see any wide-ranging plot. He has long argued that Floridians are rejecting liberalism of their own accord because it's a failed political philosophy. Also, conservative groups are moving to Florida, but so are liberals and nonpolitical people.
"To be honest, my guess is that the Foundation moved to Florida because the leadership of the Foundation moved to Florida," Bush said in an e-mail. "Palm Beach is a very nice place to live."
"You gotta laugh," she said. "It's ridiculous. My father has nothing to do with this."
No, Jennie, you gotta cry: what EXACTLY would be the BFD is dad WERE trying to do conservatives' work through his organization? Don't be on the defensive: ask these commie-symp-liberal-pantywaists to tell you PRECISELY what is wrong with politically active people attempting to sway others to the right side of the aisle? The only ones who should enjoy freedom of speech are those with left-wing views? Ask them what their point is? DO NOT be intimidated by these whiny losers.
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