Myth: There’s no "vast right wing conspiracy" to get Clinton.

Fact: Richard Mellon Scaife and the Republican Establishment have poured millions into the effort.


In the mid-70s, conservative corporations, foundations and politicians organized to reclaim power after 40 years of Democratic government. The result of this well-funded political and media machine was the Reagan Revolution, culminating in Republic control of Congress in 1994. One of the machine’s most important leaders is Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire who is financing nearly all the scandals that engulf President Clinton.


In January 1998, a scandal broke in which President Bill Clinton was accused of having an extramarital affair with a 22-year old White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The scandal was delivered by the usual suspects: conservative corporations and foundations behind the scenes. First Lady Hillary Clinton shortly thereafter told NBC’s Today Show:

"For anybody willing to find it, and write about it, and explain it, is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for President. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it, but it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. And actually, you know, in a bizarre sort of way, this may do it." (1)

In fact, academics have been tracking the Republican Establishment for decades. Prior to 1975, the Republicans were in disarray, reeling from the radical reforms of the 60s and four decades of liberal government. That changed in 1975, when conservative corporations, foundations and politicians came together and organized a highly coordinated, cooperative, and centrally planned movement to regain power. (2)

To call this a "conspiracy" is not quite right. Every organization has secret, strategic plans to gain power, whether it is a political party seeking a majority in Congress or a private business competing in the marketplace. The only noteworthy fact about Republican efforts since 1975 is that they have been extraordinarily successful.

The Rise of the New Right

By the mid-70s, conservatives had established several foundations that poured millions of dollars into the New Right movement. By 1994 the most active foundations were:

Between 1992 and 1994, these foundations gave $210 million to conservative causes. Here is the breakdown of their donations:

The political machine they built is broad and comprehensive, covering every aspect of the political fight. It includes right-wing departments and chairs in the nation’s top universities, think tanks, public relations firms, media companies, fake grassroots organizations that pressure Congress (irreverently known as "Astroturf" movements), "Roll-out-the-vote" machines, pollsters, fax networks, lobbyist organizations, economic seminars for the nation’s judges, and more. And because corporations are the richest sector of society, their greater financing overwhelms similar efforts by Democrats.

Their efforts have clearly succeeded. By 1992, corporations formed 67 percent of all Political Action Committees (the lobbyist organizations that bribe our government), and they donated 79 percent of all campaign contributions to political parties. (4) In two landmark elections -- 1980 and 1994 -- corporations gave heavily and one-sidedly to Republicans, turning one or both houses of Congress over to the GOP. Democratic incumbents were shocked by the threat of being rolled completely out of power, so they quietly shifted to the right on economic issues, even though they continued a public façade of liberalism. Corporations went ahead and donated to Democratic incumbents in all other elections, but only as long as they abandoned the interests of workers, consumers, minorities and the poor. As expected, the new pro-corporate Congress passed laws favoring the rich: between 1975 and 1992, the amount of national household wealth owned by the richest 1 percent soared from 22 to 42 percent. (5)

The Cold War ended in 1991, depriving conservatives of their traditional enemy, the Soviet Union. But a new target for their hatred emerged in 1992 with the election of a Democratic president, Bill Clinton. The right wasted little time re-aiming their antagonism from the external to the internal enemy.

The Scaife Contribution

Richard Mellon Scaife is a Pittsburgh billionaire who inherited his fortune from the Mellon oil and banking empire. Today he owns the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and oversees the Sarah Scaife, Carthage and Allegheny Foundations. Over the years, Scaife has funded hundreds of high-profile projects that promote the corporate and conservative agenda. Scaife’s money helped create GOPAC, the vehicle that Newt Gingrich used to finance, control and promote Republican candidates in their takeover of Congress in 1994. In fact, Newt admits that Scaife money laid the basis for modern conservatism.

Over one three-year period, Scaife foundations gave nearly $3.5 million to the Heritage Foundation, $1.2 million to the American Enterprise Institute, $1.4 million to the Hoover Institution, $325,000 to the Cato Institute, $575,000 to the Citizens for a Sound Economy, and many other right-wing think tanks. (6) These think tanks disseminate corporate propaganda and policy proposals (dressed up as "studies" and "analysis") for the media and the various branches of government. And they are tremendously influential. In 1981, the Heritage Foundation published its famous Mandate for Leadership, and President Reagan adopted two-thirds of its suggestions in his first year alone. Real academics view think-tank studies as shoddy and often deceptive, but the studies appear sufficiently scholarly and technical to fool lay people. (7)

Think tanks cannot reshape the public debate simply by conducting studies, however; these studies need to be aggressively promoted in the media and before Congress. Right-wing foundations therefore finance numerous media and PR firms. For example, between 1994 and 1996, Scaife donated $1.9 million to the Free Congress Foundation, which runs a conservative cable channel. He gave $1.8 million to Hollywood's Center for the Study of Public Culture, which sees a liberal bias in today’s movies. He gave $675,000 to Accuracy in Media, which attempts to prove liberal bias in the media. He paid nearly $300,000 to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a media and PR firm in Washington D.C. And there are many others. (8)

But Scaife’s money is hardly limited to propaganda mills. Academia has traditionally been a bastion of liberalism, and Scaife’s and other right-wing foundations have been trying to make conservative inroads to the nation’s most prestigious universities. They do so by creating departments promoting conservative theories, staffed by conservative scholars. Scaife has given nearly $13 million over the last 36 years to Pepperdine University alone. He’s also donated enormous sums to Columbia, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne, George Mason, John Hopkins, MIT, New York University, Rochester, Smith College, Southwest Missouri State, Stanford, Tufts, the University of Chicago, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of South Carolina and the University of Virginia. (9) Most of these departments and chairs do not exist of their own scholarly merit, naturally produced by academic trends. They are merely purchased into existence by Corporate America.

Scaife’s scandals

Scaife also funds projects that create legal and political trouble for his enemies. Consider Bill Clinton. In 1997, Scaife donated $550,000 to Judicial Watch, whose director, Larry Klayman, has filed 18 lawsuits against the Clinton Administration. (10)

Scaife also assigned one of his newspaper’s reporters, Christopher Ruddy, to a full-time, ongoing investigation into the deaths of Vince Foster and Ron Brown, trying to find evidence that the Clintons murdered them. (11)

Scaife also gave $2.4 million to American Spectator magazine. This money went to create the "Arkansas Project," a massive investigation trying to dig up dirt on Clinton’s past. The Arkansas Project gained notoriety when it was revealed that David Hale, the only Whitewater witness who claimed personal knowledge of Clinton’s wrong-doing, had been paid at least $5,000 by Parker Dozhier, one of operatives of the Arkansas Project. Parker’s girlfriend and her 17-year old son both claim they saw Parker give Scaife-money to Hale on numerous occasions. When reporters confronted Parker, he warned that the 17-year old son "was destined to become a chalk outline somewhere." Alarmed by such threats and prospects of witness tampering, the Justice Department has ordered an investigation, the results of which are yet to be revealed. (12)

Scaife has also given $450,000 over three years to the Independent Women’s Forum. (13) This is a media-booking agency that heavily seeds female conservative pundits into the media. (This is an attempt to reduce the "gender gap" that Democrats enjoy in the polls.) The IWF has given generous public support to Paula Jones in her lawsuit. In fact, one IWF pundit, Ann Coulter, heard at least one of the Linda Tripp tapes before it even reached Ken Starr. This proved that she was deeply involved with the Paula Jones’ camp (who received the tapes first), even though she was pretending to be an objective commentator on the scandal in the media. (14)

But perhaps most alarming is Scaife’s ties to independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Starr’s conflicts of interest are almost too numerous to mention. Early on, Starr had been given an open-ended job offer as the dean of Pepperdine University’s Schools of Law and Public Policy. At first, Starr planned to accept the job after finishing his investigation. But it turns out this school is a heavy recipient of Scaife money, and the resulting media scandal finally convinced Starr to refuse the job. But the appearance of Scaife attempting to pay off Starr for getting Clinton lingers.

There are many other connections between the two men. Between 1988 and 1996, Scaife gave $3 million to the conservative Washington Legal Foundation, where Starr sits on the board. Scaife also gave $920,000 to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization where Starr is a member. Scaife donated $650,000 to the Landmark Legal Foundation between 1992 and 1996; Starr has done work for this organization, which has helped Paula Jones in her lawsuit. (15) Starr also prepared a legal brief for the Paula Jones lawsuit on behalf of the Independent Women’s Forum, which is substantially funded by Scaife.

Starr says of Scaife: "I have never met him. I have never talked to him. I have had no arrangement -- implicit, explicit, direct or indirect -- with him." Even if true, however, this would not prevent a conflict of interest from arising, or both parties recognizing to themselves the benefits of helping each other.

Scaife’s personality profile is similarly interesting.

Pat Minarcin knows Scaife well, after serving as one of his magazine editors. "He [Scaife] has the emotional maturity of a very angry 12-year-old, and he has all this money and he can do whatever he wants with it," says Minarcin. While the magazine was operating, "[Scaife] presented a list of people who he wanted the magazine to attack, a kind of enemies list." Minarcin eventually resigned. (16)

It’s also well-known that Scaife is obsessed with proving that Vince Foster’s suicide was actually a murder. He goes so far as to call his death "the Rosetta Stone of the Clinton administration." But why? Scaife’s history is revealing. In the 1960s, he financially supported Robert Duggan as a candidate for district attorney. The two men angrily parted company after Duggan came under investigation for corruption. To make matters worse, Duggan then eloped with Scaife’s sister, Cordelia. A few months later, Duggan was found dead, apparently by suicide. But the shotgun used was found several feet away from Duggan’s body, and it had no fingerprints. And for some reason, to this day, Cordelia Scaife refuses to speak with her brother. (17)

Scaife is the undoubtedly the most important figure behind the Clinton scandals, but similar profiles can be written about William Simon, John Olin, Adolph Coors, Paul Weyrich, Newt Gingrich, Irving Kristol and others. Working closely together, they have built a formidable political machine that far eclipses similar efforts by liberals. Indeed, the fact that this machine could impeach Clinton (only the second presidential impeachment in U.S. history) is evidence of its awesome yet undemocratic power.

Related links:

The Origins of the Overclass.

Myth: Conservative think tanks are the answer to liberal academia.

A Timeline of CIA Atrocities.

Return to Overview


1. Hillary Clinton, NBC's Today, Jan 27, 1998.
2. A history of the Republican Establishments rise to power is chronicled in Dan Clawson, Alan Neustadtl and Denise Scott, Money Talks (New York: HarperCollins, 1992).
3. Study conducted by National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, July 1997, as reported by the National Education Association. Website:
4. Center for Responsive Politics, Washington D.C., 1993.
5. Edward Wolff "How the pie is sliced: America's Growing Concentration of Wealth," The American Prospect 22, Summer 1995, pp. 58-64.
6. Brooks Jackson, "Who is Richard Mellon Scaife?" CNN, All Politics, April 27, 1998. Website:
7. See Steve Kangas, "Myth: Conservative think tanks are the answer to liberal academia," The Long FAQ on Liberalism, 1997. Website: L-thinktank.htm.
8. Jackson. See also "Grants From Scaife Foundations, 1994-1996," CNN All Politics, April 27, 1998. Website:
9. Ibid.
10. David Segal, "Foundation gave $550,000 to Anti-Clinton Group," The Washington Post, Wednesday, June 10, 1998; Page A06.
11. Jackson; see also Trudy Lieberman, "The Vincent Foster Factory," Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 1996. Website:
12. Murray Waas and Jonathon Broder, "Justice Department Considers Investigating Key Starr Witness," Salon, March 27, 1998. Website: $5,000 figure cited by James Carville, …And the Horse He Rode In On (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998), p. 54.
13. Jonathon Broder and Murray Waas, [Untitled] Salon, April 20, 1998. Website:
14. "Starrlets and Scaife Babes," The Real News Page, Jane Wardlow Prettyman, ed. Website:
15. Broder and Waas.
16. Jackson.
17. Newsweek, 5/18/98.