There's a Liberal Side to `Right-Winger' Dick Scaife

By Sammon, Bill | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 28, 1998 | Go to article overview

There's a Liberal Side to `Right-Winger' Dick Scaife


Sammon, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


To his liberal critics inside and outside the government, philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife is the malevolent money man behind a "vast right-wing conspiracy" to destroy President Clinton.

Mr. Scaife, an unabashed conservative and generous giver to conservative causes, and his charitable foundations have also given millions to women's shelters, environmental groups, and colleges such as Howard University andthe University of California at Berkeley.

Documents and interviews reveal a side of the money man that is not well known.

He has endowed projects at Pepperdine University - the Malibu, Calif., school that once reserved a job for Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr - and has given generously to Stanford University, where the president's daughter, Chelsea, is a freshman.

Scaife critics note that he has contributed to the American Spectator, the conservative magazine that first reported the incident that led to the Paula Jones lawsuit and, ultimately, the White House sex-and-lies scandal. But Mr. Scaife has also given $1 million to the aggressively liberal Corporation for Public Broadcasting over the last five years.

The reclusive 65-year-old publisher, whose health is frail, is known in the public eye as an ultraconservative zealot. Yet he supports abortion rights and opposes the North American Free Trade Agreement. He has pointedly declined to align himself with the religious right.

Mr. Scaife is the man most frequently blamed for funding what Hillary Rodham Clinton called the "vast right-wing conspiracy" to hound her husband from office. Yet Mrs. Clinton invited Mr. Scaife to the White House for dinner on Jan. 21 to thank him and others who gave large sums to the White House Endowment Fund, a restoration effort that Mr. Scaife has supported since the Bush administration.

"I'm honored," Mr. Scaife told the New York Post of the invitation from Mrs. Clinton. "Lord knows, it's more than I got from George Bush."

The black-tie event was heldthe same day the White Housesex-and-lies scandal broke. Mrs. Clinton greeted Mr. Scaife and "thanked him for his support," according to White House spokesman Michael McCurry.

Mr. Scaife posed for a photograph with Mr. Clinton and on Friday sent a letter to the White House authorizing public release of the photo. The White House declined to release the photograph for publication, although spokesman James Kennedy says he did not know why.

"I think they're embarrassed by the fact that he was in the White House for a party," says Mr. Scaife's attorney, Yale Gutnick. "I'm not even sure that the president knew who he was shaking hands with."

Asked why Mr. Scaife accepted the Clintons' invitation, Mr. Gutnick says: "Dick Scaife loves America. He loves Washington. He loves the presidency.

"He's not happy with this president or what he represents, but that's not going to stop him from doing the things that he thinks are right."

Mr. Scaife, the publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, has been publicity-shy for years, shunning interviews and even instructing his lawyer to decline to answer questions about his activities. But since the White House scandal exploded three months ago, White House defenders have portrayed Mr. Scaife as a Darth Vader-like figure whose fortune is underwriting the effort to unseat Mr. Clinton.

"We were hoping this thing would just sort of die and go away," Mr. Gutnick told The Washington Times. "But it didn't and they're making this into something it's not. So we're changing our view."

The final straw came last week when Time magazine published a caricature of Mr. Scaife smiling diabolically and rubbing his hands together as underlings hurl muck at a bust of Mr. Clinton. Money protrudes from the cartoon Mr. Scaife's pockets.

"He's here, there and everywhere," the caption reads. …

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