HARRISBURG, Pa. — Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh area billionaire who helped finance the rise of the conservative movement in America in the late 20th century, died on Friday at his home, his lawyer said.
The death of Scaife, 82, was reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, where he was the publisher and where he wrote in a May 18 column that he had untreatable cancer. His lawyer H. Yale Gutnick confirmed the news.
“Richard Scaife was a remarkable patriot, philanthropist and conservative activist. His passing today is a great loss to America,” tweeted former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, whose own rise to power in the 1990s benefited from Scaife’s largesse.
In 1998, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton was referring, in part, to Scaife, when she complained in an interview that a “vast right-wing conspiracy” was trying to destroy her and her husband, President Bill Clinton. Clinton was impeached that year by the House of Representatives. He was acquitted in the Senate.
At the time, the Tribune-Review and the American Spectator magazine, which was bankrolled by Scaife, had accused the Clintons of fraud in the Whitewater real estate deal; aggressively investigated alleged extramarital affairs involving Bill Clinton; and claimed the death of former White House counsel Vincent Foster, which was ruled a suicide, had actually been a murder committed as part of a Whitewater cover-up.
Yet in 2008, after meeting personally with both Clintons, Scaife ended up endorsing Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President.
Scaife was part of the wealthy Mellon family in Pittsburgh and inherited a reported $500 million in 1965 upon the death of his mother, Sarah Mellon Scaife. She was a niece of former U.S. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon.
The family fortune came from banking and large stakes in Gulf Oil and Alcoa.
Richard Mellon Scaife’s non-political philanthropies included the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.
Scaife was survived by a daughter, Jennie King Scaife, of Palm Beach, Florida, and a son, David Negley Scaife, of Pittsburgh.