Scaife Foundations

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The Scaife Foundations consist of a trio of foundations that had been directed by the late billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, whose wealth was inherited from the Mellon industrial, oil, aluminum and banking fortune.[1] The Scaife Foundations have provided millions of dollars in funding to right-wing organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Cato Institute, and anti-immigrant and Islamophobic organizations such as the Center for Immigration Studies and the David Horowitz Freedom Center.[2]

After the death of Richard Scaife in 2014, a significant portion of his assets were given to the foundations, increasing their value substantially. In addition, the Sarah Scaife and Carthage Foundation merged at the end of 2014,[3] making the Sarah Scaife Foundation one of the largest foundations focused on supporting right-wing causes. Its assets were expected to grow to some $800 million in 2015.[4]

In addition, two other foundations were also associated with Richard Scaife and are controlled by members of his family:[5]

  • Scaife Family Foundation — previously controlled by Richard Scaife and now under the direction of his children since the early 2000s.[2]
  • Colcom Foundation — established and previously managed by Richard Scaife's late sister, Cordelia Scaife May.[6]
Documents Contained at the Anti-Environmental Archives
Documents written by or referencing this person or organization are contained in the Anti-Environmental Archive, launched by Greenpeace on Earth Day, 2015. The archive contains 3,500 documents, some 27,000 pages, covering 350 organizations and individuals. The current archive includes mainly documents collected in the late 1980s through the early 2000s by The Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR), an organization that tracked the rise of the so called "Wise Use" movement in the 1990s during the Clinton presidency. Access the index to the Anti-Environmental Archives here.

The Scaife Foundations

The Scaife family’s foundations, set up by Richard Scaife’s mother, Sarah, were relatively apolitical until her death in 1965, "when Richard assumed greater control of the family fortune and was able to direct his wealth toward the growth of a conservative infrastructure."[7] By 1976, over half of the Scaife foundations’ grant money went to conservative organizations and causes. While foundation boards approved the grants, Scaife chaired all three during his lifetime, and the boards showed " Scaife's personal desires," according to The Washington Post.[8]

Scaife's giving was motivated in part by tax rules and deduction benefits, The Washington Post reported in 1999:

The tax law required Scaife to become a philanthropist. The foundations he inherited had to give away 5 percent of their assets every year. Sarah Scaife's trusts, set up under provisions of the tax law that have since been repealed, were required to give away all the income they generated.
Scaife's mother and later Scaife himself got huge tax deductions to establish their trusts and foundations. He can deduct the amount of each gift he makes from his taxable income, which – given the billion dollars or so in his personal fortune – is presumably substantial.
Such deductions are classified by the Treasury as "tax expenditures" – the equivalent of government spending. Charity is a "tax-favored activity" in the jargon of tax lawyers – it is subsidized by all taxpayers.[8]

Allegheny Foundation

The Allegheny Foundation was set up by Scaife after his father died in 1958 with his inheritance and was "focused on local community improvement projects," Jane Mayer details in her book Dark Money.[9]

According to its website, the foundation "concentrates its giving in the Western Pennsylvania area and confines most of its grant awards to programs for historic preservation, civic development and education." [10] As a philanthropic organization, Allegheny is officially dedicated to supporting nonpolitical causes. However, the foundation has heavily supported some of the most prominent right-wing institutions, including the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (nearly $2.7 million between 1992 and 2004), the Heritage Foundation (including a $1.25 million donation in 2010), the David Horowitz Freedom Center ($1.2 million since 2000), and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) (more than $1.7 million since 1985).[5]

As of 2014 the foundation was worth nearly $75 million, but was reportedly set to grow to $400 million with Richard Scaife's bequest.[4]

For a partial list of grant recipients, see the Sourcewatch article Allegheny Foundation.

Carthage Foundation

The Carthage Foundation merged into the Sarah Scaife Foundation at the end of 2014.[11]

According to its website, the Carthage Foundation's grants were "primarily directed toward public policy programs that address major domestic and international issues...[with] no geographical restrictions."[12]

Carthage directed its funding to smaller conservative groups, such as $2.4 million between 1985 and 2013 to the the Baltimore-based Maldon Institute and $2.2 million between 1995 and 2013 to the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.[13] The foundation also gives to larger conservative organizations, such as: the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation (over $5 million since 1985), Judicial Watch ($4.6 million since 1997), the Heritage Foundation ($2.6 million since 1985), and the Washington Legal Foundation ($1.78 million since 1985).[13] It also gave over $1.5 million between 1995 and 2013 to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has been designated as an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[13]

For a partial list of Carthage grant recipients before the merger, see the Sourcewatch article Carthage Foundation.

Sarah Scaife Foundation

The Sarah Scaife Foundation is the largest of the Scaife Foundations. Its assets had a fair market value of $340 million at the end of 2014 and were expected to increase to nearly $800 million after receiving a large bequest from the estate of Richard Scaife.[4] While it disbursed only around $12.9 million in grants in 2014, the foundation was expected to give closer to $40 million in 2015.[14][4]

According to Jane Mayer, "Scaife's parents created the largest of the family's tax-exempt, charitable foundations, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, in December 1941, days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It appears to have been timed to shelter the family's wealth from anticipated tax increases."[9]

According to its website, its funding is "primarily directed toward public policy programs that address major domestic and international issues."[15] In practice, the programs that benefit from the foundation’s grants usually seek to shift public policy to the right.[7] "The foundation’s biggest recipient over the last several decades has been the Heritage Foundation, which got over $23 million between 1985 and 2010 and probably much more in years prior to available records."[7] Other major recipients include the American Enterprise Institute (which has received nearly $9 million), the Media Research Center (which has received over $4 million), FreedomWorks, the Cato Institute, and the Center for Immigration Studies, Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Hoover Institution, all prominent right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups.[7]

For a partial list of grant recipients, see the Sourcewatch article Allegheny Foundation.

Scaife Affiliated Foundations

Scaife Family Foundation

According to its website, the Scaife Family Foundation's grants are dedicated to organizations that "support and develop programs that strengthen families, address issues surrounding the health and welfare of women and children, promote animal welfare, and that demonstrate the beneficial interaction between humans and animals."[16]

As of 2011, the foundation was worth more than $71 million (fair market value).[17]

Transition to Daughter's Control Shifted Focus

The Scaife Family Foundation broke away from the other three Scaife Foundations in the early 2000s and came under the control of Scaife's daughter, Jennie, who has since changed its focus.[2] According to the Palm Beach Post, Scaife’s daughter, Jennie, moved the foundation’s offices to Palm Beach, Florida, after differences arose concerning the foundation’s support for Planned Parenthood. Jennie claimed the Scaife Family Foundation became more independent from her family in 2000.[2] As of 2003, the Scaife Family Foundation began giving a higher percentage of money to drug-treatment programs, disease-fighting groups, and colleges than it grants to think tanks, although it still funds measures to restrict immigration and abolish affirmative action.[2]

Grants from 1985 to 2001

For the years 1985-2001, the Scaife Family Foundation donated $702,640 to the Heritage Foundation; $590,000 to the American Enterprise Institute; $275,000 to the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University; $200,000 to the CSIS; and $175,000 to the New Citizenship Project, Inc., alone.

Colcom Foundation

The Colcom Foundation was directed by Richard Scaife's sister, Cordelia May, until her death in 2005.[6] May was a dedicated conservationist concerned with population growth and a close friend of John Tanton, another conservationist turned an anti-immigration activist, responsible for the creation of a network of anti-immigrant groups, such as Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).[18][19]

Colcom has given tens of millions of dollars to Tanton's groups, including FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA since 2001.[20] From 2008-2010 alone, Colcom gave over 25 million dollars to these and other anti-immigrant organizations.[19]

Bankrolling Anti-Immigration Groups

Cordelia Scaife May, founder and director the Colcom Foundation until her death in 2005, was an environmentalist committed to population control and believed limiting immigration was a way to succeed in this endeavor. Since 2001, Colcom has been the primary funder for many groups in the anti-immigrant John Tanton Network, giving over $17 million to NumbersUSA, almost $15 million to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and more than $6 million to the Center for Immigration Studies.[18]

Richard Scaife, through his management of the Carthage Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and together with the Scaife Family Foundation (controlled by Richard Scaife’s children since 2001) has donated more than $4 million to FAIR and more than $3 million to CIS since the early 1990s. Additionally, since 2001, the foundations have given ProEnglish $285,000 and NumbersUSA $987,500. The Scaife Family Foundation is also the sole funder of ProEnglish.[18]

Funding Islamophobia in the United States

Research from the Center for American Progress (CAP) indicates that a Scaife foundation has funded various organizations and individuals contributing to anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States. The organization contributed $7,875,000 to Islamophobic groups between 2001 and 2009. Some of the main recipients included the Center for Security Policy, the Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation, and the David Horowitz Freedom Center.[21]

Finances and Grants Issued

In 1993 alone, the Scaife and Carthage foundations donated more than $17.6 million to conservative think tanks[citation needed].

In 1999, the Washington Post reported that Scaife's foundations had given $340 million to conservative causes and institutions.[22]

By 2002, they held more than $320 million in assets, and in that year alone they gave away more than $22 million.[23][24][25]

Grant recipients have included:


Scaife Foundations
One Oxford Center
301 Grant Street, Suite 3900
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-6401
Phone: (412) 392-2900

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Resources

External articles


  1. Michael Joseph Gross, "A Vast Right-Wing Hypocrisy", Vanity Fair, February 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Right Web profile on: "Scaife Foundations", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  3. Mike Wereschagin, "Scaife bestows 'game-changing' legacy of giving to region, nation," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 2, 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Rich Lord, "Scaife-related foundations poised to take bigger stage," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 25, 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bridge Project profile on: "Allegheny Foundation", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 Colcom Foundation, "History", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Bridge Project profile on: "Sarah Scaife Foundation", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  8. 8.0 8.1 Staff, "Scaife's Foundations," The Washington Post, May 2, 1999.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Penguin Random House, 2016.
  10. Scaife Foundations, "Allegheny Foundation: Application Guidelines", organizational website, accessed 2013
  11. Scaife Foundation, "The Carthage Foundation," organization website, accessed July 2016.
  12. Scaife Foundations, "The Carthage Foundation: Application Guidelines", organizational website, accessed 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Bridge Project profile on: "The Carthage Foundation", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  14. Sarah Scaife Foundation, 2014 Annual Report, organization financial report, November 11, 2015.
  15. Scaife Foundations, "Sarah Scaife Foundation: Application Guidelines", organizational website, accessed 2013
  16. Scaife Family Foundation, "Scaife Family Foundation", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  17. Economic Research Institute, Nonprofit Organization Information for:"Sarah Scaife Foundation Inc", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Katie Lorenze, "Scaife-Funded Network Works Hard to Kill Immigration Reform", PRWatch, May 31, 2013
  19. 19.0 19.1 Stephen Piggott, "Quiz Time: Which Single Foundation Almost Solely Bankroll’s the Entirety of the John Tanton Network?", Imagine 2050, September 1, 2011
  20. Bridge Project profile on: "Colcom Foundation", organizational website, accessed May 2013
  21. Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and Faiz Shakir, Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, CAB, August 2011.
  22. Washington Post, special series on Clinton featuring Richard Scaife, May 1999
  23. Sarah Scaife Foundation, "2002 Annual Report"
  24. Allegheny Foundation, "2002 Annual Report"
  25. Carthage Foundation, "2002 Annual Report"