"Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in."
- Michael Corleone, as portrayed by Al Pacino, in The Godfather: Part III
I was hoping what I wrote last week would be the end of it. Every once in a while I just gotta get one of those things out of my system. And I thought I had said all I needed to say about Media Matters for America, George Soros and paranoid right-wing talk show hosts. But sure enough, another reason comes along to write something about it. Here we go again.
Bill O'Reilly of FOX Noise Channel hates Media Matters. I mean, he really hates them. So much that in the past, he's compared them to the likes of Mao, Castro, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Nazis. He called them "cowards" and "people who are afraid to answer any questions," yet will not allow anyone from MMfA to come on his show to spar with him. And now, MMfA must have really pissed O'Liely off, since he has trotted out his own personal doomsday device. His own neutron bomb. Yes, in his strange personal game of "six degrees of separation," he has a chart that links MMfA to George Soros' deep pockets. With this, he grasps at all the straws he possibly can in proving that, while Soros hasn't directly given money to the group, organizations funded by Soros have themselves sent money to MMfA. Oh the horror!
Only thing is, you'll never hear about why Soros is such a bad man on the "All-Spin Zone." Oh sure, you'll hear accusations of insider trading. Or that he's some kind of radical to the left of Abbie Hoffman. Or that he was a teenage Nazi back in World War II. Or that he's some kind of Dr. Evil, set on world domination (no doubt complete with laserbeam-fitted sharks and his mysterious Alan Parsons Project). Suffice it to say, O'Reilly's gone batshit crazy.
Now, here's a guy, Soros, who's a self-made billionaire, and in turn spent a lot of money fighting communism in Eastern Europe. One would assume that would make him a virtual hero to the right-wing of America. He sounds like a Reagan Republican's dream guy. Only one problem, though - he turned on the Bush Administration. A big no-no. Even after being buddy-buddy with the Bushes in Carlyle Group. Even after Harkin Energy, which Soros was part owner of, bailed out Junior's failed oil company, Soros soured on Dubya's economic and foreign policies. The war in Iraq was the final straw. First, he ran full-page ads in major US newspapers challenging the honesty of the Bush administration's rationale for the war. He also wrote a book, The Bubble of American Supremacy, which criticized the president's foreign policy. Then he pledged to spend up to $30 million to help defeat Bush in the 2004 election, donating nearly $24 million to various political action committees and liberal think tanks. The biggest beneficiaries of Soros' generosity were Americans Coming Together ($10 million), MoveOn.org ($2.5 million) and the Center for American Progress ($3 million). It's a rather small list. And no, Media Matters was not on that list. And neither was Air America Radio. Soros basically shot his $30 million load and left. But that $30 million is why the right-wing hates him so much. Or, they're scared shitless of the guy. So much that they're making up myths about this alleged bogeyman.
Michael Savage called Soros "a totally dangerous individual" who "doesn't miss an opportunity to attack this country" and "should be stripped of his citizenship." Right-wing activist David Horowitz, backed by quite a few generous right wing benefactors himself, has made ridiculous claims about Soros' campaign donations. O'Reilly called him "the big left-wing loon who's financing all these smear sites," and added, "They ought to hang this Soros guy." When Soros recently donated $2,100 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, O'Reilly put on his tinfoil hat, oblivious to the fact that Soros once donated the same sum of money to John McCain. He really lives in fear in his belief that Soros is waging a war against him via MMfA. In short, Bill O'Reilly is one big pussy.
But enough about Soros. As I claimed last week, Soros isn't the only one doing it. On the left, there's Progressive Insurance CEO Peter Lewis and a few others. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to the other side. See, on the right, there's a whole ton of people. Some of the names I mentioned in the past, such as cult leader Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch are pretty out in the open. They invest in blatant partisan media geared toward right-wing propaganda. Richard DeVos, founder of the Amway pyramid scheme, has long been one of the biggest contributors to the Republican Party, and his kids have followed suit.
Behind the scenes, though, are a wide variety of billionaires, families, corporations and foundations throwing obscene amounts of money at political action committees, think tanks, media watchdog organizations, lobbying groups, and various propaganda outlets. Many of them stay out of the limelight. In this group, you'll find families like the Coors in Colorado, the Bradleys of Milwaukee, the Olin Foundation and others. They're still giving. But the most effective sugardaddy of them all is in Pittsburgh. The man is Richard Mellon Scaife.
Recall last week when I claimed that Moon was the top fatcat for the New Right. In terms of total spent, he likely is. But Scaife is the one who got the biggest bang for his buck. It's very likely that people like O'Reilly will never talk about right-wing moneymen like Scaife who heavily fund ventures designed to attack the left. Of course he wouldn't. Otherwise, he'll sound like a complete hypocrite. Most wingnuts will never acknowledge the efforts of the Coors, the Bradleys and the Scaifes. Even the Radio Tranquilizer has been whining that they don't have their own Soros or Lewis. Evidently, he's either not doing his homework or there are some things he just refuses to tell his readers. They're just pissy because we're now playing the game on their turf. The usual B.S. you hear is that left-leaning donors are squashing the right-wing with their spending. But that's utterly ridiculous. See, I have decided to track where all that right-wing foundation money goes, and after taking a trip down the rabbit hole, was pretty damned shocked to see where it all wound up. In fact, I struggled like crazy in making a similar chart to the simplistic one that O'Reilly's people coughed up, just because it went in so many directions. Here's a partial chart of what I came up with:
It's time to follow the money.
Now, who is Richard Mellon Scaife? He's an insanely rich man living in Pittsburgh, with interests in banking, oil, uranium and newspapers. Unlike Soros, who earned his own way from a poor immigrant, Scaife made his money the old fashioned way - he inherited it. And while Soros kept reinvesting his money to make more money, in that grand ol' American tradition, Scaife used his money to gain influence, spending roughly a third of his fortune on various right wing causes. Scaife is a man that seems to lurk in the shadows. He's a bit reclusive. He doesn't go on FOX Noise and play pundit. He doesn't write op-eds in the paper. In the grand tradition of Hearst, Hughes and others, he stays out of the limelight.
Even for a newspaper publisher, he's not very media-friendly. When former Wall Street Journal reporter Karen Rothmeyer, denied an interview on several occasions, ran into him on the street and asked him about his donations, an enraged Scaife yelled "You f*cking Communist c*nt, get out of here." In the remaining five minutes of the interview, Scaife told her she was ugly and that her teeth were "terrible." He closed by saying, "Don't look behind you." Wow, now THAT'S unhinged!
"If a liberal politician doesn't toe the Soros line, he or she will be denied funding and brutally attacked. Just ask Senator Joseph Lieberman about what MoveOn and Media Matters did to him," claimed O'Reilly. Yeah, just like Scaife did when Brock was canned for not being mean enough to Hillary Clinton and severed ties to American Spectator when they gave a bad review to a book by one of his henchmen. Pot, say hello to kettle.
Scaife is the Kevin Bacon of the New Right, in that just about anything and everything neocon seems to have connection to him, within even fewer degrees. So, how much has he forked over to prop up the right-wing? By 1999, according to the Washington Post, Scaife's foundations have forked over $340 million dollars to conservative causes and groups. Again, this is just Scaife we're talking about here. Granted, Scaife isn't forking it over like he used to, but thanks to his past efforts, the groups that he's given to are the ones now paying it forward.
To start with, Scaife made a shady donation of $990,000 to the 1972 re-election campaign of Richard Nixon. Due to loopholes, he wasn't charged with a crime, but roughly $45,000 of that went to a fund linked to the Watergate scandal. Quite a beginning there, Dick!
What really got Scaife hot though was a semi-obscure Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton. Fearing that this guy actually stood a decent chance of beating Bush I in the 1992 election, Scaife brought out all the guns. He was a major backer of The American Spectator, a right-wing magazine that was planning an all-out smear campaign now commonly referred to as "The Arkansas Project." The purpose was to find out anything about Clinton, and if that wasn't good enough, just make stuff up. This is where stuff like Paula Jones came from. And later Whitewater, the suicide of Vince Foster (which they tried to paint as a murder), and whatever else they could pull out of their asses. The purpose was to force Clinton from office and endlessly dog and harass him and his family. This was with the help of Scaife's own personal attack dog reporter, Christopher Ruddy, who later founded NewsMax.com. In other words, lots of time and effort was spent in trying to topple a presidency, an act that could theoretically be considered treason. Scaife sunk a ton of his own money into these ventures, reportedly almost $2 million dollars (not counting money he gave to then-House Speaker and Clinton antagonist Newt Gingrich's various groups), giving Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr a lot to work with. Ironically (or not), Scaife endowed a new school of public policy at Pepperdine University, and Starr was named its first dean. A controversy brewed, and Starr turned it down, before accepting it again in 2004.
Ironically, Scaife indirectly helped fund MMfA, since founder David Brock was a top writer for American Spectator at the time of the Arkansas Project, and was paid handsomely to lash out at the Clintons with various ridiculous claims. Following an eventual change of heart and his brave decision to publicly declare his sexual orientation, Brock drifted toward the other side and founded MMfA, obviously using some of the money paid to him from the Spectator's coffers. We can thank Scaife in part for that.
Like many other conservative sugardaddies, Scaife sunk money into other ventures. The American Enterprise Institute was another big benefactor, and they in turn helped prop up the epicenter of neo-conservatism, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), as well as the Federalist Society, which could be seen as the starting point for conservative trash-talker Ann Coulter. Coulter's scating columns have since been published in various Scaife media ventures.
And while O'Reilly and his ilk constantly charge that Soros funds MMfA, several conservative-leaning media watchdogs have stuck their hands in Scaife's cookie jar. Directly. The Center for Media and Public Affairs is one, and the ironically-titled Accuracy in Media is another beneficiary. You remember AIM, right? They were out front in the whole Vince Foster conspiracy. But the most well-known of these watchdogs is the Media Research Center (MRC), headed by Brent Bozell, complete with a $6 million annual budget and 60 staff members. And they've even branched out, starting their very own news organization, the Cybercast (formerly Conservative) News Service (CNS). They were the ones that claimed they had proof of Saddam Hussein's WMD's. In addition, the MRC started up a MMfA-type blog, Newsbusters.org. MRC's affiliate, the Parents Television Council (PTC), is similar in nature. The MRC has also helped encourage the efforts of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose purpose was to dog John Kerry with lies and vague accusations during the 2004 presidential campaign. And unlike MMfA, the MRC/PTC has actually taken their fight against liberalism to the government, in the form of various complaints to the FCC.
Scaife has also thrown money at right-wing news organizations. Besides his ownership of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he presently has an ownership stake in NewsMax.com. He donated to Heritage Society and Moral Majority founder Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, which in turn started an ill-fated conservative TV network, National Empowerment Television (later America's Voice), a venture that turned out to be a financial sinkhole that nobody watched. He also sent $330,000 directly to the Western Journalism Center, which helped start Joseph Farah's WorldNetDaily.com.
Scaife sent money to the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a group founded by former Marxist-turned-right wing activist David Horowitz. Horowitz in turn started FrontPageMag.com, Discover the Networks, which tracks funding to and from left-leaning causes, and most curiously, the Matt Drudge Defense Fund, which supported him in a lawsuit a few years back. Needless to say, Drudge knows who his sugardaddy is.
Lately, Scaife has been a buyer of buyer of books, in mass quantities. Ever wonder about those high rankings on the New York Times bestseller lists for conservative books? Or those conservative book clubs offering titles for ridiculously low prices? Thank Scaife for that, since he buys in bulk. Particularly titles from Regnery Press, which publishes the work of Michelle Malkin, David Limbaugh and most famously, "Unfit for Command," which helped jumpstart that "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" thing a few years back. Ah, yes - another connection to the Swift Nuts!
And Scaife also contributed money and resources to the Council for National Policy, a secretive networking group that counts among its members a who's-who of the New Right, including Bozell, Moon, DeVos, Pat Robertson, Donald Wildmon, Jerry Falwell, Grover Norquist, disgraced congressman Tom DeLay, Senator Trent Lott, Tommy Thompson and others. Whew!
Needless to say, Scaife gets around. And it's not just him either. The names of Coors and Bradley also pop up here and there. But for head marionette status, nobody can top Scaife. Sure, he didn't make much financial return on these investments, but for overall influence and power, he most certainly got his money's worth. So when people like O'Reilly piss and moan about the right wing being horribly underfunded, we can all laugh at him. Or when Brian Maloney whines on his fact-lacking blog about the lack of a Soros or Lewis on his side (that is, when he's not writing ridiculous entries about Sheryl Crow and toilet paper - which is a fitting topic for him, since he is kind of an asswipe anyway), then we can point him in the right direction and he can stop begging his readers to send him money. So consider this a helpful tool for the right. That's right, I'm providing a service here. Because, if you get all your news from Rush Limbaugh, the FOX Noise Channel and AM radio, you'll likely never know about the Coors, or the Bradleys, or the John M. Olin Foundation, or Jeremiah Milbank, or ExxonMobil, or Lockheed Martin, or any of the other 'philanthropists', foundations, corporations or other sugardaddies and fatcats.
And certainly not Richard Mellon Scaife.
In an ironic footnote, the Scaife Family Foundation is now under the control of his daughter Jennie, and the focus has changed quite a bit. Much of the money currently goes to nonpolitical projects such as medical programs, drug treatment and animal welfare. They also send money to Planned Parenthood, though against her father's wishes. Hey, at least there's still all those other donors, foundations and think tanks, provided they haven't jumped ship already. But thanks to the infrastructure provided by the likes of Scaife, they can all sail on autopilot for a long time to come.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
"Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in."