By CRAIG McGRATH
They say trouble comes in threes. Three extremely conservative men have been barraging American viewers for years with propaganda and most people don't even know it. The conservative talking heads we constantly see hectoring us from MSNBC, Fox and the four older networks come almost invariably from a labyrinth of think tanks bought and paid for by these men and the three fortunes they represent. The players who have directed this ensemble are Richard Mellon Scaife, William E. Simon and Michael Joyce. Remember those names.
Most secretive of the group is Pittsburgh billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, at 68 a reformed alcoholic and heir to the Mellon fortune in Gulf Oil. As a much younger man, Mellon Scaife took a turn to the far right in the early 1960's when Barry Goldwater began to ratchet up his presidential ambitions. Thrown out of Yale in his freshman year after a drinking binge, Scaife returned to Pittsburgh and became known as a bully who held personal grudges. When mother Sarah Scaife died in 1965, Richard Mellon began changing the direction of his mother's foundation away from giving to the arts and population control and into the wild and woolly realms of right wing politics.
By directing the giving of the Sarah Scaife, Allegheny and Carthage foundations over a 30-year period, Scaife gave away close to $600 million in inflation-adjusted dollars to right-wing think tanks and causes, creating the infrastructure of the modern hard right in the United States. Media attack personalities like David Horowitz owe their presence on television almost exclusively to the early money provided from Scaife and the intervention of the Scaife-created Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Starting in the back bedroom of his house in California and without a staff, Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture would become a launching platform for attacks on Scaife's favorite enemies. Starting off with assaults on PBS and NPR for being anti-conservative, anti-corporate and generally too nosey, Popular Culture -- with the aid of $4 million in Scaife money -- has grown to a staff of 17 with constant forums, luncheons and conferences. From these platforms the likes of Fox Television's Bill O'Reilly hold forth with their stream of invective and meandering diatribes against Democrats, liberals, environmentalists, feminists and the allegedly left-liberal judiciary.
The bitter, manic Horowitz returns the favor by showing up as a regular attack personality on Fox's O'Reilly Factor (when he's not over at Oliver North's Equal Time) where he hawks his books Radical Son and his latest, Hating Whitey. What Horowitz never reveals are the streams of tax-exempt money that created and keep his center in business. In 1997 alone Popular Culture received over $1.2 million from the Scaife, Olin and Bradley Foundations, the core of the far right's funding apparatus for its propaganda in the US.
Another obsession for Scaife has been the life and times of William Jefferson Clinton. Clinton's opposition to the Vietnam War as a younger man was one reason Scaife, though never a member of the military himself, focused his fury on Clinton. Starting at the time of Clinton's 1993 inauguration, Scaife, through the Washington magazine, the American Spectator, financed the assault on the inviting target of Clinton's personal life. By giving millions in tax-exempt money to the American Spectator Foundation, Scaife was able not only to fund attack articles and bring Paula Jones to the American public through the writing of the Spectator's David Brock, but by 1993 also launch the Arkansas Project. The Project used Scaife money given to the Spectator to dig into Clinton's Arkansas background looking for smear material on Whitewater or any other water that could be found.
The digging and dredging quickly became something more than bottom fishing. Two northern Virginia attorneys with impeccable credentials from the Federalist Society (a conservative lawyers group also supported with Scaife grants) carried some of the Spectator money to rural Arkansas and set up operations with a bait and tackle storeowner named Parker Dozhier. Operating out of his mountain cabin, Dozhier said he received $48,000 in Scaife-Spectator funds from 1993 to 1997 to monitor the media in Arkansas and provide bios requested by the Spectator staff. Another visitor to the Dozhier shop was former Little Rock municipal judge and key government Whitewater witness, David Hale.
Dozhier was known to do strange things in his trailer out behind his mountain shack, according to Dozhier's former girl friend. On one occasion her teenage son stated that he had seen money change hands from the Virginia lawyers to Dozhier. When a reporter from the online Salon.com magazine came around following the trail of Spectator money and asked Dozhier what he made of the young man's comments, Dozhier said that the boy was "destined to be a chalk outline somewhere." The comment quickly prompted the reporter to contact the FBI regarding the teenager's safety. Dozhier admits that Hale was a visitor to his cabin, but denies giving him more than a few hundred dollars.
Simultaneously with the Scaife money appearing in Arkansas, Dozhier, it turned out, was playing his own game of spying with the media. He was trying to hawk his Arkansas Clinton stories with the media in Washington and New York by sending anonymous tip letters to reporters signed with a woman's name and directing reporters to leave classified ads in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Dozhier was said to have used surgical gloves in his letter writing operations so as not to leave fingerprints. Two reporters did respond to the ads, leaving the message: "Anne we got your message. We'd love to hear from you. Bruce and Ellen." Bruce and Ellen turned out to be Bruce Ingersoll and Ellen Pollack of the Wall Street Journal.
The Scaife penchant for covert action may stem from Richard Mellon Scaife's own connection in years past to the Central Intelligence Agency. According to an investigative story published in May 1999 in the Washington Post, Scaife, in 1968 became the head of the parent company of Forum World Features, a news service out of London that received large amounts of money and editorial direction from the CIA. The head of the Forum, Brian Crozier, a far right British journalist, said that the CIA introduced him to Scaife. The final frosting may be that according to the Post, Scaife's father, Alan Scaife, was a major in the World War II-era Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor of the CIA. Alan Scaife was a sidekick as well of Richard Helms, who would later become the director of the CIA in the 1960's.
The second player in the troika was William E. Simon, who, until his death last year, headed the John M. Olin Foundation for over two decades. While Mellon Scaife shunned the limelight, William E. Simon was a man always looking for an angle. Described by the Hackensack Daily Record as a "C student" at Lafayette College in Easton, Penn., Simon was the co-creator -- with a handful of other Wall Street insiders -- of the leveraged buyout schemes launched in the early 1980s. The LBOs laid off thousands of workers, sold off whole companies and made a fortune for the initial investors. In one deal alone in 1982 Simon made a reputed $66 million from an investment of $330,000 with the takeover of the Gibson Greeting Card Company.
Simon, a former Wall Street bond trader who had been tapped by Richard Nixon to be secretary of the Treasury and energy czar during the final Watergate days, was left out in the cold with the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976. So in 1977 he landed the presidency of the John M. Olin Foundation -- representing the fortune and namesake of an elderly chemist from St. Louis. The Olin fortune, made in the chemical, ammunition and weapons business, was put under the proper leadership to direct its funding in more focused ways. The combative Simon was known to be a man of action and few words. Olin Foundation money was small by most standards in those days, but that did not deter the true believer Simon. He stayed coolly busy waiting and writing a broadside book, A Time for Truth, published by Reader's Digest. In 1978 Simon co-founded the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing New York think tank with corporate raider T. Boone Pickens and former OSS operative and soon to be CIA Director, William Casey.
In 1981, at the direction of Simon, Olin Foundation executive director Michael Joyce recruited Hilton Kramer, critic of all things modern and liberal, to start a culture magazine, The New Criterion. With Olin's direction and connections, and with access to the money of Richard Mellon Scaife, a first year budget of $450,000 was raised. Simon promised an additional $100,000 of Olin money for each of the second and third years.
When John M. Olin died in 1982, the endowment of the Olin Foundation soared and Simon began major funding of academics and think tanks around the country. Among his pupils would be Dinesh D'Souza who had made a name for himself as a student editor at Dartmouth with an offensive parody of African-American students. Quickly acquired to the Olin roster was defeated Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, an eventual book author and critic of America's cultural demise due to the changes wrought by the 1960s. By the early 1990s Simon had acquired public education privatizer William Bennett. Bennett would be supported with annual $125,000 grants from Olin making him a culture critic at the Heritage Foundation when he was not busy sitting on the board of Mellon Scaife's Sarah Scaife Foundation in Pittsburgh.
Another Washington, D.C., insider financed with Simon-Olin money was George W. Bush's first Labor nominee, Linda Chavez. Starting in the early 1990's, Olin gave grants averaging $150,000 annually to her small think tank, the Center for Equal Opportunity. During the eight long years the Republicans were out of the White House Chavez was groomed for power. She was a personal friend of Dick Cheney and a constant attack dog in the media on domestic issues. Her comments in December 1993 regarding the illegal alien problem of Clinton Attorney General nominee Zoe Baird, however, would be her eventual undoing. Among the other voices Olin supported was supply side economist Walter Williams, now a constant commentator in numerous venues. His reward from the Olin Foundation is an annual $100,000 grant in apparent perpetuity to teach law and economics at George Mason University across the Potomac.
Indeed Simon's clout in the 1990s became so total that numerous professorships and fellowships named for John M. Olin and paid for by the Foundation proliferated across the land. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, University of Chicago, USC, University of Rochester and a dozen other colleges and universities are now richly endowed by Olin money. To no one's surprise Dinesh D'Souza has for years received an annual Olin stipend of $125,000 to study and write books at the American Enterprise Institute in downtown Washington. Additional Olin support of $25,000 helped him publish and PR books like Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader. And of course there's the annual $150,000 grant that goes to put on Ben Wattenburg's Think Tank program on PBS. This platform regularly gives space to the talking heads of Olin.
Simon's strategic giving also paid off handsomely for the Olin Inc. parent business after the Gulf War. When a Harvard public health specialist wrote an editorial in the New York Times about the dangers of US depleted uranium ammunition left over from the war, he was savaged in a letter to the Times by one Russell Seitz of the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University. Not only does the Olin Foundation pay annually for the existence of this institute; the Olin Company at the time was the sole manufacturer of depleted uranium anti-tank ammunition bought by the US military.
In the last month, with the breaking story of cancers in European soldiers possibly caused by exposure to depleted uranium ammunition in Kosovo and Bosnia, the spinners were again in motion in the American media. Dr. Charles Phelps, the provost of the University of Rochester, assured the Times that it was impossible for soldiers to get cancer from depleted uranium. What was not generally known was that the Olin Foundation has given millions of dollars to endow the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration at Rochester. Simon, with Olin money, had been deeply involved in the funding of the Business School named for him.
While alive, Simon's mania and mission had been to ideologically cleanse American politics and media of the ìliberal stainî and eliminate the questioning of corporate prerogatives. Simultaneously with the beginning of this political agenda Simon, back in the 1980s, launched his own corporate raiding mission. With accountant Raymond Chambers, Simon, beginning in 1980, put together the investment firm Wesray Inc. of Morristown, N.J. Simon's early schemes were simple. He would go to Wall Street financial houses with a plan to buy out companies with money borrowed against the assets (read equipment, pension funds, worker's jobs) of the target company -- then pay off the debt to Wall Street by downsizing and selling off the assets to the highest bidder. Some companies would be taken public -- at enormous profit for those who bought in early and had access on Wall Street.
By the late 1980s Simon had run his LBOs on over 20 companies and in the process made himself a member of the Forbes 400, one of the richest people in America and worth over $300 million. This was a long march for the man who had complained that his net worth had dwindled while he was working for Nixon to a mere $2.5 million. In the LBO process, companies like Anchor Glass and the Simplicity Pattern Company were reduced to rubble.
But Simon wasn't through. Known as a man who was ill tempered (he once called the president of Dartmouth a "wimp"), the pugilistic mogul enjoyed comparing himself in those days to the financial samurai of James Clavell's novel Noble House. Apparently bored with the action in the leverage buyout market, Simon began acquiring savings and loans in the late 1980s at fire sale prices with the assistance of the US government. By 1993 these investments, through speculation and poor management, had largely blown up in the "C student's" face. Regulators seized the largest S&L in Simon's chain, Western Federal Savings. The majority of other Simon S&L investments ran huge losses.
The final member of our troika of Godfathers of the right is Michael Joyce, once described to me as a "sourpuss of the old school" by the director of a non-profit that was under media attack by Joyce. Joyce is the president of the Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee -- a virtual aircraft carrier of ultra-right money with a history rooted in the John Birch Society. Joyce was the guy sent out from the Olin Foundation by William E. Simon to get Hilton Kramer away from the New York Times and into the scheme to launch the New Criterion with Olin/Scaife money, as part of the early psychological warfare operation against the American Left. Joyce had been a Cleveland schoolteacher who had gone apoplectic over people with long hair protesting the war in Vietnam in the early 1970s. Working his way to New York, he was brought under the wing of cultural Cold Warrior Irving Kristol and into the conservative philanthropy movement. From there it was a short leap and a recommendation to Kristol's buddy William E. Simon over at the Olin Foundation.
Joyce has been described as the banker of the right because in most years he doles out even more money -- $25 million to $30 million -- than the Scaife or Olin operations. In the realm of ideological-psychological warfare born-again Joyce probably has no equal for devotion to duty and single-mindedness. He has bragged of his "wine collection" of "fellows" and authors that Bradley money has nourished through grant fellowships and support of books and studies. Among the new anointed is the clean and mean tough girl Ann Coulter, formerly of the Center for Individual Rights; an outfit known for its "selective civil rights." She's not much interested in voting rights or hate crimes, but has plenty of interest in spiking environmental, workplace safety and labor laws. One wonders what she has to beef about. Coulter comes from Fairfield County, Conn., one of the richest places in America and is the daughter of a union-busting attorney. Michael Joyce has given Individual Rights over $500,000 in Bradley money during the last few years.
Others touched by the banker include regulars like Dinesh D'Souza, David Horowitz and Wisconsin radio crank Charlie Sykes, who had his own institute created for him by Joyce's Bradley money. And let's not forget the next generation. By most estimates upwards of a thousand students over the last 15 years have benefited from being in the cellar of this wine collection. Grants from Bradley helped many up and coming right kids complete graduate school or push their book, research or media projects.
It's little wonder. Harry Bradley, one of the two men the foundation is named after, was a prominent member of the John Birch Society. Harry Bradley died in 1965 and the foundation continued as a back-of-the-pocket operation until 1985 when Allen-Bradley, the parent company and a defense contractor, was bought out by the defense behemoth Rockwell International. As part of the deal, $290 million was funneled into the coffers of the Foundation and overnight it became the bank of choice for the right wing. That same year Michael Joyce was hired away from Simon at the Olin Foundation to head up the new and improved Bradley Foundation.
Joyce's thinking, like that of former mentor Simon, has been long-term and strategic. He looks at the big political picture and does not take defeat lying down. After the vanquishing of George Bush in 1992 and with the Democrats still in control of the Congress, Joyce assembled a meeting of what would become a kind of general staff to execute the conservative return to power.
In February 1993, a few weeks after Bill Clinton took office, a small private gathering of the right wing, "an off the record seminar," was held at the Bradley Foundation's headquarters in Milwaukee. This small committee would be the attack staff for a new conservative tide designed to abrogate the result of the 1992 election. Among those in attendance were William Kristol, Dan Quayle's former chief of staff and son of right icons Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb; Spencer Abraham, also from Quayle's staff and the National Republican Congressional Committee; Stuart Butler, domestic and economic talking head from the Heritage Foundation on Capitol Hill; Charles Murray, an academic and author long supported with massive amounts of Bradley money; author Peter Collier, a director of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles and Terry Eastland, a former Reagan Justice Department official and board member of the far right American Spectator magazine. Wall Street Journal editorial page columnist Paul Gigot and Robert Woodson, another Reagan Administration sub-cabinet official and harsh critic of federal spending for the poor, rounded out the group.
With Joyce's blessing the Bradley Project for the '90s was kicked off by this small group of conservative ideological spindoctors and street fighters. A number of the people who attended that meeting would, over the next few years, become major players in sabotaging health care reform, demonizing the poor, spinning the right's stories and providing the propaganda support for the right's gains of 1994.
Abraham would win a US Senate seat from Michigan in the Republican landslide of 1994 and is now Bush's secretary of energy. Charles Murray's racially incendiary book, The Bell Curve, which implied that African-Americans were genetically inferior, would be funded with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from the Bradley Foundation while Murray was at the Manhattan Institute, even after other conservative funders had cut Murray off for being too extreme. The book, along with Murray's earlier book, Losing Ground, would become the bibles for ending welfare for the poor by the congressional right and receive wide media and think tank attention.
By 1996 William Kristol would become a regular Sunday morning spinner on ABC's This Week with David Brinkley; and though ousted there in 1999, he quickly landed on his feet at Fox News where old buddy and Bush Sr. campaign manager Roger Ailes was president. Kristol would also become founding editor of the Weekly Standard, a new right attack magazine based in Washington and started with large sums from Fox Television owner Rupert Murdoch. Peter Collier, together with fellow CSPC Director David Horowitz, would launch an effective crusade against public broadcasting with the help of massive grants from Richard Mellon Scaife and Michael Joyce. With the arrival of a cooperative Republican Congress starting in 1995, the Collier-Horowitz-Scaife-Bradley alliance would see that PBS's funding was cut, forcing PBS to rely increasingly on private funding and large corporate donors. Through the 1990s the Bradley Foundation would continue to provide annual grants to Popular Culture in the half million-dollar range.
Bradley '90's Project thinker Terry Eastland would become publisher of the American Spectator magazine in 1998. The Spectator, financed with Bradley and Scaife money and long a favorite of Clinton murder conspiracy and drug conspiracy theorists, would break the Paula Jones story later in 1993 and provide an endless stream of invective that kept the early Clinton White House off balance and on the defensive. The Jones' civil law suit would eventually require depositions by Bill Clinton including questions about Monica Lewinsky that became ammunition for impeachment proceedings. And finally there was Paul Gigot, who, after the departure of David Gergen for the Clinton White House, would assume the role of weekly conservative commentator on the PBS News Hour.
The power and the clout of this group of people would be enormous in first defining Bill Clinton and Democratic policies to the American people and eventually setting up a conservatively correct agenda for the country. All these men would play key roles in bringing an agenda of social program bashing and schemes to privatize government into the mainstream media as a way to make these previously fringe ideas acceptable public policy. Not a bad deal for three supposedly non-partisan, tax-exempt charitable foundations with no political agenda.
Starting from the credentials provided by the three fortunes, these and other similarly funded propaganda warriors have become the oracles of a cult of the marketplace and a new intolerance. Only the messages of the right business community are acceptable in this worldview. Accordingly, government programs, other than military programs, are wasteful and must be done away with through privatization.
There is little to stand in the way of this well-financed, nuanced and powerful machine. The liberal agenda is not in play and Bill Clinton, through his years, liked to split the difference with the congressional mouthpieces of the troika. There is no force, political or otherwise, to compete with this alliance; and indeed this labyrinth can advertise itself as a beacon of tolerance. It includes after all former leftists like Horowitz who have had "second thoughts" -- a psychological warfare tag transferred from the US State Department and Cold War intelligence operations of the 1950s.
The troika dances in the darkness of paranoia, and, turning reality on its head, portrays the prevailing values of the right as besieged by the brutal anti-Western winds of multiculturalism and inclusion that have mysteriously become honeycombed throughout culture, government and media, subverting the world of traditional "family values" America.
Craig McGrath is a journalist who divides his time between Chicago and Washington, D.C. Figures used in this article are from the annual reports of the Olin, Bradley and Scaife Foundations.