Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh philanthropist and reclusive heir to the Mellon banking fortune, whose support for right-wing causes laid the foundations for America's modern conservative movement and fueled the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, died Friday at his home in Pittsburgh. He was 82.
Scaife had announced recently in a front-page article in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a newspaper he owned, that he had an untreatable form of cancer.
Decades before David and Charles Koch bankrolled right-wing causes, Scaife and Joseph Coors, the beer magnate, were the leading financiers of the conservative crusade of the 1970s and '80s. Scaife inherited roughly $500 million in 1965 and nearly tripled his net worth over his lifetime.
Scaife rarely gave interviews or addressed the controversies that regularly engulfed him. He had a longstanding drinking problem, engaged in bitter feuds with relatives, friends and employees, and found his troubled life examined in the press and online, despite phalanxes of lawyers and spokesmen paid to insulate him from public fascination.
But in written answers to questions by The Washington Post in 1999, he said concerns for America motivated him.
"I am not a politician, although like most Americans I have some political views," he said. "Basically I am a private individual who has concerns about his country and who has resources that give me the privilege -- and responsibility -- to do something to help my country if I can."