The Scaife Foundations consist of the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, the Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation. All four have been heavily involved in financing right-wing causes under the direction of reclusive billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, whose wealth was inherited from the Mellon industrial, oil, and banking fortune.
The Foundation commenced funding conservative "causes" in 1973 when Richard Mellon Scaife became the foundation's chairman. During the 1960s, Richard inherited an estimated $200 million from his mother, Sarah. His net personal worth was estimated at $800 million by Forbes magazine, which would make Richard the 38th richest person in the United States. Richard controls the Scaife, Carthage, and Alleghany foundations. In 1993 alone, the Scaife and Carthage foundations donated more than $17.6 million to conservative think tanks.
Some years ago, the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation was estimated to be worth $200 million. Since Richard took charge of the foundation in 1973, it began to finance "New Right" causes.
Although Scaife has dedicated vast sums of money to influencing the way the public thinks, he prefers to operate behind the scenes, granting few interviews. When former Wall Street Journal reporter Karen Rothmyer attempted to interview him in 1981, he responded by calling her a “fucking Communist cunt” and telling her to “get out of here.”
Between 1985 and 2001, the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation donated $15,860,000 to the Heritage Foundation; $7,333,000 to the Institute for Policy Analysis; $6,995,500 to the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace; $6,693,000 to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); $4,411,000 to the American Enterprise Institute; $2,575,000 to the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research; $1,855,000 to the George C. Marshall Institute; $1,808,000 to the Hudson Institute; and $1,697,000 to the Cato Institute.
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.
Recently, however, the Scaife Family Foundation came under the control of Scaife's daughter Jennie and has changed focus. It continues to give some money to conservative causes, but most of its funding now goes to nonpolitical projects such as medical programs, treatment for substance abuse (a problem for several family members) and animal welfare. Jennie Scaife said that her father doesn't support her spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Planned Parenthood, which supports abortion rights. However, the Charlotte Observer reported in July 2003 that Scaife donated money to Children Requiring A Caring Community, which pays poor women, especially those addicted to drugs, either to be sterilized or to undergo long-term birth control. 
By 1999, the Washington Post reported that the Scaife’s foundations had given $340 million to conservative causes and institutions. By 2002, they held more than $320 million in assets, and in that year alone they gave away more than $22 million. Grant recipients included:
- American Civil Rights Union
- American Enterprise Institute
- American Legislative Exchange Council
- Americans for Tax Reform
- Atlas Economic Research Foundation
- Capital Research Center
- Cato Institute
- Center for Media and Public Affairs
- Center for the Study of Popular Culture
- Citizens for a Sound Economy
- Collegiate Network
- Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
- Competitive Enterprise Institute
- Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy
- Free Congress Research and Education Foundation
- George C. Marshall Institute
- Heritage Foundation
- Hudson Institute
- Independent Women's Forum
- Intercollegiate Studies Institute
- Judicial Watch
- Landmark Legal Foundation
- Media Research Center
- Philanthropy Roundtable
- Reason Foundation
- University of Chicago
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- Media Transparency: Scaife Foundations.
- 1998 Salon article on Scaife.
- Scaife Probing Death of Activist Who Criticized Government, Vatican Involvement, American Atheists' Flashline, web posted March 8, 1999.
- "Scaife - Funding Father of the Right," Washington Post special report, May 2-3, 1999.
- Robert G. Kaiser, Money, Family Name Shaped Scaife, The Washington Post, May 3, 1999.
- Jamie Doward, "US millionaire bankrolls crusade against gay Anglican priests," The Observer (UK), October 12, 2003, mentions the role of Scaife as well as Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr..