Sunday :: Jul 30, 2006

Doin' What He Say - Not What He Do

by pessimist

Richard Mellon Scaife likes to proclaim that he supports family values, and he wants to appear to be putting his money where his big mouth is:

Run by billionaire Richard Scaife's daughter, Jennie Scaife, the Scaife Family Foundation awards grants to a variety of 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." [Finances: $91.2 million (Assets), $4.1 million (2001 donations)]

Scaife money backs organizations, newspapers, television shows, and pundits that promote "traditional family values."

Scaife denies being part of the Christian right, but their agendas are comparable. Scaife's three foundations have for years supported The Heritage Foundation, Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, and other right-wing organizations whose writings and web-sites reflect the views of Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition.

The Independent Women's Forum (IWF), self-described as an organization "taking on the old feminist establishment", received $350,000 from Scaife foundations between 1994 and 1996.

IWF champions reformation of sexual harassment laws
to put the burden on women plaintiffs to prove 'tangible harm',
and to bar prior instances of harassment as evidence.

One has to wonder just how serious Scaife is about struttin' his big stutterin':

Billionaire Right-Winger Who Led Clinton Impeachment Having Serious Marital Problems...
Lloyd Grove The New York Daily News
April 11, 2006

Billionaire right-wing godfather Richard Mellon Scaife - who famously funded an investigation of Bill Clinton's sex life that resulted in a presidential impeachment - is having female troubles of his own. Police responded to a call last week when Scaife's estranged and apparently enraged second wife, Margaret (Ritchie) Scaife, arrived at his estate in Pittsburgh. She allegedly assaulted his housekeeper, his security chief and his cancer-ridden secretary while a cook fended off her violent attempt to take the family dog.

She sounds like she's just a little upset! This must be why Scaife had his divorce proceedings - normally a matter of public record - hidden away:

Private Dick

Richard Mellon Scaife's divorce could be one of the 'nastiest divorces in American history'... But you're not likely to hear much about the legal proceedings in the Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - or anywhere else.
Family Court Judge Alan Hertzberg ordered the case and all of its potentially revealing filings sealed.

Where there's smoke, ...

... there's something ignited:

Support and divorce proceedings in Pennsylvania are typically public records, open to anyone's perusal

But the books have been closed for Scaife, the world's 645th richest man, according to Forbes magazine. A CP search of nearly 5,500 family court cases available through the Allegheny County Prothonotary's Office Web site - from support cases to protection from abuse orders to divorces - showed just one sealed case this year: Scaife's.

His first divorce, in the late 1980s, was similarly sealed.
Albert Momjian, a high-profile Philadelphia family attorney and member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, says there's a simple reason Scaife is able to escape public scrutiny: money.
Scaife is worth $1.2 billion.
"I don't think, just because someone is a person of wealth and power, that they should be able to seal their proceedings," Momjian says. "As a matter of law, it makes me really uneasy when someone is able to have rights and privileges that wouldn't be extended to the average person off the street."

"It's no secret that, generally speaking, this is a courtesy most often extended to people of influence," agrees Paul McMasters, First Amendment Ombudsman for the non-partisan Freedom Forum, a Virginia-based foundation focused on free-press issues.

"One would generally expect people in the news business
to be more understanding of the needs of public records
to be as open as possible,"
McMasters says.

Scaife certainly felt that way about exposing legal proceedings of another wealthy Pennsylvanian:

[D]uring the 2004 presidential election, the [Scaife-owned] Tribune-Review was one of several newspapers that went to court demanding that the will of the late Sen. John Heinz be unsealed for the world to see. Heinz's widow, Teresa Heinz, is then-Democratic candidate John Kerry's wife.

[A] Trib article that summer quoted its own attorney, Ron Barber of Strassburger, McKenna, Gutnick & Potter, celebrating, "The fact that that door [of the Register of Wills office] is open to the public is one of the things that makes us different from the rest of the world. [T]oday that door was open to the public once again."

The content of the documents, he added,
wasn't the most important factor at issue:
It was the principle that most counted.
In an Aug. 19, 2004 editorial explaining its the effort to unseal the Heinz will in the name of 'transparency of candidacy', the Trib wrote: "All documents related to the late senator's estate were sealed the day after his death. No reason was given. Probate records are public documents."

So are family court records, usually.

This is why court proceedings are public record:

In U.S. courts, the law is based on the "concept of precedent, so it's important for cases to be published and to be available to allow the law to develop," says Brian Vertz, a partner with the Downtown law firm of Pollock, Begg, Komar and Glasser, and a member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. In fact, Vertz says that since he began practicing in 1992, he has never dealt with a case that resulted in sealed records.

Requests for sealing records haven't worked for other celebrities:

Momjian recalled representing CNN talk-show host Larry King in a Philadelphia divorce and causing a stir when he and King's wife asked for a sealed proceeding. "There were 18 reporters there to cover this," Momjian said. "When the judge asked them why they were there, they simply said it's an open courtroom." The judge kept the proceeding open.

Just because one is wealthy shouldn't justify special treatment under the law:

"Why should the rules be different just because someone has a billion dollars?" Momjian says. "If the law makes a bus driver reveal his income sources in a public record, then it should make Richard Scaife or anyone else do it too."

Fear not, Enquirer fans! Your 'enquiring minds' will soon know:

Some information may indeed come out in the days ahead. Just prior to CP's deadline, Ritchie Scaife's attorney, Bill Pietragallo, filed a pleading seeking hundreds of Ritchie Scaife's personal items, items he contends are in the possession of her husband. This action is not sealed, Pietragallo says, because it is a separate case filed outside of family court and will be assigned to another judge.

Remember - The content of the documents isn't the most important factor at issue: It's the principle that counts most.

That's why when a self-appointed arbiter of public morality, an espouser of 'family values' falls afoul of his personal standards and is sued by his spouse, we the public have a right to know.

Only then can we be sure that the Pharisee who chides us for behaviors he considers unchaste is himself truly pious.

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