Pittsburgh Foundation Funded Hate Groups

A recent story by veteran reporter Dennis Roddy at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette uncovered something odd: a major Pittsburgh foundation that has long supported prominent white nationalist and anti-immigrant haters has also given money to the welcoming committee for the September G-20 summit to be held in Pittsburgh. Supporting the summit, a gathering of finance ministers from 20 countries including Mexico, seemed an odd move for a foundation that also backs groups who claim Latinos are invading the U.S. when they come looking for work.

Roddy’s article showed how the Colcom Foundation, founded by Cordelia Scaife May, a now-deceased heir to the Mellon banking fortune, had given money to extremists such as Samuel Francis, a white nationalist who edited a newsletter for the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a group that has advocated racial separation and believes blacks to be a “retrograde species of humanity.” The foundation started by May, who died in 2005, also donated massive amounts of money over several decades to the various anti-immigrant institutions created by John Tanton, a retired Michigan ophthalmologist who is the orchestrator of the modern nativist movement. Two Tanton-linked organizations listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups — the Social Contract Press and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) — are among those that received funds in the past from Colcom.

Roddy’s article exposed something else of interest: that Colcom’s vice president for philanthropy is John Rohe. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Rohe was Tanton’s right-hand man at his foundation, U.S., Inc., which runs The Social Contract Press, serving for years on its board and as CEO in the mid-2000s. Rohe also wrote an over-the-top biography of Tanton and his wife, Mary Lou and John Tanton: A Journey into American Conservation, that depicts them as saints.

Seeing Rohe at Colcom perhaps should not be surprising. Tanton had long been close to May, whom he affectionately called "Cordy" in his personal correspondence. Tanton shared many of his extremist beliefs with May, sending her, for example, anti-Semitic material by Kevin MacDonald in 1998, so that she would gain “a new understanding of the Jewish outlook on life, which explains a large part of the Jewish opposition to immigration reform.” They would talk strategy, with Tanton once explaining in a letter that “for credibility” he had decided to separate the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) from FAIR in 1986 so it would appear independent.

When asked about the foundation’s donations over the years to hate groups such as FAIR, Rohe told Roddy, “Let’s agree up front that acts of racism and race-based decisions should not be tolerated. Never. Period.” But Rohe’s strong denunciation of racism seems contradicted by his prominent role at U.S., Inc. The foundation’s journal, The Social Contract, regularly published racists and racist materials, and its editor, who worked for Rohe, was Wayne Lutton, who has been on the board of more than one white nationalist outfit and has been published by the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review. To cite just one example of The Social Contract’s racism, in 1998, while Rohe was on the board overseeing it, it ran a lead article headlined “Europhobia: The Hostility Toward European-Descended Americans” that argued that multiculturalism was replacing “successful Euro-American culture” with “dysfunctional Third World cultures.”

Also problematic for Rohe’s anti-racism statement is that Tanton was so steeped in white nationalist ideas during the time Rohe worked for him. Using Tanton’s personal correspondence lodged at the University of Michigan, Hatewatch published a detailed report of Tanton’s decades-long history of extremism. No mention was made by Rohe of any of this in his Tanton hagiography.

Rohe did not respond to e-mails for comment about his recent statement or his relationship to Tanton and other Tanton-founded and funded groups. Another Scaife-funded entity did react angrily to Roddy’s article. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review, owned by Cordelia May’s brother Richard Mellon Scaife, published an editorial calling Roddy’s article “a screed” and complaining that “it shamelessly smear[ed] the name of a dead woman” and was motivated by Post-Gazette editor John Robinson Block’s “blind hatred.” The Tribune Review editorial defended the foundation’s donations to anti-immigrant hate groups as supporting “efforts to bring some kind of sanity to this nation's badly broken immigration system.”