Cordelia Scaife May/Colcom and Scaife Foundations

Financial Contributions to anti-immigration causes made by Colcom, Sarah Scaife, Scaife Family and the Carthage foundations 2006-2017




A number of foundations connected to the Scaife Family, including the Colcom Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, are major contributors to the anti-immigrant lobby in the U.S., with the Pittsburgh-based Colcom Foundation being the largest single funder. Between 2006 and 2016, Colcom donated over $120 million to anti-immigrant groups. Between 2006 and 2017, the Sarah Scaife Foundation donated almost $4 million to these groups. Between 2006 and 2017, the Scaife Family Foundation donated over $2.2 million to anti-immigrant groups. Between 2006 and 2014, the Carthage Foundation donated over $1.3 million to anti-immigrant groups.

The Colcom, Sarah Scaife, Scaife Family, and Carthage Foundations were founded, funded, and run by the late Richard Mellon Scaife, his sister Cordelia Scaife May, and their family members. The Scaife Family Foundation is based in West Palm Beach, Florida, and the other foundations are all based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Scaife and May were the heir and heiress to their parents’ Mellon banking, oil, and aluminum fortune. In 2014, The Carthage Foundation merged with the Sarah Scaife Foundation. Cordelia Scaife May used her fortune to advance causes she personally cared about, specifically the environment, population control, and immigration restriction. She left more than $400 million to her Foundation to promote “sustainable” immigration that wouldn’t “overwhelm the environment.”

Founded in 1996 by May, the Colcom Foundation is the largest funder of anti-immigrant groups in the U.S. John Tanton was a friend of May, whose Colcom Foundation says it wants to roll back America’s “ever-increasing population,” provided the financial backing for eugenics-proponent Tanton to build a comprehensive network of anti-immigrant groups aimed at preventing as much immigration to the U.S. as possible and preventing future entries.

May, who thought that the U.S. was “being invaded on all fronts,” by immigrants who “breed like hamsters,” bonded with Tanton in the 1970s over their passion for population control, and credited Tanton for helping her “realize she could take a stand for her beliefs.” Like Tanton, May’s obsession with population control was largely motivated by race, and once stated that “the unwanted child is not the problem, but rather, the wanted one that society, for diverse cultural reasons, demands.”  Before May died, Colcom gave more than $200,000 to the white supremacist writer Samuel Francis, who opposed halting “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.” Further, Colcom provided funding to VDARE, a website that publishes white nationalist and anti-Semitic content.

Leaders at the organizations May helped to build have failed to distance themselves from May’s extremist views, and have noted the role she played in building the groups they now lead. President of FAIR Dan Stein has said that May was of “enormous foresight and wisdom” and that she and others who helped create FAIR “would be gratified over the fact that we’ve seen these ideas championed at the highest level.” Roy Beck, president of the anti-immigrant grassroots organization NumbersUSA, said of the Colcom foundation, “without them, it would be a very different situation… We’d be functioning at a very different level.” Mark Krikorian, executive director of Tanton’s think thank, CIS, has stated that May was their biggest funder, and that she came to the issue “from the concern about population growth.” Colcom’s current vice president of philanthropy, John Rohe, formerly served on the board of Tanton’s U.S. Inc, wrote a biography of Tanton and his wife, Mary Lou & John Tanton: A Journey into American Conservation, in 2002.

Today, the anti-immigrant network has unprecedented power and influence over immigration policy in the United States; the draconian policies championed by the organizations May kickstarted are being proposed and implemented by the Trump Administration. Unsurprisingly, Colcom has increased their funding to Tanton’s organizations during this time, as reported by the Post Gazette in July 2019. Following a New York Times investigation and front page article which revealed May’s powerful role in funding the anti-immigrant movement, Tiedemann Advisors, the foundation’s wealth management firm, dropped the Colcom Foundation as a client upon learning of their grant making priorities. In a statement to City Paper, the spokesperson of the firm, Julie Dunnington said, “Tiedemann does not work with Colcom currently. Tiedemann previously served as an investment consultant with no role, input or knowledge of their grant making priorities. Upon learning, we resigned the client. Several of their policies are inconsistent with our views on diversity, equity and inclusion.”