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Correction to This Article
A photo illustration on the front page of the Oct. 22 Style section contained a picture of Margaret "Ritchie" Scaife and Richard Mellon Scaife that should have been credited to Bill Wade of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Low Road to Splitsville

Right-Wing Publisher's Breakup Is Super-Rich In Tawdry Details

VIDEO | Touring the Scaife Scandal
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By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 22, 2007


This Story

Looking for a perfect little weekend vacation this fall? Here's a travel tip you don't hear very often: Head to Pittsburgh. Right away.

Seriously, get in the car and read this story later, because when you're done reading, you'll wish you'd left 10 minutes ago. There are towns with better vistas, sure, and there are getaways with more sunshine. But only Pittsburgh is the scene of the fabulously tawdry and surpassingly vicious spectacle that is the divorce of Richard Mellon Scaife.

Remember him? The cantankerous, reclusive 75-year-old billionaire who's spent a sizable chunk of his inherited fortune bankrolling conservative causes and trying to kneecap Democrats? He's best known for funding efforts to smear then-President Bill Clinton, but more quietly he's given in excess of $300 million to right-leaning activists, watchdogs and think tanks. Atop his list of favorite donees: the family-values-focused Heritage Foundation, which has published papers with titles such as "Restoring a Culture of Marriage."

The culture of his own marriage is apparently past restoring. With the legal fight still in the weigh-in phase, the story of Scaife v. Scaife already includes a dog-snatching, an assault, a night in jail and that divorce court perennial, allegations of adultery.

Oh, and there's the money. Three words, people.

No. Pre. Nup.

Unfathomable but true, when Scaife (rhymes with safe) married his second wife, Margaret "Ritchie" Scaife, in 1991, he neglected to wall off a fortune that Forbes recently valued at $1.3 billion. This, to understate matters, is likely going to cost him, big time. As part of a temporary settlement, 60-year-old Ritchie Scaife is currently cashing an alimony check that at first glance will look like a typo: $725,000 a month. Or about $24,000 a day, seven days a week. As Richard Scaife's exasperated lawyers put it in a filing, "The temporary order produces an amount so large that just the income from it, invested at 5 percent, is greater each year than the salary of the President of the United States."

The numbers are just one of many we-kid-you-not dimensions to this tale. In late 2005, Ritchie Scaife peered through a window at one of her husband's many homes and saw him with one Tammy Sue Vasco, a woman whose colorful criminal history includes an arrest for prostitution. And this tryst was no one-afternoon stand. Ritchie Scaife describes Vasco in court filings as her husband's "mistress."

It gets better. But to fully appreciate this mesmerizing debacle, one must study it up close, for its many strategic blunders and its moments of epic brutality -- like a visit to Gettysburg, minus the gravitas. The good news, weekend travelers, is you can get close enough to most of the landmarks to gawk to your heart's content.

So buy a map and pack a lunch. And keep your hands inside the car.

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