Questions Remain in Apparent Suicide

                                                                                                            by   Michael Hammerschlag



 In a new twist in the Clinton scandal, Steve Kangas, 37, - former Army intelligence specialist (Berlin + Central America Soviet eavesdropper/analyst) and proprietor of a comprehensive liberal Internet site: "Liberalism Resurgent"  ( ) was found shot to death, victim of an apparent suicide, on the 39th Fl. outside Pittsburgh offices of philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife Feb 8 - the billionaire who has given millions to right wing groups  trying to destroy President Clinton, including the Heritage Foundation, Landmark Foundation,  Free Congress Foun.,  + Western Journalism Cen.


Kangas was found in the men’s room; according to police + ambulance EMT's, shot in the left side of the head, though the coroner only reports a wound in the roof of the mouth and no exit wound. A building engineer, Don Adams, allegedly found Kangas, who was legally drunk (.14 blood alcohol), sprawled on the floor face up uninjured in the 39th Fl. bathroom at 11:30 PM and asked him if he needed help, when he returned a few minutes later, Kangas was sitting slumped on a toilet with a gunshot wound to the head and a pistol  below his left hand. Paramedics declared him dead at 11:53 PM. According to Allegheny Co. forensic pathologist Abdulrezak Shakir, who performed the autopsy, "It looks like a suicide", although sensitive neutron activation tests for powder residue on Kangas’s hands "were inconclusive", no higher than ambient levels. "If it is negative, it doesn’t mean anything.... there are guns where you don’t see much residue coming out the back," explained Shakir. King County (Seattle) forensic pathologist Donald Ray confirms that: "It depends on how the body is handled, .. bringing the body in- if the hands are bagged. There was a study in Dallas (with) revolvers and semi-automatics:  only about 50% of the time you get powder residue on the hands after someone has fired the weapon”. Ballistics matched the fatal bullet to Kangas’s gun, a 9mm Kel-tec semi-automatic, which he'd purchased + registered Jan 26 before leaving Las Vegas. Because of post-mortem rigidity, the mouth wasn’t opened to check for powder burns, a mistake, Ray says. Kangas’s "right upper frontal tooth was broken", but Shakir doesn’t see that as damning, "If you try to open a mouth + put in a gun... you will see more external trauma... The only way they can do it is if there are 3 or 4 more powerful (guys)... and any adult... will try to defend himself." A former Iraqi, Mr. Shakir may know whereof he speaks, although in my experience, guns induce instant obedience. An 11 year veteran of the coroner’s office, Mr. Shakir and his 2 colleagues perform about 1000 autopsies a year.


Arguably, Scaife was more than anyone responsible for Clinton's Impeachment and has operated with shadowy impunity; because of his immense wealth, charity donations, and control of Pittsburgh Tribune/Review  (a main newspaper) and DC based American Spectator, which broke the Paula Jones story. The groundbreaking Washington Post May 2-3 opus quotes Scaife saying to a Nantucket group including Democrats in ‘94 that: “We’re going to get Bill Clinton. And you’ll be much happier because Al Gore is going to be President”. When the publisher and editor protested The American Spectator's single-minded crusade against Clinton in '97, they were sacked, reportedly on Scaife's instigation. According to Wash. Monthly, "Scaife’s reputation for reclusiveness is surpassed only by his reputation for vindictiveness": he is quick to sue and use private detectives against critics (as he is on Kangas), and he carries obsessive grudges for years. The Westmoreland vs CBS suit was funded by Scaife. A March Tribune  editorial virulently attacks the Post/Gazette’s editor and reporter Dennis Roddy (who previously had worked for Scaife) for publishing the story, as well as personally smearing Kangas: "they hate his (Scaife’s) politics, and because most of all, they are haters and that is their nature". Kangas was "a sad loser, drowning in his own political paranoia".  Pittsburgh City Paper Mng Editor Chris Potter derides Scaife’s tactics: “Dick Scaife + the Trib pretend that they’re the victims and then his paper is doing this sleazy crap where they write ‘Dennis Roddy is a big jerk and his wife is ugly’. Everybody here just sort of rolls their eyes at Dick Scaife”. According to Roddy, Scaife is a difficult subject because “nobody is willing to go on the record about him”.


Scaife’s private detective, Rex Armistead, an ex-Mississippi lawman, is old friends with Starr deputy Hickman Ewing (an aggressive anti-Clintonite), who had also hired him for the Office of Independent Council; Armistead had also investigated CNN correspondent John Camp and worked for the $2.4 million Scaife-funded Ark. Project (digging Clinton dirt).  According to Salon  Magazine, Scaife had funneled payments to David Hale, the only real witness against Clinton in Whitewater and against Gov. Jim Tucker and the McDougals. Banker Hale was accused of defrauding poor blacks of $3.2 million in a fraudulent insurance scheme, and convicted on several counts, after having been protected from Ark. prosecutors by Ken Starr. Since Nixon's Presidency, Scaife has allegedly personally contributed over $300 million to conservative causes ($20 million in 1995 alone) through the chain of charity foundations he runs, a heritage of granduncle steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and grandfather banker Paul Mellon.


Kangas’s Website is well done, impressively researched (more like 2 doctoral theses), and reasonable, though there is some far-out stuff about the Knights of Malta and he did think the CIA has extraordinary reach (a faith in conspiracy shared by Scaife, who had once run a CIA front- the World News Forum in London). One article on the growth of the underclass under Reagan contains 150-odd graphs and charts. Scaife is mentioned, but not prominently featured in the Website. Recent articles on the CIA’s influence in creating the "overclass" are more extreme, though still scrupulously documented.


It’s possible Kangas went to Scaife and committed suicide as a frustrated last ditch effort to start a serious investigation of Scaife (who is estranged from his own family-Carnegie/Mellon, and most former associates), a theory Kangas's father, conservative Christian Robert Esh espouses. Kangas's break from his father's conservative upbringing was so complete that in 1992 he changed his last name to his mother's. It’s also conceivable this erratic potentate, who has flown into rages at the intrusion of reporters, confronted by an threatening character at his seat of power... reacted in self-defense. Though shot on Feb 8, no link between Kangas and Scaife was known  until March 14, when the Pittsburgh paper first reported it, attributed to the fact that no one in Pittsburgh knew who Kangas was... and Scaife didn't enlighten them, though detective Armistead immediately  crisscrossed the country, interviewing Kangas's parents and going through his belongings.  "It did not strike any strange (chord).. later on when we get the news about all these allegations... I was surprised, because... I didn’t even remember which case that was,” said Coroner Shakir. Scaife (who was in his office at the time) has refused to talk to police or press and his office claims they had no contact  with Kangas, although according to security videos he seems to have spent 9 hours in the bldg. and was found 60 ft. from Scaife's door. Dep. Police Chief Charles Moffett said it was  "under investigation in the homicide section".


Kangas, who had been trained in Russian at the famed Army Monterey Defense Language School, was a doctoral candidate at Univ of California Santa Cruz, where  he had headed of a chess club and was a respected debater in liberal Internet newsgroups, but had recently moved to Las Vegas, where he'd made as much as $200,000/yr. as a partner in a computerized horse betting operation. Kangas's conservative Christian father- Robert Esh- tried to get Internet provider (Santa Cruz) to shut down Kangas's Website, but supporters paid the bills and have established as many as 4 duplicate mirror sites, so Kangas's thoughts will remain. Reportedly his life had spiraled downhill in his recent days as his finances and romances plummeted.


 Ironically Richard Mellon Scaife has pushed outlandish "Clinton had Vincent Foster murdered" theories via Pittsburg Tribune-Review (a suburban paper with about half the circulation of the Post/Gazette) reporter Christopher Ruddy, who has also speculated darkly about the 50-60 people far-right fringe groups claim Clinton had killed. “Vincent Foster is the Rosetta Stone of the Clinton Administration,”  claimed Scaife. Now, a liberal activist and sworn opponent is found shot just outside his door... and he wasn't even questioned?  Says ME Donald Ray: “There are always outstanding unanswered questions- I think the police in a high profile case should... pursue them, because they will be criticized endlessly for not doing (so).” 


This isn't the first time Scaife has been linked to a strange suicide: in 1973 former mentor and close friend Pittsburgh District Attorney Robert Duggan, under Federal investigation for Mob payoffs, was found shot to death with a shotgun bearing no fingerprints. Scaife had cut all ties with Duggan, who had married Scaife's sister Cordelia shortly before his death, widely believed to be a Mob ordered murder. Chris Potter explained, “He marries Cordelia secretly. The theory of  law enforcement.. is that by marrying this heiress to the Mellon millions he wouldn’t have to answer so many questions about where the money came from. Then he shot himself  on his hidden farm property on the day the grand jury returned the indictment for corruption. But there were these questions: Was the shotgun too long to fit in his mouth.? Was the gun too far from his hand? So all this stuff... Scaife went through 25 years ago.”  Cordelia reportedly hasn’t spoken to Scaife since.


Michael Hammerschlag has written political commentary essays and articles for Providence Journal, Seattle Times, Columbia Journalism Review, Moscow News, Tribune, + Guardian; and produced a TV documentary series on the Presidential campaign and radio and TV news reports.





WASHINGTON POST front page 20 page Scaife series- May 2-3  




KANGAS’s WEBSITE- Liberalism Resurgent (mirror),  Mirror,      Mirror-,


PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE ARTICLES -(dominant Pittsburgh daily paper)

Death sparks conspiracy theory Sunday, March 14, 1999 By Dennis B. Roddy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer-- A former Army intelligence officer shot himself to death last month in a restroom outside conservative philanthropist and publisher Richard Mellon Scaife's Downtown offices, and Scaife has assigned a (14,882 bytes)


Suicide leaves more questions than answers, Sunday, March 14, 1999 By Dennis B. Roddy, -- After he set up a Web site championing the political left, Steve Kangas posted his photograph alongside the story of his transformation from the son of conservative Christians to free-thinking liberal (11,695 bytes)


Police seek to question Scaife in man's suicide Wednesday, March 17, 1999 By Dennis B. Roddy,--- Pittsburgh homicide detectives want to question conservative philanthropist and publisher Richard Mellon Scaife in a widening investigation into the death of a man who shot himself (6,501 bytes);


After his suicide here, liberal's Web site lives on... Monday, April 19, 1999 By Dennis B. Roddy

Almost three months after he shot himself to death in a Downtown office building and touched off a flurry of conspiracy theories, Steve Kangas, a seeming loner, has left behind an (10,214 bytes)


John G. Craig Jr. Mission: Implausible---- Dick Scaife couldn't keep his probe of Kangas a secret Sunday, March 28, 1999 The Steven Kangas case is a textbook example of the dangers of trying to hide what will not stay hidden for very long. John G. Craig Jr. is editor of the Post-Gazette.. Kangas came to Pittsburgh (8,012 bytes)


SCAIFE's PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW - (about half circulation of Post- Gazette) Most informative article, if obviously slanted March 14.. Scaife-obsessed man sought him, but took his own life... by Richard Gazarik  |||    Editorial- March 21- Virulent attack on Roddy + P/G


Washington Weekly- Editorial- April 1. ’99  Defense of  Kangas by friend w his last postings


PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER- editorial on Tribune’s hypocrisy and virulence-  March 17?


Scaife Photo’s - Photo's of the reclusive philanthropist  - Scaife photo site lo res files Tuesday, April 06, 1999 Copyright, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1998 (3,383 bytes)


Other Kangas Stories + TIMELINE (chronology) -




Allegheny County Coroners Office- Forensic Pathologist A. Shakir 1/2 hour


Dennis Roddy- reporter Pittsburgh Post/Gazette- 1/2 hour


Chris Potter- mng editor Pittsburgh City Paper- 3/4 hour


Pittsburgh Dep. Police Chief  Charles Moffet


Nuri Aizenman - reporter- New Republic (form. Washington Monthly)


King County Medical Examiner- Forensic Pathologist Donald Ray (20 minutes)





Scaife’s income tax returns and lists of contributions from Scaife Foundation, Allegheny Foundation, Sarah Scaife Found., + Carthage Foun.


~100 pages articles about Kangas + Scaife fm Salon, Newsweek, Wash Monthly, CNN,


~60-90 pages of articles fm "Liberalism Resurgent"


Although a major scrupulously documented story, we couldn’t get this published in 6 major papers and mags. They are all simply afraid of going up against Richard Scaife.  A British editor told me, “against a billionaire, you’d need affidavits”, an impossible burden for a reporter, one under which the Watergate scandal would’ve never been uncovered. So the primary figure behind the 6 year pursuit and 1 year impeachment of President Clinton is allowed to skate in a highly suggestive case where he, at the very least, deliberately withheld information from the police. A free press is meaningless if it’s shackled and paralyzed by fear in the face of money.