Over many years, in the five households the couple shared, the wife hired scores of servants to help take care of her rich husband. Then, in 2005, she hired someone to tail him. Margaret Ritchie Rhea Battle Scaife (whose friends call her Ritchie) suspected Richard Mellon Scaife (whose friends call him Dick) of committing adultery, so she enlisted the services of an investigator. It was a private act that would have very public consequences. Richard Mellon Scaife is the best-known living member of Pittsburgh's storied Mellon clan, whose eponymous bank made the family a 19th-century fortune, which grew steadily with diversified investments, including major coal, steel, and real-estate interests, and Gulf Oil Corporation. Scaife, who owns several newspapers, is a major backer of conservative causes; his political donations fueled the rise of the New Right and its moral crusade against Bill Clinton, making Scaife the central figure in Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy." In the 1990s, his gift of $1.8 million to The American Spectator funded investigations into Whitewater and Bill Clinton's personal life, including David Brock's notorious "Troopergate" exposé, which led to Paula Jones's sexual-harassment suit against the president.
In December of 2005, the private detective proved Ritchie's fears to have been well founded: he took pictures showing the reclusive 75-year-old billionaire with a woman named Tammy Vasco, a tall, blonde 43-year-old whose criminal history includes two arrests for prostitution. The pair was photographed at Doug's Motel, a roadside establishment near Pittsburgh, where rooms rent for $49 a night, or $31 for three hours.