Michael Gleba: the Scaife Foundation's low-key leader
January 15, 2017 12:00 AM
Michael Gleba, center, meets a Belgian show chicken at a 50th anniversary gala for the National Aviary in 2002. Gleba is the CEO of Sarah Scaife Foundation.
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In an era in which the loudest voice often prevails, Michael Gleba found a quiet path to immense influence.
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Mr. Gleba, 47, of Edgewood is the CEO of the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which started seeding the conservative field before he was born. Now the foundation boasts $708 million in assets and dozens of lines into the next president. But don’t look for Mr. Gleba on talk shows.
“He’s very low-key and he’s not a self-promoter in any way at all,” said H. Yale Gutnick, an attorney who worked for the foundation and brought Mr. Gleba into its fold. “He thinks everything through. He cogitates over every issue.”
Woven into the nation’s conservative networks, Mr. Gleba avoids the fringes, according to those who know him.
“He’s not a ranter,” said Jerry Bowyer, an economic research consultant who got to know Mr. Gleba when they were both involved with the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a think tank based in Castle Shannon. He described Mr. Gleba as “a conservative/libertarian, but maybe more hawkish than some,” and sullied neither by prejudice nor by the more arcane interests of his patron, the late billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife.
“He didn’t necessarily share the idiosyncrasies of what I somewhat affectionately call Scaife World — like Vince Foster conspiracy theories,” Mr. Bowyer said, referring to Mr. Scaife’s attempts to tar Bill and Hillary Clinton with the 1993 suicide of a deputy White House counsel.
Mr. Gleba is the son of an engineer/surveyor who moved the family from Braddock to Forest Hills. The son was a Boy Scout and “extremely bright young man” who graduated second in his class at Central Catholic High School, said Frank Gamrat, a classmate who is a researcher at the Allegheny Institute.
Mr. Gleba got a degree in industrial management from Carnegie Mellon University, and then a law degree from Duquesne University. He practiced corporate law with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, then for Morgan Lewis & Bockius in Indonesia.
Returning home, he was looking for a change just as Mr. Gutnick was hunting for a new foundation executive. Mr. Scaife made the hire.
“I think [Mr. Gleba’s] age was an important factor,” said Mr. Gutnick, because it contrasted with the septuagenarian norm in the foundation world. “Michael is a shot in the arm from the youth standpoint and from an ideological standpoint.”
While Mr. Scaife gave over $1 million to federal political campaigns, Mr. Gleba only rarely dropped $250 or $500 on the campaigns of former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum or Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
As a result of Mr. Scaife’s bequests and 2014 death, the assets under Mr. Gleba’s stewardship doubled from 2013 to 2015. His pay package increased by around 10 percent, to $496,994.
He’s well networked. He has attended events associated with conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, according to Republican fundraising documents obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He is also a board or subcommittee member with:
The Heritage Foundation of Washington, D.C., perhaps the most influential conservative think tank;
The Federalist Society, a D.C.-based, conservative lawyers group;
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a small-government group in D.C.;
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative students’ group based in Delaware;
The Hoover Institution, a Stanford, Calif.-based think tank;
The Allegheny Institute.
Mr. Gleba did not respond to interview requests.
“Mr. Gleba,” said Allan H. Meltzer, a foundation trustee and political economy professor at Carnegie Mellon University, “is a very careful, determined, thorough person.”
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