Black people are 'belligerent': Colorado candidate backed by racist billionaire Mellon fortune heir
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Joe O’Dea speaks Sept. 10, 2022, during the Club 20 Western Colorado Candidate Debates at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. (William Woody for Colorado Newsline)
Facing an uphill battle to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Republican Senate hopeful Joe O’Dea has received little help to date from deep-pocketed national GOP campaign groups.

But as Election Day approaches, he’s getting a big boost from a megadonor closer to home: the Wyoming-based heir to a 19th-century banking fortune who wrote in a self-published autobiography that Black people are “belligerent” and “unwilling to pitch in to improve their own situations.”

Timothy Mellon, the grandson of banking tycoon Andrew Mellon, donated $4 million to American Policy Fund, a super PAC that has spent heavily throughout the year on ads supporting O’Dea and attacking his opponents, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Super PACs are allowed to accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations but are barred from coordinating with candidates or their campaigns.

Mellon’s $4 million is the largest single contribution in support of O’Dea’s candidacy to date. It exceeds both the $2.6 million that the Denver construction CEO has donated or loaned to his own campaign since announcing his run last year, and the $1.25 million that the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said that it had donated to American Policy Fund on Monday.

The 80-year-old Mellon has been a prolific donor to conservative causes, donating more than $90 million to Republican political campaigns since 2018, FEC records show. Last year, he donated more than $53 million in stock to a fund set up by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to finance the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

O’Dea’s campaign did not respond to questions about O’Dea’s relationship with Mellon or whether he shares Mellon’s view of Black Americans.

In the closing chapters of his self-published 2015 autobiography, Mellon attacked the federal government’s “lavish spending” and the “Medicare fiscal black hole,” blaming the “liberal onslaught” of social safety net programs in the 1960s for what he called “slavery redux.” The book’s contents were first reported by the Washington Post in 2020.

“Black people, in spite of heroic efforts by the ‘Establishment’ to right the wrongs of the past, became even more belligerent and unwilling to pitch in to improve their own situations,” Mellon wrote. “The likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton pandered endlessly to fan the flames.”

Last month’s $4 million contribution to American Policy Fund is the second-largest donation Mellon has ever made in support of a single candidate, topped only by the $30 million he donated to a super PAC supporting former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in 2020, according to FEC records.

In a statement, Colorado Democratic Party spokesperson Nico Delgado said Mellon’s contribution proves O’Dea would be “a rubber stamp for the MAGA agenda.”

“Joe O’Dea would vote for Trump in 2024, he thinks Trump bears no blame for January 6th, and now he’s being backed by a racist Trump megadonor who is responsible for funding Trump’s medieval border wall,” Delgado said.

‘The Mellons have never been richer’

After taking over the Pittsburgh bank founded by his father in the 1870s, Andrew Mellon built a monopolistic industrial empire and gradually amassed one of the Gilded Age’s largest fortunes. He later served as the U.S. treasury secretary under three Republican presidents, a tenure that ended with the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression.

Andrew Mellon died in 1937, but the family’s riches have only continued to grow. A 2014 Forbes magazine headline proclaimed that “175 years later, the Mellons have never been richer.”

Timothy Mellon’s largest political contributions to Trump and congressional Republicans followed the passage of a $1.5 trillion package of tax cuts by the GOP-controlled Congress in 2017. Shortly after the bill became law, Mellon’s company announced a one-time employee bonus of $1,100 to highlight what a press release called the “downstream effects of expanding and creating wealth among all citizens.”

Mellon’s 116-page autobiography features recollections of a childhood spent flying to and from boarding school on his father’s private jet and a visit by Queen Elizabeth II to the family’s farm in Virginia. In the 1980s, he became an investor in several railroad and aviation companies, though his best-known venture, a resurrection of the Pan Am airline brand, ended in failure in the 2000s.

In a chapter titled “Slavery Redux,” Mellon draws on racist stereotypes about social welfare programs and attacks liberals for what he describes as “encouraging people to remain on the government teat.”

“They have become slaves of a new Master, Uncle Sam,” Mellon wrote. “For delivering their votes in the Federal Elections, they are awarded with yet more and more freebies: food stamps, cell phones, WIC payments, Obamacare, and on, and on, and on. The largess is funded by the hardworking folks, fewer and fewer in number, who are too honest or too proud to allow themselves to sink into this morass.”

Attack ads

With his $4 million contribution to American Policy Fund on Sept. 15, Mellon more than tripled the super PAC’s previous budget. Within days, the group reported that it had reserved more than $2.4 million in TV ads attacking Bennet, and has followed that up with another $1.2 million spent this month.

The ads blast Bennet over inflation, arguing that Democrats under President Joe Biden have fueled rising costs with “bigger government and more spending.”

O’Dea has pitched himself to voters as a moderate, especially on social issues, and told an interviewer last week that “I don’t see color.” But his views on work and social spending — including exhortations to “get (workers) off the couch” — align with much of the makers-and-takers rhetoric in Mellon’s book.

“I want to defend working Americans,” O’Dea said at a gathering of Denver Republicans ahead of the GOP’s June primary. “When I’m talking about working Americans, I’m talking about middle class, small businesses, single parents, retirees — those of us that play by the rules. We have some things in common. We contribute. We produce.”

“We’re the ones that are paying for this tax-and-spend spree that Washington has been on for far too long,” he added. “We’re the ones they extract money from to make these wild policies.”

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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