Among America’s early royalty, bearing wealthy family names like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford, the Mellon family is likely one of the most well-known. Timothy Mellon, a descendant of entrepreneur and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, has appeared on the lists of large political donations.
Having given sums in the tens of millions of dollars to various campaigns and legislative causes, Mellon’s net worth is clearly substantial. How has Mellon made his money, and how much is he worth today?
Timothy Mellon donations
Mellon is the 79-year-old grandson of Andrew Mellon. He has donated impressive amounts to several political campaigns and causes including the Texas border wall.
According to the Texas Tribune, Mellon contributed $1.5 million in 2010 to defend Arizona legislation enabling police to determine the status of suspected illegal immigrants. That law met challenges up to the Supreme Court and eventually most of it was scrapped.
Mellon was also a major donor to the reelection campaign for Donald Trump in 2020. He gave $20 million to America First Action—the primary super PAC on Trump’s side. He gave $30 million to the Senate Leadership Fund—a cause aiming to elect Republican Senators, in 2020.
He also gave donations to Democratic candidates including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her 2018 Senate campaign and to U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for her 2020 presidential nomination bid.
Recently, and perhaps most notably, Mellon donated the bulk of funding to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s campaign to build a border wall between Texas and Mexico. During Trump’s term, Congress couldn't agree on federal funding for a border wall.
The Texas Tribune reported that the fundraising had only raised $1.25 million by mid-August. Then Mellon stepped in with a contribution of $53.1 million, according to public records. This puts his share of the funding campaign at about 98 percent.
Tax benefits of Mellon’s border wall contribution
Mellon can likely avoid paying taxes on the capital gains from his investment because he made his border wall donation in stock, said Lloyd Mayer, a Notre Dame Law School professor, according to Texas Tribune. Usually, investors owe taxes on capital gains when selling an investment, a bill they can often avoid through charitable contributions.
Mayer also said that large donations like Mellon’s, although they're considered “for public purposes,” can be controversial. They differ from tax revenues because Congress votes on how to spend that, while donations might exert undue influence on policy making. “The thing that’s controversial about these kinds of donations is whether they’re distorting government priorities.”
Timothy Mellon’s company and career
In addition to his family wealth, Mellon is the chairman of Pan Am Systems, a privately-held company based in New Hampshire. Divisions of his company include rail transport, manufacturing and energy, transportation-related brands, and real estate.
Mellon owns the company privately along with several other stakeholders including David Fink and his son David A. Fink.
Timothy Mellon’s family net worth
As of 2014, Forbes magazine estimated that the entire Mellon family's net worth is almost $1 billion. In 2020, the Mellon family's net worth had grown to approximately $11.5 billion overall.