TIME's 25 Most Influential Americans

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Dishing the dirt on Hollywood celebs is still the tabloids' bread and butter, and the Enquirer still offers up bizarre crimes, amazing ghost stories and the occasional UFO tale. Nonetheless, Coz sees it as an honorable calling. "There's a $2 billion celebrity-publicity machine out there that wants to tell you that Tom Cruise is 6 ft. 5 or that someone else is a supermom and a heroine to women everywhere," he says. "Our role is to get to the truth of what these people who become icons are really like."

The tabloids often do it by paying for information, something mainstream journalists frown on. But legwork is almost as important. "I knew the Bruno Magli shoe pictures were out there," says Coz, "and we spent months trying to get them." David Margolick, who covered the Simpson trial for the New York Times, later wrote that the Enquirer "probably shaped public perceptions of the case more than any other publication." Adds Coz, with typical tabloid hyperbole: "Every single network, every single magazine in America has gone more celebrity. That's the Enquirer's influence, whether you like it or don't like it."

Richard Scaife, conservative agitator
If conservative thinkers like Bill Bennett and Paul Weyrich are the brainpower behind the resurgent American right, the horsepower comes from Richard Mellon Scaife. For close to four decades, the 64-year-old Pennsylvanian has used his millions to back anti-liberal ideas and their proponents. He is believed by the left to be the bogeyman behind virtually every seemingly nefarious action by the right. Most recently, he has been linked to Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel who announced he was accepting a double deanship at Pepperdine University's law and public policy schools. Scaife, it turned out, had given a $1.1 million grant to the new public policy school. As Clintonites weave dark scenarios, a Scaife spokesman says the millionaire has never had a conversation with Starr. Still, the school's small board of academic advisers that helped pick Starr is laced with people employed by think tanks run with the help of Scaife money.

The reclusive heir to a chunk of the Mellon fortune — Forbes says he is worth about $870 million — Scaife has decidedly mixed feelings about his ancestry and has ceased using his middle name. He controls the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Carthage Foundation, which help subsidize rabidly anti-Clinton magazines as well as conservative social-policy projects. "We work in the world of ideas," says Richard Larry, president of the Sarah Scaife Foundation. "A success for us is when the ideas of one of the groups or individuals we're working with become part of the public policy debate." And if Scaife can take a nick out of Clinton's reputation along the way, so be it.

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