Pink Ribbons, Politics and Profits: Susan G. Komen Foundation Under Scrutiny

A sisterly promise leads to a political agenda and ballooning profits.

By , Contributor
Social media sites are buzzing over a recent announcement from the non-profit Susan G. Komen breast cancer research foundation that they wouldn't be renewing their grant to Planned Parenthood. The decision, apparently a political one, has caused a ripple effect within the left/right blogging community, each taking jabs at one another over, you guessed it, abortion.

Susan G. Komen Foundation's Planned Parenthood grant was designated to subsidize breast cancer screening for women who otherwise couldn't afford it, but their choice to abandon it appears to be based in part on new VP Karen Handel's stance on abortion. Handel joined the foundation after an unsuccessful bid for governor in Georgia in 2010. Handel identifies herself as a Republican and during her campaign posted on her blog that she “did not support the mission of Planned Parenthood" and stated her intention to end Georgia's aid to the organization. Clearly, she wasn't kidding.

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Karen Handel, VP, Susan G. Komen Foundation

SGK is using a newly adopted policy "prohibiting it from funding any group that is under formal investigation by a government body," as their reasoning for cutting off their $500k+ grant to Planned Parenthood. A congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood was launched by Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns (R) who stated the reason for the investigation is to determine if federal funds were used to provide abortion services to PP clients. Stearns is anti-abortion. According to The Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg, this rule was enacted for the sole purpose of cutting off funding to PP.

Goldberg points out that his sources (three with direct knowledge of SGK's inner workings) stated that this new policy is what caused SGK's top public health official, Mollie Williams, to resign from her position in protest of the funding cut. Williams declined to comment on this information.  Also of note is that none of the funds allocated to PP from SGK ever went to fund abortions, but rather were all designated for cancer screenings.  

For those unfamiliar with the Susan G. Komen foundation, it began initially as a promise from one sister to another. In 1980 Susan Komen died of breast cancer and during her battle asked her sister Nancy to promise to work for a cure.  However good the initial intentions were, over the next 30 years the foundation has ballooned into a bloated money generating guilt factory that now boasts a CEO who makes close to $500K a year and only spends 23% of its donations on research.

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Nancy Brinker, CEO, Susan G Komen Foundation

Therein is my main contention with this organization.  A non-profit foundation that states it's dedicated to finding "a cure" for breast cancer should spend the bulk of its donations on RESEARCH.  And certainly a non-profit organization that relies on the trust and goodwill of the public shouldn't be paying a small fortune to its CEO, who has profited from a book and perfume ostensibly in her sister's honor.  While you're at it, check out this story about the link between the Promise Me perfume and cancer. Hold your nose!

Let's put that aside, and look at the political agenda the organization is now adopting.  Here are some major bones of contention with the direction the foundation has headed in recent years:

  • Susan G. Komen won't acknowledge a cancer link between the chemical BPA (found in many plastic products) despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Not so coincidentally, some of their largest donors produce products which use BPA.
  • Susan's sister and the foundation's CEO is a self-proclaimed Republican who donates large sums of money to Republican candidates, further inextricably linking the organization to political agenda.

  • SGK has spent a small fortune suing smaller cancer foundations for using the term "for a cure."  That includes local fundraisers, schools, business who organize their own benefits to raise money for cancer research.  Please tell me how this fills the original promise Nancy made to Susan to work tirelessly for a cure.
While it's unfair to assume individuals who work for non-profit organization can't or shouldn't have their own personal beliefs, political views, or even draw a comfortable salary for their work, it's clear there is a large disconnect between SGK's commitment to finding "a cure" for breast cancer and their actions. Breast cancer affects women of all demographics, across the political spectrum and has no hidden agenda. Shouldn't the premiere breast cancer foundation, one built on the trust and promise made from one sister to another, do the same?

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I have written and covered celebrity, entertainment and popular culture for over ten years. I also created celebrity web-site Glosslip.com as part of the Blogcritics.org network. When both sites were purchased in 2008 by Technorati.com, she joined their editorial team as Entertainment Editor and then…

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