Friday, April 26, 2013

Skeletons in Komen’s® Kloset

I wrote this more than a week ago but hesitated to post it. I didn’t want to be a party-pooper or cause anyone to think I’m disparaging the many dedicated folks joining together this weekend across the country to fight breast cancer. But I saw a meme in Facebook that conveyed some of the same information – under which people posted comments like, “This bears repeating” and “More people need to know this” – so I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned:

It’s really tough to know which charities are worthy of support and which aren’t. It’s hard to obtain all the information you need, which is why I wrote, “Forgive the Bell Ringers for They Know Not What They Do” about the Salvation Army back in December of 2011 and why this post is about “Susan G. Komen for the Cure”®, the largest and most successful breast cancer organization in the country – if you define “success” as “amassing millions while playing political games and suing other charities up the wazoo for daring to use ‘for the cure’ in their names.”

Komen’s® annual “Race for the Cure” fundraisers – the organization’s single biggest revenue engine – are fast approaching. (In Fiscal Year 2010, Komen’s® 121 affiliates sponsored 147 races that were attended by around 1.7 million people and generated about $120 million. It’s clearly big business.) So it seems timely to provide information about a charity that has its share of skeletons locked in a closet at its Dallas headquarters.

You might remember the controversy surrounding Komen’s® decision early last year to abruptly stop funding Planned Parenthood affiliates because certain folks associated with Komen® are opposed to abortion. (Never mind that abortion – which, incidentally, is still a legal medical procedure – comprises just three percent of all Planned Parenthood health services.) A major brouhaha resulted, complete with boycotts and online vilification, and Komen® was forced to reverse course and restore the grants.

But did you know that Komen® helps corporate America to make money from pinkwashing? (“Pinkwashing” is the use of breast cancer and the pink ribbon by corporate marketers – especially to promote products that might be unhealthy – in return for a donation to the cause.) Komen® receives over $55 million/year from over 200 corporate sponsors.

Click here to read a New York Times piece entitled, “Welcome, Fans, to the Pinking of America.”

Were you aware that the organization opposes potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research for political reasons?

How about the fact that Komen® received generous donations a few years ago from private industries that used Bisphenol A (BPA) – a chemical used in some metal coatings and plastics – in their products and then dismissed research studies that found a link between the chemical and breast cancer?

Click here to read, “Susan G. Komen – A Bad Charity Long Before Their Planned Parenthood PR Nightmare.”

Did you know that Merck, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, is a big Komen® supporter? Yes, this is the same Merck that was forced to cough up millions to settle charges that it illegally marketed the drug Vioxx. (Studies had found an increased risk of heart attack associated with the arthritis medication.) I’m not trying to insinuate guilt by association but prospective donors have a right to know who else supports Komen®, don’t they?

Progressive contributors might be interested to discover that in 2011, Komen® partnered with the George W. Bush Institute on an initiative targeting women in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America who suffer from cervical and breast cancer. The advisory board for this “action-oriented think tank” – founded by Dubya in 2009 – is chaired by Condoleeza Rice, and Karl Rove and Jeb Bush sit on it as well.

Oh, and Komen’s® founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker, was Dubya’s U.S. Ambassador to Hungary from 2001 to 2003 and U.S. Chief of Protocol from 2007 to 2009.

Did I mention that Komen® receives money from Quilted Northern which is owned by the Koch Brothers? (I’ve written about these characters before; see “Why I’m Still Boycotting Brawny” from April 23, 2012, and “Why I Boycott Brawny and Mardi Gras” from January 13, 2012.) These two fellows are well-known for their far-right politics and hatred of our current Oval Office occupant.

Gee, why in the world would Komen® be accused of having a right-wing political bias?

Of course fighting breast cancer is a good thing – it kills 40,000 American women and 450 men each year, according to the American Cancer Society – and the activists and survivors who are hanging pink ribbons, running in races and raising money to find a cure deserve respect and support. I just think the more we know about a cause, the better able we are to make informed choices. The best charities are committed to making the world a better place for everyone.

Here’s a list of other organizations fighting this fight, compiled by the Chicago Tribune:

  • FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered):
For women at risk of developing hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer, information about finding medical and financial assistance and how to manage and live with hereditary risk factors. 866-824-RISK. E-mail

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Breast Cancer and Mammography Information:
Includes locater link to places where you can get free or low-cost mammograms or Pap smears. 888-842-6355. E-mail

Breast cancer resource center includes message forums, chat rooms, e-mail, books, videos, newsletters, news, information and a resource directory.

  • National Cancer Institute:
Treatment, prevention, causes, clinical trials, cancer literature, research, screening and testing. 800-4-CANCER. English, Polish and Spanish language options. LiveHelp online chat available.

  • American Cancer Society:
Breast cancer overview, detailed guide, treatment decision tool, news, research and prevention.  Includes local office locater.

P.S. I included the little registered trademark symbol ® as much as I could, Komen®, so please don’t sue me.

Sources:, American Cancer Society, New York Times, Susan G. Komen®, Planned Parenthood, USA Today, Jezebel, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune.

1 comment:

  1. I have re-directed my modest contributions to those other the Susan G. Komen Foundation and I feel that her legacy has been done a travesty by those who would kill Planned Parenthood.