February 2, 2012

A true dichotomy – Politicized, Predatory Charity

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Foundation has been developing somewhat of a reputation as a bully… threatening and filing lawsuits against anyone using their "trademarked" pink color (without a license from Komen) in product packaging, and even other groups using the term “cure” as part of their name or in the advertising of an event even when they were trying to fundraise for breast cancer.

Considering that the organization is supposed to be about saving lives and promoting prevention, the fact that Komen's tactics are a bit rough has not gone unnoticed. Late last year a Canadian film production company produced a documentary, entitled "Pink Ribbons, Inc." that is said to "resoundingly pop the shiny pink balloon of the breast cancer movement/industry." Much of it deals with Komen's aggressive protection of that questionable trademark. 

But when this film was in production things over there at SGKF were only begining the downhill slide. In April Komen added former Georgia Secretary of State and failed gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel to the leadership team as Senior Vice President for Public Policy. In her campaign for the governor’s office Handel pledged to “eliminate” Planned Parenthood funding, ignoring the fact that Georgia’s grant funding was specifically for breast and cervical cancer screening and not for abortion services.

"[S]ince I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood ... In fact, state and federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion related services and I strongly support those laws. Since grants like these are from the state I’ll eliminate them as your next Governor."

With a senior position at Komen, Handel seems to have accomplished what she failed to do as an activist politician. Although she has taken no public credit, neither she has made any effort to disuade the thought and scores of her supporters are leaving congratulatory notes on her Facebook wall. UPDATE: Hanedl's Facebook has been pulled down. Hopefully someone got screenshots first.

In the process she has added to the tarnish on the formerly good name of a leading foundation supposedly devoted to women’s health, and demonstrated that the politics of religion trumps the lives of low income Americans. This added to the unwise trademark lawsuits has soiled a previously stellar reputation.

I think it’s too late for that. The public is generally pretty alienated already. Even the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® state chapters seem aggravated. Connecticut's chapter has refused to follow the corporate lead... the chapter president, Ann Hogan, has one word for her reaction: “frustrated.”

The Wisconsin chapter seems poised to follow Connecticut and rebel against the national office. Komen is losing former supporters in Congress too. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) was a strong proponent, but pulled her support following the Planned Parenthood action.

"I have been a big booster of the Susan G. Komen organization,’ Speier said on the House floor. ‘But not anymore”

As Rep. Speier indicated in that floor speech, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® foundation is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It is eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable donations for federal income tax purposes, and it is precluded from any form of political activity as well. But then so are churches and we've seen how far they push that envelope. 

Although heavily censored there are some interesting comments on the Komen message boards (you'll have to hunt for them) and all one has to do is find the story and read the comments on any online newspaper... or just read the comments on the Charity Navigator site to see the dismay and frustration felt by now former supporters.

Americans should be pretty fed up with this kind of behavior. The reaction on the web is just the beginning. The general public, as they learn of this, I think will be quite dismayed. I wonder if once Komen’s corporate sponsors begin hearing from angry customers and sales of pink colored products plummet, that the SGKF board might not be looking for some new leadership.

So its up to us. My suggestion is to do as PZ says

“Redirect your charitable giving to organizations that don’t have a Puritanical streak, and are a bit less Republican in outlook. There is no shortage; I recommend the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Breast Cancer Charities of America, CancerCare, and the Cancer Research Institute. So far, they all seem to be dedicated to fighting cancer and helping people, and a lot less concerned about policing people’s morality to conform to that of the Religious Right.”

Or if you’re one to rub salt, do as TBogg suggests [via]…

“[Y]ou can make a donation to Planned Parenthood and request a thank you card be sent to…”

Karen Handel
Senior VP of Fail
c/o Susan G. Komen Foundation
P.O. Box 650309
Dallas, TX 75265-0309

Planned Parenthood has also launched a donations page on it's site where individuals can contribute funds to continue cancer screening for low income and poor women.

Personally I'm quiet weary of religious authoritarians trying to force feed their versions of mythology and superstition. Xian religionistas are getting bold and the moderate, reasonable majority has been mostly silent. Maybe with something as momentous as this some of that silent majority will finally hear a call to action... and maybe some of the more moderate on the other side will see the light and figure out who is the real enemy.

If so, and if the heat we're witnessing now grows... causing SGKF to suffer a bit for their foolish action... perhaps the wingnuts will think twice before trying such disgusting tactics in other arenas. 

But honestly I doubt it. They're in it for the long haul, they have their imaginary "god" on their side... and they smell the blood in the water.



Valerie DeFrance said...

My disgust is palpable. I'm taking action with the TBogg suggestion.

Old NFO said...

Love it, and gonna do the TBogg thing...

instinct said...

I don't think the lawsuits have a thing to do with religious views or protecting trademarks, it has to do with money and power, which is the most sickening part of it all.

Broken Andy said...

Komen's abuse of trademark law is certainly reprehensible. But I have no sympathies at all for Planned Parenthood. Given that money is fungible, its very easy for PP to move money out of cancer services into abortion services. They've broken the law many times before to protect their pro-death services.

Mule Breath said...

Andy, I refer you to my very next post. Please read it and expose yourself to some news not emanating from wingnutia.