KomenWatch

Keeping our eyes and ears open…..

Tag Archives: financials

I Will Not Be Pinkwashed: Komen’s Race is for Money, Not the Cure

Title: I Will Not Be Pinkwashed: Komen’s Race is for Money, Not the Cure

Author: Dr. Mercola

Publication: Food Consumer

Publication Date:  February 22, 2012

“The multimillion-dollar company behind all those pink “breast cancer awareness” ribbons — the Susan G. Komen Foundation – uses less than a dime of each dollar to actually look for a breast cancer cure, as promised.

Plastering pink ribbons on every conceivable product has much more to do with raising awareness of, and money for, the Komen Foundation than it does curing breast cancer; pink ribbon campaigns are commonly used on products that may contribute to cancer, such as fried chicken and cosmetics that contain cancer-causing ingredients

It’s reported that the Komen Foundation owns stock in several pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, the maker of tamoxifen, a cancer drug that is actually classified as a human carcinogen by both the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society.

In the case of many large cancer charities, your money will go toward research to create often-toxic and sometimes deadly cancer drugs, questionable screening programs like mammography, and into the bank accounts of its numerous well-paid executives — all while the real underlying causes continue to be ignored or actively concealed.”

Link to Full Article

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Guest Editorial: Gayle Sulik, M.A., Ph.D., author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health.

In the last few weeks Susan G. Komen for the Cure was exposed. We have watched and listened as journalists, health advocates, philanthropists, bloggers, affiliates, Komen supporters, and countless others have shined a light on the obvious: The Komen foundation – breast cancer charity turned nonprofit corporation – is a juggernaut in the fight against breast cancer.

In the past, many have overlooked the obvious. Blinded by pink. Fueled by hope. Engaged in an emotionally charged war against a disease that no one should have to bear alone. It all made sense somehow. Critiques of the world’s largest breast cancer charity were mostly hidden beneath a barrage of pinked propaganda. When anyone openly raised concerns they were met with accusation, hostility, and anger. Komen founder Nancy Brinker summarily dismissed as curmudgeons and naysayers those who would dare to confront the authority of pink.

Though marginalized to some extent people have been, for years, arguing for fundamental changes in Komen’s version of the breast cancer paradigm. KomenWatch includes many of the arguments and concerns in its archives dating back to the 1990s. The news articles, reports, and letters from breast cancer survivors and others reveal a persistent questioning of the powerhouse organization.

In 1995 Joelyn Flomenhaft wrote a letter to The New York Times editor saying that, although she had done so in the past, she would not be attending the Komen Race for the Cure because people were being told to write their years of survivorship on pink visers and badges. “Breast cancer survivors should have the right to choose to make their illness public,” she said, “not have their choice made for them by race organizers.” Her letter suggested that while some do feel empowered by sharing in this way, Komen’s expectations about how a person should display her survivorship may also exert undue pressure on the diagnosed. I’ve heard similar sentiments throughout my research of pink ribbon culture.

Investigations into Komen’s activities suggest that the growing aversion to the organization’s approach to breast cancer support and awareness may be more than simply a matter of personal taste. In 2003, with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Mary Ann Swissler examined Komen’s corporate and political ties and their influence on the direction of the Foundation. Komen’s literature did not reveal the lobbying ties, stock interests, seats on boards of private cancer treatment corporations, or the political activism of its key leaders, including Nancy Brinker herself. Yet Komen’s “stock portfolios and cozy relationships with Republican leadership” not only set them apart, their ties to cancer-related industry affected the organization’s objectivity and credibility. Sharon Batt, author of Patient No More: The Politics of Breast Cancer, told Swissler how Komen rose above the rest of the breast cancer movement in terms of power and influence.

“For one thing, the Komen Foundation has had more money. For another they carry friendly, reassuring messages through the media and their own programs, a phenomenon I like to term the ‘Rosy Filter,’ meaning the public is spoon-fed through a pink-colored lens stories of women waging a heroic battle against the disease, or the newest ‘magic bullet.’ Yet little light is shed on insurance costs, the environmental causes of breast cancer, or conflicts of interest.”

In the years that followed Swissler’s exposé the Komen organization was taken to task repeatedly, though sporadically, about how its political affiliations, high media profile, bureaucratic structure, corporate partnerships, industry ties, and market-based logic had led to questionable decisions. Squeezing out competing fundraisers is one of them. When Komen decided to expand its 5-K race to a multi-day walk, it started in San Francisco where Avon already had a 2-day walk planned. When Komen came in, Avon’s funds plummeted. KomenWatch told me that since the inception of its website numerous individuals have reported in confidence that Komen organizers have “deliberate strategies of non-collaboration” that keep them from attracting support for their smaller and less extravagant community initiatives. Against this background, it may not be surprising that Komen’s branding initiatives also involve legal efforts to keep other charities and organizations from using “for the cure” in their names.

In 2004 Breast Cancer Action tried to raise the public’s awareness that no one even knew how much money was being raised and spent in the name of breast cancer as awareness gave way to industry. Now in 2012, Reuters reports that critics within the philanthropic and research communities have also raised questions about Komen’s scientific approach and funding allocations, and The Washington Post rightly points out that Komen is part of a larger breast cancer culture that emphasizes “optics over integrity, crass commercialism and the infantilization of the female experience into something fashionable, cheerful or sexy.”

Over the years there have been numerous critiques of the Komen foundation. In addition to the news articles and essays in the KomenWatch archives, several books written about breast cancer in the last decade also note Komen’s role in the creation of a narrowly defined and profitable pink ribbon industry. [See EhrenreichKasper & Ferguson, Kedrowski and Sarow, King, KlawiterLey, and my own book, Sulik.]

Komen’s recent decision to change granting criteria in a way that would preclude the women’s health network, Planned Parenthood, from applying for grants to offset the cost of providing screenings to low-income women, is the latest in a series of moves to prioritize Komen’s brand. Though the decision was reversed, KomenWatch is keeping eyes and ears open. The rest is up to you. As a medical sociologist, I’m glad to be part of this message. Kudos to KomenWatch.

/  Gayle Sulik

Nancy Brinker’s Lavish Spending, Off-Putting Brittleness Puts Komen’s Future in Jeopardy

Title: Nancy Brinker’s Lavish Spending, Off-Putting Brittleness Puts Komen’s Future in Jeopardy

Author: Erin Gloria Ryan

Publication:  Jezebel

Date: February 13, 2012

In the last three weeks, the reputation of Susan G. Komen for the Cure has been threatened by a scandal that has uncovered some uncomfortable truths about the behind the scenes in the world of Professional Breast Cancer Awareness. Although the organization has given the media the “move along, nothing to see here” speech, it appears that Komen CEO Nancy Brinker’s lavish spending is worthy of scrutiny. Plus, apparently she’s really weird to work for.

According to The Daily Beast‘s Abigail Pesta, between June 2007 and January 2009, when Brinker was employed full-time with the US State Department during the Bush administration, she billed Komen for $133,507 in expenses…

Link to Full Article

Komen charity under microscope for funding, science

Title: Komen charity under microscope for funding, science

Author: Sharon Begley

Publication:  Reuters

Date: February 7, 2012

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity defines its mission as finding a cure for breast cancer. In recent years, however, it has cut by nearly half the proportion of fund-raising dollars it spends on grants to scientists working to understand the causes and develop effective new treatments for the disease…

Critics within the philanthropic and research communities in particular have raised questions over its scientific approach to some issues and how it spends the money it raises…

Link to Full Article

Komen By The Numbers: 2010 and Still No Answers

Title: Komen By The Numbers: 2010 and Still No Answers

Author: Anna Rachnel

Publication: The Cancer Culture Chronicles

Publication Date: March 16, 2011

Stewardship: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

In September 2010, Susan G. Komen for the Cure® (“Komen”), proudly announced they had received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, a popular charity evaluator whose reports are accessible by the general public.
“Achieving Charity Navigator’s highest rating for fiscal soundness is an incredible achievement for even one year during these economic times,” said Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Komen’s founder and CEO. “But to garner this rating four consecutive years is a true testament to the hard work of our entire Susan G. Komen for the Cure family. My gratitude also goes out to our Affiliates, our volunteers and our staff, who have proven once again to be responsible stewards of our contributors’ money as everyone continues to try to fulfill our promise of saving lives and ending breast cancer forever.”

Essentially, Charity Navigator  evaluates charities based on their “organization efficiency” and their “organizational capacity”,  which speaks to how sustainable an organization is. Charity Navigator then uses the results of this evaluation to assign rating stars;  zero stars being the lowest  to four stars being the highest. A four-star or “exceptional” rating means that a charity “exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its Cause”.  In the words of Charity Navigator;

“By utilizing our ratings, givers can truly know how a charity’s financial health compares with other charities throughout the country. Givers can be confident that in supporting those charities rated highly by Charity Navigator, they will be supporting organizations that are fiscally responsible and financially healthy.”

This all sounds very nice, but what does all this really mean?

Link to Full Article

My View of Breast Cancer According to Brinker

Title: My View of Breast Cancer According to Brinker

Author: Anna Rachnel

Publication:  The Cancer Culture Chronicles

Publication Date: February 25, 2011

Whenever I set about writing a blog post, I have in mind that I will try to be as objective as possible, particularly if I am discussing a subject that I know to be contentious.  The trouble is, it’s getting harder and harder for me to  be fully objective when I am discussing issues related to breast cancer fundraising and research.  After all, as a person living with Stage IV breast cancer,  research is tantamount to my hopes for recovery and a long life.

Today’s post is a prime example.  Recently a reader sent me a link to a televised interview between Tavis Smiley of PBS and  Nancy Brinker, the CEO and founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.  The interview aired on October 1, 2010 to mark the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month, and to promote the launch of Brinker’s book,  Promise Me: How a Sister’s Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer.

Click here for a link to the interview and a full transcript.

I started watching the full 13-minute interview with an open mind.  But as I continued to watch the interplay between Brinker and Smiley it dawned on me that my goal of remaining objective was going to be an impossible task.   I run my fingers through my newly short hairdo and am reminded that soon there will be no hair  to run my fingers through. As I write down notes during the interview,  I realize how difficult it is becoming for me to write with a pen.  Tumors are now pressing on vital nerves,  and my writing arm is rapidly losing strength, and certain fingers are numb.  Writing by hand has become a laborious task with the end result looking like something akin to chicken scratchings.  In addition, I’m so tired from my new chemotherapy regimen that concentrating for any length of time seems a monumental feat.  Finding the energy to blog is getting harder.  I’m sure chemo-brain is becoming a factor as well as I struggle to  find and, indeed, spell common words as I construct my sentences.  Yes, objectivity was being replaced with the difficult realities of metastatic breast cancer and treatment.

Link to Full Article

Komen By The Numbers: Education in Focus

Title: Komen By The Numbers: Education in Focus

Author: Anna Rachnel

Publication: The Cancer Culture Chronicles

Publication Date: February 9, 2011

“[Y]et public education is a popular mission for many of our  breast cancer charities.  If the goal is to educate, it’s a relatively easy mission  to fulfill.  Produce educational resources – mission accomplished. But it’s an expensive undertaking, even though it’s not necessarily helping to reduce breast cancer incidence.

A Closer Look At Komen’s Education Program

Continuing my series of investigations into the activities of our nation’s largest breast cancer fundraiser, Susan G. Komen for the Cure® (“Komen”), in this post I shine the spotlight on Komen’s Education program. (Previous posts in this series are available at “Komen By The Numbers” and “Komen By The Numbers: The Context of Research”.)”

Link to Full Article

Komen By The Numbers: The Context of Research

Title: Komen By The Numbers: The Context of Research

Author: Anna Rachnel

Publication: The Cancer Culture Chronicles

Publication Date: January 30, 2011

“Context: the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning.

Context is an important word, particularly within the cancer culture.  We hear those three little words; “You have cancer”, and immediately we are thrown into a frightening void, where often the first battle is understanding the world into which we have just been forced.  After shedding our tears, and numbing ourselves to the shock and pain of it all, we take a deep breath and start asking the questions we are supposed to ask.  After we have figured out which questions we need to ask.  Soon we begin to understand this new context.  Our diagnosis, options for treatment, and how our lives will be irreparably changed. Context provides some comfort in the form of clarity, but we can’t get there unless we ask the relevant questions.

It is with this in mind, that I continue my investigation into the activities of our nation’s largest breast cancer fundraiser, Susan G. Komen for the Cure® (“Komen”).  I still have questions.”

Link to Full Article

Komen By The Numbers

Title: Komen By The Numbers

Author:  Anna Rachnel

Publication:  The Cancer Culture Chronicles

Publication Date: January 24, 2011

“Living with metastatic breast cancer is a bit like playing an evil game of Whack-A-Mole. Chemotherapy, at this point, is more art than science.  Tumors come up and tumors go down and you never quite know where they’re going to strike next.  You just keep whacking those pesky tumors and if new ones come up, you whack ’em again, and again, and again.  You just hope that you have enough chemotherapy hammers in your arsenal to be able to keep whackin’ ’em before you lose the game.

In recent months, I’ve been following with interest the debate in the blogosphere, over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® (“Komen”) lawsuits with respect to apparent trademark violations over other charities using the phrase “for the Cure”. Komen argues that trademarking the phrase, and protecting that trademark through legal strategies, is a form of stewardship of donor funds.  Many others see it differently. Indeed, the debate itself is also starting to feel like a game of Whack-A-Mole because as one question comes up, it’s debated by some and whacked by others as Komen offers a superficial response.  In turn, the organization’s official statements cause more questions to come up.  Whack! And so the game goes on.”

Link to Full Article

Hubris for the Cure

Title: Hubris for the Cure

Author: Kathi Kolb

Publication: The Accidental Amazon

Publication Date: January 22, 2011

“Frankly, I’d rather not have to write this post at all. But despite all that has been written regarding Susan G. Komen’s attempts to prevent other charities from using the phrase, “for the cure,” I still don’t get it. I just don’t understand what they are trying to achieve, nor do I comprehend their apparent failure to understand why so many of us in the breast cancer community have found it distressing and have yet to feel that Komen has addressed the issue in any meaningful way. And that’s why I’m writing this. Although I’d rather write about something more immediately germane to those of us with breast cancer, I feel compelled to remind Susan G. Komen that we would all feel better served by them if they would demonstrate better manners, priorities, teamwork and stewardship.”

Link to Full Article