Can Komen for the Cure be Reformed?

Ideas and Issues
Nancy Brinker

New Orleans   To me the issue was settled.  Nancy Brinker and Komen for the Cure had caved into pressure from the right wing and Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood had taken them to the woodshed and taught them a lesson about what women really care about and in so doing administered a public humiliation that permanently damaged their “brand.”  That was it for me, but I assumed as long as they were still able to toady around with corporate BFFs and the pink marketing thing was alive that they would survive in some form or fashion.  I put it out of my mind.

Somehow the Non-Profit Times comes to my office.  Flipping pages on the phone the other day, I was surprised at the matter-of-fact call for Nancy Brinker’s resignation that its editor-in-chief Paul Clolery was making.  For a publication that depends on the good will, advertisements, and subscriptions of big time nonprofits to survive, for them to take up the hatchet – repeatedly it turns out – and call for someone’s head was a surprise, and unprecedented it seems.

Their bill of particulars in indicting Brinker for “inept management” was detailed and troubling.   It turns out that the whipping from Planned Parenthood forced some hard looks at the Komen operation, and it was stomach turning in the facts found and conclusions reached:

  • Brinker has been running the outfit like a “family business.”
  • The 990 filed with the IRS indicates that she was reimbursed by Komen while a full time employee of the Bush Administration as ambassador to Hungary and Chief of Protocol at the White House.
  • Many are saying she was “lying” because there had been “internal discussions” about cutting off funding to any organizations “where abortions are counseled, funded or provided.”  The claim about an investigation has been proven to be nothing more than a smokescreen, as was obvious to all.
  • The 9-person board includes her son and seems far from independent.  It has also been clear from other statements that they had signed off on this fig leaf about denying funding because of so-called investigations.
  • Komen has been courting controversy by aggressively litigating against other nonprofits who use the phrase “for the cure” as well as having made some sketchy corporate deals with companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken where some had turned against “Buckets for the Cure.”

And, if that’s not all, a chart they published without comment was shocking to me.  Nancy Brinker’s Komen operation is 1/3rd the size of Planned Parenthood, yet even living in Dallas she was paying herself $70,000 more than Cecile Richards living in NYC.  Both are making 1% money and running big operations, but geez, that doesn’t seem right.

Breast cancer is bad stuff and a cure needs to be found.  Maybe Komen can still play a role in that, but under Brinker it seems to have gone from being about the legacy of a lost sister to being all about Brinker.  The NonProfit Times is right on this one.  It’s time to find the EXIT sign and get back to real business for women, not just family business for one woman.