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I Will Not Be Pinkwashed: Komen's Race Is For Money, Not Cure

Outrageous salaries, drug company ties, and less than a dime of every dollar looks for a cure.
 
 
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It’s October. And that means, it’s prime pink season. It’s national Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that magical time of year when shades of pale pink are plastered onto every product, every container, every conceivable gadget or gizmo the Susan G. Komen Foundation can get its hands on. That iconic symbol of overlapped ribbon is supposed to adorn every man, woman and child who ever had a mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, niece or aunt who faced the horrifying struggle of breast cancer.

But I am not buying it.

Susan G. Komen: For Cure of Con?

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a multimillion-dollar company with assets totaling over $390 million. Only 20.9% of these funds were reportedly used in the 2009-2010 fiscal year for research “for the cure.” Where does the rest of the money go? Let’s have a look. Health screening is 13.0%. Treatment is 5.6%. Fundraising is 10.0%. The largest chunk of the pie is going toward “public health education,” 39.1%. More on that later, but for now I’d like to take a look at the millions, or 11.3%, spent on “administrative costs.”

Click on this link from Susan G. Komen’s Form 990 from 2008 showing the salaries of some of its highest-paid employees. All non-profits have to file these with the IRS. "Part VII, Section AAa" show what the numbers in the columns represent, but cut out the board members listed as having no salary -- er, “reportable” salary.

What do we see? Note the dates of employment for some of the lesser-paid employees. Gary Dicovitsky, VP Development, for example, was paid $95,291 (plus $2,746) only from 10/08 to 3/09. Gary must have gotten a promotion since then, though. Because while it still lists his position as VP Development from 10/08 – 3/09, his salary from 2009 was $417,109. Oh, plus $18,091 in change.

I don’t know about you, but I would never expect directors of a charitable “non-profit” organization to make more than most doctors, lawyers, or even politicians. Their CEO and president, Hala G. Moddelmog, made $531,924, plus $26,683 in change. That's more than President Obama makes.

Here's another screenshot from  2009 Form 990, straight from Komen.org. Yup, more of the same. Curiously, these were the only employees listed in this type of form, similar to the 2008 one. Other employees were not listed with their position title. 

In all, about 11% of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s annual revenue goes toward employee salaries. And that adds up to a lot of money. But what about the rest?

"Public Health Education"

We have all seen the rallies with pink hats, pink T-shirts, pink staging, pink everything. Is this really making a difference?

The area in which Komen spends the highest percentage of funds is in “public health education,” in other words, bringing awareness to the population of the disease itself and the importance of screening for early detection of breast cancer. While that may be considered a worthwhile goal to some, it’s important to realize that Komen stands to profit from spreading that message.

It admits to about 10% of funds used for “fundraising,” but let’s be honest, the pink-ribbon-plastered “awareness” and”education” campaigns are often little more than a highly effective form of advertising — which in turn, brings in Komen’s millions. In other words, a way to raise funds for itself, while getting a pat on the back for its efforts to “save lives.”

One thing that doesn’t quite compute with me is how Komen’s mission of finding a “cure” — after all, that is its  name — is congruent with putting over half its money toward promoting awareness and screening, for early detection of breast cancer. It’s not curing breast cancer to be aware that you could get it, nor is finding out that you have cancer and treating it in the early stages in hopes of entering into remission. That’s not a cure. Yet that is Komen’s largest promoted focus.