komen’s rules of disorder

Posted: February 3, 2012 in Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , , ,

Invoking petty technicalities has always been an integral weapon in the political arsenal. These shifty maneuverings, while not illegal, highlight one of the major problems in our government. Delaying decisions, reversing policy or doing any of the self-serving bullshit many of our elected officials do by invoking some obscure bit of minutia is insulting to the nation and, more to the point, the sensibilities of people they vowed to represent. We’re constantly reminded legality and morality do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.

There’s no denying the sheer amount of work facing our country requires innovative techniques to things get done. Congress does not have the time or resources to vote on every single piece of legislation as a standalone entity. They address this by attaching riders to pending bills. The argument, and it’s a legitimate one, is this strategy accelerates the legislative process. If several items can be resolved under the umbrella of one vote it stands to reason more things will get accomplished. The problem is most every rider has nothing to do with the bill’s primary objective. Not by a long shot. Maybe it is naïve, but it seems to me if you velcro something to a piece of legislation it should, at a minimum, relate to the legislation’s central theme. Yet this tactic is universally applied to sneak through things which, perhaps, lawmakers don’t want exposed in the full glare of the spotlight. Of course another by-product is it also fuels future negative attacks. Tack new payroll taxes onto a bill focusing on immigration and in two years you can claim whoever voted for the bill is in favor of raising taxes. It’s sordid business.

Both parties do this while swimming furiously through the slime of misdirection. It’s one of many reasons it is impossible to listen to any politician blast the voting record of another politician. But just when you’re convinced nothing is as straightforward as people would have you believe, fate blessedly intervenes. The past few days have reminded us there are still those who think they can slam whatever they want down our throats. They don’t even need to be elected officials.

On Tuesday Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a Texas based and nationally prominent organization whose mission is to fight breast cancer, announced they were immediately eliminating all funding for Planned Parenthood. That’s about $680,000 annually (or 34,000 clinical breast exams and 1,300 mammogram referrals). They claimed they were bound by their own rules which prohibit them from funding any organization which is “under official investigation.” Well, that is true. Their rule says that. Since September Planned Parenthood has been under congressional inquiry to discover if they used federal money to fund abortions, which is against the law. So technically the Komen people were correct. But in their arrogance they overestimated their power by underestimating the will of the people.

Many, many folks believed this “policy enforcement” was a transparent political attack, part of a long, sustained effort to chip away at the public’s support for Planned Parenthood, more specifically abortion rights. (3% of Planned Parenthood’s activity is abortion related. Whether they use federal funds towards this end has never been a question until this recent, some say baseless, inquiry was initiated by an anti-abortion Florida representative.) Adding further intrigue is that Karen Handel, Komen’s recently appointed Senior Manager of Public Policy (and 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate in Georgia), has said, “I am staunchly and unequivocally pro-life. Let me be clear: since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.” Regardless of your feelings about abortion it’s difficult for a rational person to ignore the connection between Handel’s personal beliefs, her influence within Komen, and Komen’s subsequent decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. (Incidentally, of the 2,000+ organizations Komen supports, Planned Parenthood is the only one which felt its wrath.) This was political bullying under the guise of “following the rules” at its worse.

Since then we’ve all seen the massive outrage wrought by this decision. You couldn’t sit down at a table without hearing it. It’s amazing how quickly people vilified an organization that has done a massive amount of good work for decades. Members of their Board quit. Prominent politicians decried the decision. Talking heads talked, writers wrote, bloggers blogged, and men and women united in a firestorm of protest. “Toss away those pink ribbons and abandon Komen.” People have been jumping ship without a second thought.

Today the organization did an abrupt about face saying they would restore funding to Planned Parenthood. Their press release said in part, “We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.” Perhaps I’m too cynical, but it’s remarkable how quickly the rules can be changed and those technicalities tossed aside when your funding is suddenly at risk.

  1. I believe they are doing quite a bit of back peddling on this one. Caving to politics when the issue is healthcare for all is just unacceptable.


  2. Nate Shenk says:

    Sounds to me like Susan G. Komen needs to reanalyze their motives and learn how to listen to the people. I won’t be donating to them any time soon.


  3. catlib56 says:

    I wonder how many people will remember this tempest eight months from now, when walkers and runners will solicit donations for “the walk” in my area.


  4. Feel the Hugs® has always had a team at Komen. This will be our last year to write checks to the Komen race, as I have been questioning them for years….why no cure? ACS is a terrific group and it looks like our support could be much more appreciated there.

    Feel the Hugs® donates a portion of all sales to Cancer research, and we always look for trustworthy groups to partner with.


  5. The sad fact of our society today is that the dollar rules all. Politicians no longer serve as a privilege, but as a fast track to big money. Corporations which include parents sell crap food to children. Business and bank execs who were responsible for an economic meltown walk away with millions. Human slavery is the #1 business on the planet, and yes, it exists right here in the US of A. And a lot of people deal with all this by shutting their eyes to what is happening and focusing instead on the lives of a tiny group of obscenely wealthy celebs and sports figures who flaunt their wretched excess with complete abandon. Right there on the heap are the group of “non-profits” that make money from the very real challenges that ordinary people face. Koman has been doing this for years. Yes, they have helped some people. Yes, they have sponsored worthy events. But they are fundamentally a marketing company that exists to promote their products. The best that can come out of the debacle is that many people will now see Koman, and other groups. for what they are and in the future do some homework before supporting these groups.


  6. My opinion of the Komen organization began to falter a couple of years ago when they used their legal department to aggressively go after any group that used the words “for the cure” in their promotions of fundraising efforts to fight cancer. Why? Because Komen in their corporate wisdom wanted to copyright those words. Then late last year, Komen pulled millions in funding for research projects involving embyonic stem cell research. Less and less of the funds they raise go to their “cause” of finding a cure for cancer. This latest maneuver and “apology” was the nail in the coffin for me. They will never get another penny of my support. However, I was happy that Planned Parenthood ended up benefiting from all of the Komen nonsense.


  7. Your cynicism is well placed, John. I feel the same way. And it’s really too bad that too many people immediately jump to the abortion question when the name Planned Parenthood comes up in conversation. They do so much more! Without PP, women I know would be long dead of breast cancer and the like. As for Komen, well….someone in FB put it cleanly — whatever charity you decide to support, check them out thoroughly to make sure you know where and how your money is being spent.


    • John says:

      It’s a shame there are those who decide the way to further their social agenda is through charities. Doing your research before donating is certainly a wise move.


  8. I think we should float bill that there cannot be any more bills with riders. And do anything we need to get it passed – even if we have to attach a few riders.


    • John says:

      I like that! And it would be a perfectly legal way to do it. The last bill with riders is the one that eliminate riders. There’s a certain cosmic justice to it.


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