Friday, February 03, 2012

On the Destruction of the Susan G. Komen Brand Over Pulling Planned Parenthood Funding

There was no reason that the Susan G. Komen charitable foundation should ever have waded into the mess that it is now in. I'm heartened by the fact that some of the Komen affiliates are rebelling against the central organization's directives:
Komen has said the decision stemmed from newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations under investigation — affecting Planned Parenthood because of an inquiry by a Republican congressman acting with encouragement from anti-abortion activists.

A source with direct knowledge of decision-making at Komen's headquarters gave a different account, saying the grant-making criteria were adopted with the deliberate intention of targeting Planned Parenthood. The criteria's impact on Planned Parenthood and its status as the focus of government investigations were highlighted in a memo distributed to Komen affiliates in December.

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, a driving force behind the move was Karen Handel, who was hired by Komen last year as vice president for public policy after losing a campaign for governor in Georgia in which she stressed her anti-abortion views and frequently denounced Planned Parenthood.

Karen Handel is said to be a driving force behind Komen's decision this week to cut breast-screening grants to Planned Parenthood.

Brinker, in an interview with MSNBC, said Handel didn't have a significant role in the policy change.

Among Komen's affiliates, there were clear signs of discomfort with the decision. All seven Komen affiliates in California, in a joint letter to their congressional delegation, said they were "strongly opposed" to the policy change and were working to overturn it.

"Our commitment to our mission is unwavering," the letter said. "This is a misstep in that journey and ... we will do whatever it takes to do what is right for the health of women and men in California."

Philanthropy experts said it will be difficult for Komen to convince people it wasn't playing politics.

The charity has destroyed its brand all over an attempt by anti-abortion advocates to politicize where funding goes.
A Connecticut chapter has also said that it wont pull funding from Planned Parenthood in that state.

They've alienated half (or more) of the country that supports abortion rights and Planned Parenthood all to cater to the vocal anti-abortion advocates who have joined the ranks of the Komen leadership.

The timeline bears out the politicization of the process within the organization.

Komen changes its policy, claiming that it will no longer fund entities that are under investigation.

That change came after a known anti-abortion activist, Karen Handel, joined Komen in a key leadership role.

Komen announces end of funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates over an ongoing Congressional investigation.

That Congressional investigation is being conducted by a member of Congress whose anti-abortion views are known, and who was doing the investigation at the behest, and on behalf, of other anti-abortion groups.

As a result of the change in policy, Komen will withhold $600k+ in funding from Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood cries foul and a massive fundraising effort ensues to make up shortfall. More than $400,000 is raised within 24 hours, and that doesn't include up to $250,000 in matching donations by New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Komen plays defensive (late at that) claiming that the decision wasn't politically motivated or motivated by anti-abortion views, but insiders claim a different story - that this was motivated by the new hire (Handel).

That you're now seeing other Komen affiliates rebelling against the directive suggests that they see politics in the matter and it undermines their ability to raise funds to ... you know... fight breast cancer.

No matter how you look at this, this whole mess undermines that core mission. Komen has made such a mess of this situation that they can't be trusted on their statements and they will be sure to alienate a significant portion of potential donors no matter what decision they take now (keep the PP funding frozen out, restore it, or some combination of the above). It's a permanent blight on their ability to remain credible.

The charity has taken a word, "investigation", and applied it to political witch-hunts in Congress, and not law enforcement investigations, which is really what Komen ought to be worried about if they're dealing with integrity issues. Congressional investigations are as much about political witch hunts and campaigning as they are about legitimately looking at issues requiring Congressional attention. Planned Parenthood is among the most scrutinized charities in the nation because of the kinds of services they provide, and this is just another excuse to stick it to them.

What really strikes me as particularly galling is that Komen is ignoring actual criminal investigations ongoing at Penn State University, but they continue funding operations there. If this were really about curtailing financing to those entities under investigation, the Penn State funding would have been first up on the chopping block. To me, that says that this was politically motivated, and not merely an attempt to improve Komen's integrity.

Moreover, I have to wonder what would happen if Komen itself came under investigation by Congress for how it spends its money. Would that mean that it would have to divest itself from its monies in the same way that they're acting towards Planned Parenthood?

In a surprising turn of events, Komen has announced that they will reverse course and will amend their policy to exclude political investigations, which is good news for Planned Parenthood. The whole reason that they sought to exclude Planned Parenthood was precisely because it was the target of a political investigation. Yet, it doesn't mean the end of the mess for Komen though. The fallout will continue for some time to come.

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