Friday, February 3, 2012

Women Win!


For the last three days, only one political story has dominated my brain: the horrendous shock that the right-wing had seeped into a national charity that most Americans still believed was acting on behalf of women's health.

For years, there has been some distrust of Komen and their spending, questionable relationships leading to silence or approval of things scientists question and the balance of brand vs. integrity. But that was a fairly small rumbling under the surface of the global charity's image. Perhaps it was too overwhelming for most people to ask if a giant in women's health advocacy may not be doing as much good as we needed to believe.

I, for one, have never been a Komen supporter. Something about their strategery has always bothered me. Perhaps it's because I hate pink. But I think I tend to shy away from monolithic organizations whose basic work isn't something I can see. I don't see the researchers in action. I don't see Komen breast clinics anywhere. But I see pink blenders and coffee tumblers and, now, possibly guns.

What I see and support are Planned Parenthood clinics. I actually see where my donations go.

But, overall, Americans believed Komen was an organization that acted on good faith, with integrity and with the sole purpose of reaching as many women as possible. Until three days ago, when we learned they didn't want to reach women who go to those very Planned Parenthood clinics I see around me.

Sure, they had a few reasons: they changed their policies to prevent funding to organizations that are being "investigated", or they changed their strategy to be more laser-like with their funding choices, or they just want to help women and by saying no to Planned Parenthood, they can give more to someone else.

But when you look at their 990s, it's clear that they have plenty of money to continue supporting Planned Parenthood AND increase grants to other organizations and even add new ones. Komen has been so effective that they have more money than the can spend. According to GuideStar (you can get a free account to see financials on any charity) their last year breaks down like this:Link

Revenue and Expenses

Fiscal Year Starting: Apr 1, 2010
Fiscal Year Ending: Mar 31, 2011
Contributions $285,794,584
Program Services $34,417,471
Membership Dues $0
Special Events $27,473,679
8522668 $1,623,681
Total Revenue $357,832,083
Program Services $282,981,996
Administrative Costs $26,276,602
Fundraising Costs $33,720,165
Payments To Affiliates $0
Total Expenses $342,978,763
Assets & Liabilities
Total Assets$492,190,210
Total Liabilities $295,307,087
Net Assets or Fund Balance at the end of year $196,883,123
They still have $196,83,123 left over. So why the need to make changes to better strategerize? They said that Planned Parenthood doesn't do mammograms so they wanted to give money to clinics with mammogram equipment. Well, I'd like to see data on the number of small towns with Planned Parenthood that have another clinic in town with actual mammogram equipment. My guess is close to NONE. So, they were going to move money away from Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood only gives mammogram "referrals"? I live in a pretty good-sized suburb of a pretty big city. And yet, not one of the doctors I've received my well-woman exams from actually had mammogram equipment. They all refer their patients to the local hospitals for mammograms. So I found that Komen excuse ridiculous.

But they also said they changed their policies to not award funds to organizations under any type of investigation. That makes sense. I've worked the grant process before so that seems reasonable. But, um, anytime I've seen anything like that, the organization had to have actually been found guilty of wrong-doing. And this was where I think Komen fell apart. I truly believe they coordinated their policy change with the Congressional "investigation" and it seemed like a slam-dunk excuse: have a reasonable out while ALSO drawing attention to the ongoing investigation that isn't technically on-going since nothing is actually going on.

There's no way Komen didn't anticipate backlash. They HAD to know there would be protest on the left, and maybe even in the middle. But they had so many on the right who were waiting for this day, that they probably expected a boost of donations and support from the right. I think the right has been acting on pure ego for the last three years. They take aggressive actions as if they are the standard-bearers of values. It hasn't occurred to them until now that maybe their egos got too big. I don't think Komen expected their doctors and researches to cry foul. I don't think it ever occurred to them that they were blinded by their own ideology and were walking into a disaster.

A few things had to have happened to make this week transpire the way it did.

First: as soon as Planned Parenthood was told of this decision, before the holidays according to Cecile Richards, they went into messaging and planning mode. Planned Parenthood was working with Komen to change their minds WHILE they were preparing to tell America that they were sad and surprised. Cecile was calm, composed and classy in every interview. Planned Parenthood's messaging was ONLY about the women who would lose access to care and NEVER about demonizing Komen.

The second thing that had to happen was Komen didn't prepare. They were so unorganized, defensive, inconsistent and sporadic, that I can't see any possible coordination on messaging or planning. They seemed so caught off guard that there is no way they expected what they got. And to not expect this was naive and out-of-touch. The last two years in America has been about organizing, protesting, defending. Why the hell would they not expect this? Because they are convinced that the American people are with them. They expected liberal backlash. But I don't think they prepared for an American onslaught. And the right-wing media is spinning this as a liberal-only issue. But I have heard many Republican, anti-choice women say they were appalled by Komen's actions. They were ill-prepared and it showed.

The last thing that had to happen to make this week happen the way it did: every damn step the GOP has taken since President Obama was sworn in. They have obstructed the President, our doctors, our uteri, our rights, our tax dollars. They have stopped American progress every step of the way on every issue. Americans are so used to it by now. We're stunned and not stunned at the same time, each time they do something new. But Americans didn't see the right-wing covert operation taking place in Komen. So when word got out that Komen was betraying women by denying funds to Planned Parenthood, Americans were SHOCKED and PISSED OFF. Komen took something fairly sacred and crapped all over it. And because we've had enough, and because the right-wing has already make a mockery of government, we hit the roof, blew it off and kicked its ass all over the place.

So, where do we stand now, as far as Komen goes? Well there are a few points to make here. First, no organization is always guaranteed money every year. So they were never "safe". And if today, Komen hadn't reversed their decision to change their policy and commitments, then we'd need to find a way to get Planned Parenthood half a million dollars every year to make up for each year's loss. Yes, we raised a few years' worth for them this week. But we're pissed. What was going to piss us off next February or the next? What would have spurred us to donate then? Well, here's the deal, if Komen denies Planned Parenthood a grant next year, for ANY reason, we will be spurred. So, now Planned Parenthood is getting our money and Komen money. And next year, they will either get Komen money or our money. But Komen's backtracking ensures we will be waiting and watching and preparing to act.

People will be watching Komen more closely. Women are already digging deeper into Komen's financials, their grant lists, their stance on things like embryonic stem cell research and BPA. Women who haven't left Komen for good, will be paying closer attention. And because Planned Parenthood has been consistent and open, more women may start donating more regularly. Also, more breast cancer organizations will start getting deserved attention.

And, finally, we sent a message to the right-wing that they can't have everything. They are done trying to destroy us from the inside out. Komen's decision today is a message to all America that they realize we will NOT allow right-wing stealth attacks anymore. We're on a mission and we are organized. And we are fucking pissed off.

Our next steps should include pressure on Komen to fire Karen Handel who has, no doubt, brought her right-wing ego and tricks to the decision making and could change Komen's pledge to protect ObamaCARES to reflect her strong opposition to it. And we should demand an ethics violation inquiry into Congressman Cliff Stearns and his staff and a possible coordination between them and any organization acting on behalf of Komen to create the false pretense of an investigation and/or for wasting tax dollars on a witch hunt.

Today, Congressman Stearns said

“In response to the original decision by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to stop funding grants to Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood raised the equivalent funds within 24 hours. Although I wasn’t involved in either decision, it is clear that Planned Parenthood does not need the Komen funding. I believe that Planned Parenthood could be, and should be, totally self sufficient, as with so many other non-profit organizations, and spare America’s hard-pressed taxpayers the $487 million Planned Parenthood received in public funding. As Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, I will continue the investigation into Planned Parenthood’s use of taxpayer funds. This oversight is necessary because of its record of fraud discovered through state Medicaid audits and its other abuses and illegal activities, such as ignoring state reporting requirements on sexual abuse.”
I bolded the most disgusting part. Of course Planned Parenthood raised all kinds of cash this week. They were under assault. To use this historic attack on Planned Parenthood to draw a funding conclusion is willfully deceptive and egregious. So, let's not let this man go about his days without some serious fury.

We should keep the momentum of this week and make clear that "We're fired up! We're ready to go!"

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