What will progressives do about apparent right-wing “fog shops” like Komen?

(See below for explanation of my term “fog shop.”)

As you know by now, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the parent organization of the breast cancer fundraiser “Race for the Cure” (they of pink ribbon fame), suddenly cut off hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding for Planned Parenthood clinics to provide breast exams to poor women around the country. Komen claims the move wasn’t politically motivated, but then admitted to the AP that a conservative House Republican’s “investigation” of Planned Parenthood was a “key factor” in their decision.

Let’s step back for a moment. First, we “knew” that the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which ostensibly supports breast cancer research and treatment, was “non-partisan, apolitical.”

How did we “know” this? Because “everyone knows that.”

Peeling back the veil, however, reveals what everyone (conveniently) doesn’t know.

Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Holy Joe “Short Ride” Lieberman, is one of their big angels and backers. The New Hampshire Register in 2006 (h/t FDL, my emphasis throughout):

This fight [the 2006 senatorial race] isn’t exclusively being drawn along party lines.

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who often takes a conservative line on social issues, is facing a liberal Democratic primary challenge from wealthy Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont. But that hasn’t stopped Lieberman from supporting the approach of the Catholic hospitals when it comes to contraceptives for rape victims.

Lieberman said he believes hospitals that refuse to give contraceptives to rape victims for “principled reasons” shouldn’t be forced to do so. “In Connecticut, it shouldn’t take more than a short ride to get to another hospital,” he said.

Here’s Hadassah’s support for Komen:

Hadassah Lieberman has long been associated with Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, working with us on breast cancer education and awareness in other countries as a Susan G. Komen Global Ambassador. Her efforts have been invaluable and we intend to keep tapping her expertise to fulfill our goal to bring breast cancer programs to women in countries who have few resources to battle this disease. …

It’s been reported that Susan G. Komen for the Cure provides funding to pharmaceutical companies. That is simply not true. We have never funded pharmaceutical company research – our grants, totaling $450 million, have gone to research institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Another $900 million in Susan G. Komen for the Cure funding has gone to programs in communities world-wide. We will commit another $50 million to research in the coming year.

Why that disclaimer? Because of this — Hadassah’s “other job”. Joe Conason, again in 2006:

In bed with Big Pharma
Hadassah Lieberman worked for a powerhouse lobbying firm. Were her clients’ special interests being served by her husband?

… [Lieberman campaign spokesman Dan] Gerstein went on to note that Mrs. Lieberman “has never been a registered lobbyist” according to records kept by the Senate clerk.

In my original column on Mrs. Lieberman’s work for Hill & Knowlton, I carefully refrained from labeling her a lobbyist, since I knew that she had not registered as one. Whether she should have registered is difficult to determine, however, because neither Gerstein nor anyone else associated with either the Lieberman campaign or Hill & Knowlton will discuss what services she performed for the company, one of the biggest lobby shops in Washington, which hired her in March 2005.

Her vague title was “senior counselor” in the firm’s “health care and pharmaceuticals practice.”

This is Hill+Knowlton. Small-timers, right?

So that’s one data point (and note the dates).

Karen Handel & Nancy Brinker. John Aravosis recently found this:

Yesterday we learned that a top Komen official is also a GOP anti-abortion activist who promised less than two years ago to shut down funding to Planned Parenthood.

Today we learn from Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones that Komen’s founder, Nancy Goodman Brinker, is a major Republican donor who served as an ambassador in the George W. Bush administration, one assumes as payback for the more than $175,000 she gave to Republican candidates and the RNC since 1990.

More at the link.

Still not enough? Here’s Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic (via Digby, who adds her own comments):

[T]hree sources with direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process told me that the rule was adopted in order to create an excuse to cut-off Planned Parenthood. (Komen gives out grants to roughly 2,000 organizations, and the new “no-investigations” rule applies to only one so far.) The decision to create a rule that would cut funding to Planned Parenthood, according to these sources, was driven by the organization’s new senior vice-president for public policy, Karen Handel, a former gubernatorial candidate from Georgia who is staunchly anti-abortion and who has said that since she is “pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.” … The decision, made in December, caused an uproar inside Komen.

Digby calls adding Handel to the team the “willing hire of a forced childbirth zealot.” Amen.

And they appear to have gotten rid of their Democratic lobbyist before hiring Movement Conservative loyalist Karen Handel. Getting the picture? Rotting from the top down perhaps?

What does this add up to?

Komen’s founder, Nancy Goodman Brinker, is a long-time “loyal Bushie” — a huge GOP donor and ThankYou recipient. An active arm, in other words, of the Movement Conservative project. She hires, among other people, Karen Handel as VP of
“Public Policy”. Handel is a former Palin-endorsed candidate for GOP governor in Georgia who is staunchly anti-gay, and who promised during her run for governor to defund Planned Parenthood.

Are you ready to believe that Komen’s dropping of Planned Parenthood is an accident? If so, silly you, say I. Any guesses how many other Movement Conservative warriors are harbored (and very nicely paid, thank you) within those women-supported Komen walls? (Consider this a research project for you grad students. I’m serious. Twitter me links; I always give credit.)

I’m starting to believe, until proven otherwise, that the Susan G. Komen enterprises are dangerously close to becoming a right-wing “fog shop” — i.e., a Movement Conservative operation that functions on the surface as a “woman’s rights”–friendly do-gooder op, while harboring within it the nasty seed of wicked right-wing intentions.

Here’s Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams this week:

It’s not that Komen is some questionable, Wyclef Jean-esque mess. It gets high marks from both the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator. Yet this is an organization that has repeatedly come under fire for its extravagant promotion of itself as an organization dedicated to a “cure,” when only a small portion of its expenses go to, you know, curing cancer. Komen itself cops to portioning just 24 percent of its funds to research – and 20 percent to fundraising and administration. For an organization with reported revenues of nearly $350 million, that’s still a lot of money for research. It’s an awful lot for itself, too.

So which is the main show and which the distracting opening act? Is the do-gooder chocolatey coating (with only 24% of funds passed to reasearch and only 7% to treatment) more important to them? Or is it the truly nasty anti-abortion core, which they’ve hired to support?

In my opinion, if you bought the cover as the primary story, you’re lost in the fog. Komen seems to think the fact that they do indeed do good, means that you’ll be all a-muddle when their knife come out. Don’t be confused by the do-gooder chocolatey cover story. It was designed to confuse you. Folks, always ignore the deflection and watch the hand with the knife.

Which leads to my question: What will progressives do about this?

     Walk away, withdrawing their support as they leave?
     Ask nicely by sending petitions?
     Pull out your own metaphorical knife and, in effect, say Bring it?

I know what the other side would do. How? Because they’ve already done it. That knife in Planned Parenthood’s back is theirs.

Action Opportunity

The moment is now, when it’s news. If progressives (especially, but not exclusively, progressive women) handle this with petitions, every apolitical woman who “runs for the cure” will think Komen is just an apolitical group caught up in a accidental political war. And they will continue to support them.

The “fog” wins, and Komen continues to fund-raise.

You can stop Komen, the way the right-wing stops everyone on our side — by spreading the truth and burning their “apolitical” brand to the ground, salting it so it never rises again.

But those are just my thoughts; I’ll leave it to the pros to game this out. Brighter minds than me should be thinking this through.

My only point is in the title of this piece. What are progressives going to do about that knife in their back? Stay confused? Or teach someone a lesson.

Educationally yours,

GP

[Updated to clarify their pass-through percentages.]


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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