Oh, By The Way…

Which one’s Pink?

Which is another way of saying that I neither should nor have anything more to say about Komenfreude, except…

McMegan, as is her wont, has hit bottom and continued to dig — with a second post complaining that all the pro-choice meanies missed her point that funding health care services means that one is funding abortions (yup — neither logic nor the concept of designated donations seem to be in McArdle’s wheelhouse).  She goes on to educate her readers about the strange fact that overhead pays for actual expenses — which, astonishingly, many of us actually know.  She makes no effort to address the claims of those who argue that the Komen Foundation’s overhead is incommensurate with its actual services.  That would have required actual effort (and a calculator!).

She here ignores what more seasoned or cynical reporters would take to the bank:  more people make a living off the disease than die of it.

McArdle’s claim rests on the fact that overhead at Komen runs about 10% of its annual expenses of roughly 400,000,000, with fundraising adding another roughly 10% — which in fact doesn’t sound too bad.  But even a cursory look at the most easily accessed numbers suggests that a more curious writer would have had some questions about Komen’s books.

For example:  according to the foundation’s 2010 annual report, money spent on adminstrative overhead exceeded that for treatment.

It almost matched what was spent for screening, and even (now politicized) research expenditures accounted for less than 20% of whole pie.

By far the largest line item service paid for by Komen is that for education, which accounts for about $140 million, or 35% of the operation’s budget.  Now donors might want to know that cash offered up “for the cure” was by and large being spent on efforts that have nothing to do with either individual patient care or the science of breast cancer, but “education,” taken all in all is certainly an important element in an approach to any progressive disease — and  the difference in outcomes for breast cancers discovered when they are local compared to later stages is formidable.

But even these numbers are a little squirrely.  This post details a breakdown in which 37% of that budget goes for the actual delivery of “education.” 63% goes for everything else, from developing materials to postage — and professional fees and occupancy and so on.  That is – there is a fair amount of overhead hidden within this education line item, and obscured from the top line budget.  Again, a cynical or, perhaps better, a competent reporter would ponder the outsize proportion of money Komen chooses to spend on education, as opposed to activities that more directly connect to patient outcomes and the future of cancer medicine.  Given how easy it is to slosh cash around consultant fees and production contracts, if I were looking for ways a charity might turn itself into a piggy bank, this is the kind of thing I’d be looking for.*

McArdle didn’t, which is of course, no surprise to anyone here.  The only good news is that her trademark “I’m agin’ whatever the reality based community is for” act really does seem to be wearing thin; perhaps it’s just inattention on my part, but she seems to be having much more difficulty breaking out of the echo chamber she’s created over there than in the past.  Once a Villager, always one, I guess — but there are high tables and low, and I’m thinking that McArdle looks more and more like she will remain well downhill of the (pink Himalayan salt) as her combination of sloth and mean-girl reflex continues to lose its lustre.

But all that is preamble to the real point of this post, which is that all of the Komen reporting, and especially the discussion of Nancy Brinkley’s truly impressive annual salary, reminded me of the late great documentary Marjoe, and especially this clip.  (The action really gets on target at about 2:52.)

<div align=”center”><iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/1-C3trU9ljw” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

There is nothing new under the sun.

*The usual disclaimer:  I haven’t done what I’m suggesting McArdle should have.  I’m not a forensic accountant, and I didn’t write a story in which I try to argue that Komen’s overhead numbers are kosher.   Nor am I claming here that they are not, just that if I were an editor  I’d have a lot of questions to ask any reporter that came to me with the kind of unsourced and unsupported tripe we confront here.

Image:  Jan Steen, The Doctor and his Patientbefore 1679.



45 replies
  1. 1
    schrodinger's cat says:

    So how long did it last? I mean, your decision to not write about the woman with fancy blender.

  2. 2
    ploeg says:

    If McArdle’s point is abortions are a necessary part of women’s health care, then yeah. Somehow I don’t guess that was her point, though.

  3. 3
    the dude says:

    Did we tell you the name of the game, boy? We call it riding the gravy train.

  4. 4
    beltane says:

    According to Karen Handel’s Wikipedia page she worked as a prostitute in the early 90’s to support her cocaine habit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Handel

    Does anyone know if she participated in threesomes with Megan McArdle?

  5. 5
    ploeg says:

    BTW, I hope that they got a source for the salary of Nancy Brinker (not Brinkley) that’s better than Wikipedia’s source. Charity Navigator now says that Brinker is “Not compensated.” Brinker must have figured out how to tap the power of consultant fees and production contracts.

  6. 6
    beltane says:

    All “education” is not created equally. The way I see it, the Susan G. Komen Foundation solely exists to educate potential donors about the awesomeness that is the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

  7. 7
    ploeg says:


    According to Karen Handel’s Wikipedia page she worked as a prostitute in the early 90’s to support her cocaine habit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Handel

    Not anymore it doesn’t.

  8. 8
    Brandon says:

    Considering that since Sully’s moved and no longer required to give her the obligatory ‘heh indeedy’ link, I think the only people linking and discussing McMegan now are you and Zandar. It is proven fact she is plummeting fast from C to D lister in the Village. So can we just ignore her now? At this point I don’t even bother clicking through to read her obtuse blather anymore and I am sure I am not alone. It’s just not that fun anymore. So I am basically pleading with you to find a new beat as this ones too well worn to be of interest anymore.

  9. 9
    beltane says:

    @ploeg: That’s too bad. The entry also said she was born in Cameroon and did not attend college.

  10. 10
    Ohio Mom says:

    @Brandon: you must not ever visit Alicublog. Tom and Zandar are amateurs in comparison.

  11. 11
    Woodrowfan says:

    does the Atlantic still have editors??

  12. 12
    slag says:

    @beltane: Sad to have missed it. Sounds hilarious.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    beltane says:

    @slag: I can’t do a screen shot, but here is a block quote for the part dealing with her early career:

    Handel was born in Cameroon, Africa. and grew up in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.[3] After graduating in May 1980 from Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro, [4][5] Handel says she took college courses from an unnamed institution “at night” but did not complete any degree. She then went to work for Hallmark Cards. Later, she served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Vice-President Dan Quayle’s wife, Marilyn, where she worked to promote breast cancer awareness and research.[6] Handel recently admitted to working as a prostitute in the early 90’s to support her cocaine craze. She has since cleaned up her act.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    Calouste says:


    That old version also mentions Komen as a “former charity”. Nice touch.

  17. 17
    beltane says:

    Liberals are soooooo mean….

  18. 18
    Redshift says:

    complaining that all the pro-choice meanies missed her point that funding health care services means that one is funding abortions

    The thing that struck me recently about “all money is fungible, so if the law is that government money can’t pay for abortion, no government money can go to organizations that perform abortions” is that if that principle were actually used, no government grants could go to any religious charity ever because it’s “fungible” with money for religious activities.

    (Yeah, I know the wingnuts would like to change that. And I know that treating their arguments as ‘logic’ is a recipe for insanity. But still…)

  19. 19
    Betsy says:

    On the front page at Komen is a statement that they give such a large percentage of their net proceeds directly to research, treatment, education.

    Net. That’s NET proceeds.

    In other words, after you take out their massive overhead, hardly anything at all.

    And most of their “education” seems to consist of “pink item letting me know that breast cancer exists”.

    Thanks, I was scared of it already. Now I’m … extra scared of it.

    Also, I am aware that (some) nipples are pink. Nice to know too that pink=cute=girl=cancer.

    “Save the ta-tas.” Yeah, thanks for that.

  20. 20
    Culture of Truth says:

    “Megan, I can’t quit you!!!”

  21. 21
    piratedan says:

    but Tom…. unsupported and unsourced is what McMegan does best…. a gal has to play to her strengths y’know.

  22. 22
    Raven says:

    This is the name of the Floyd cover band my brother manages in LA!

  23. 23
    Culture of Truth says:

    The way I see it, the Susan G. Komen Foundation solely exists to educate potential donors about the awesomeness that is the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

    SGK is turning in an charitable mashup of the Gingrich and Romney campaigns.

  24. 24
    slag says:

    @ploeg: Excellent! I love versioning. It makes me feel like time travel is possible.

  25. 25
    Maude says:

    OT, could someone please find the crank for this Tin Lizzie blog? I was on my third incantation by the time one of my comments posted. Don’t have many left and I need them.

  26. 26
  27. 27
    satby says:

    @ploeg: Not compensated as CEO, compensated as President of the Board of Directors, I think.

  28. 28
    DMcK says:

    @Brandon: Oh, he finally got his forced-birther ass in gear today. Naturally, he puts the blame for politicizing the issue on nasty pro-choicers, deploying his usual disregard for objective reality, and with a nod to McMegan’s drivel for good measure.

  29. 29
    trollhattan says:


    According to Karen Handel’s Wikipedia page she worked as a prostitute in the early 90’s to support her cocaine habit:

    I’ve seen photos, that can’t have been much of a habit.

  30. 30
    Downpuppy says:

    In this case, Megan’s laziness is exceeded by her (willful?) witlessness. After Goldbergs story, was there any doubt that more sins would come pouring out? Yet McArdle has managed 3 posts & is still not admitting that this is anything other than a judgement call.

  31. 31
    ploeg says:

    @satby: Charity Navigator says that no board members are compensated as board members. The consultant fee/production contract angle would seem to be more productive avenue for investigation.

  32. 32
    cervantes says:

    the difference in outcomes for breast cancers discovered when they are local compared to later stages is formidable. . . .

    Alas, this is conventional wisdom but it is greatly exaggerated. The fact is, it is far from clear that widespread mammographic screening is even a net benefit at all. The reason it appears that cancers diagnosed earlier have better outcomes is because some unknown percentage of them never would have gone on to cause clinically meaningful disease even if they had never been discovered at all. In fact, it is now becoming evident that many of these lesions disappear on their own. (Many people are questioning whether these sorts of lesions, called ductal carcinoma in situ, ought to be called “cancer” at all.) Yet women go through surgery, chemo, radiation — they think their lives have been saved but it is equally likely, if not more likely, that they have been scarred, poisoned and irradiated for no good reason at all.

    On the other hand, between one mammogram and the time the next is scheduled, a clinically detectable cancer – a lump – can develop, meaning you have a detectable and hence undoubtedly dangerous cancer that was not detected by routine screening.

    To be clear, in other words, the reason there appears to be a survival advantage to early detection is mostly because you’re detecting stuff that never would have killed you anyway. I hope the logic of that is clear.

    In Europe, this is much better understood, but there are billions of dollars to be made treating women with clinically meaningless DCIS. And it’s that river of money that motivates the campaigns to have every woman get a mammogram every year. It’s a scam. And that’s where the Komen Foundations’ “Education” money is going.

  33. 33
    Mark S. says:


    I like the shout out to nonentity Rod Dreher’s (seriously, who besides Edroso reads that idiot?) wishful thinking that feminists will stop caring about reproductive issues.

  34. 34
    PTirebiter says:

    Marjoe Gortner, my man. Had to be made in the early seventies but I still remember the “banging’ whores and bustin’ down doors” sermon. He was no Sister Aimee rockin’ the foursquare, but the boy could bring the griff.

  35. 35
    ploeg says:

    @satby: It’s also possible that Brinker was compensated in past years, saw the shit train coming down the tracks, and decided to bury her compensation more completely.

  36. 36
    Anonymous37 says:

    That would have required actual effort (and a calculator!).

    To be fair, gastritis broke her calculator.

    Someone had to say it.

  37. 37
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Net. That’s NET proceeds.

    Obviously, they’ve hired some Hollywood accountant weasels.

  38. 38
    Jewish Steel says:

    @Raven: I want to be in a Floyd cover band! Probably an expensive proposition on the gear side of things, I’ll bet.

  39. 39
    DMcK says:

    @Mark S.: Gah, I know! Well, at least Sully finally acknowledged this days-old controversy, just to remind us that yes, he’s still a straight-up mysogynist.

  40. 40
    Arclite says:

    You know, Komen should not be a charity if it can’t give most of its donations to charitable causes. Seriously, what’s to stop me from starting my own charity, and then giving 95% of the donations to myself as salary?

  41. 41
    dmbeaster says:

    The accounting rules for charities are practically non-existent. They have to prepare a financial statement for the IRS as part of being tax exempt, but they can do it in-house. Some states require it be done professionally by a CPA, but that does not mean audited financials. The CPA just creates the statement from data supplied by the charity.

    A charity has to get pretty bad before the government will take legal action against it for being bogus. Other than public perception and opinion, there is very little check on how cleanly a charity is run.

    And charities bury all sorts of overhead items into other categories, like “education” or marketing or consulting. These become avenues for indirect compensation for the operators – it is the oldest game in the world for any type of organization that uses other people’s money. Pay an outside service run by the operator, and show it as an expense item – what a surprise.

  42. 42


    credibility, you need to align yourself with a bunch of others who have the same plan.

  43. 43
    Downpuppy says:

    @dmbeaster: They’re audited by Ernst & Young. To solicit in Massachusetts, any public charity with gross support & revenue over $500,000 is required to have an audit. You can find their filings at http://www.charities.ago.state.ma.us/. Komen’s AG ID# is 033196.

    We had a stink last year over directors salaries, centered around some of the health related orgs.

  44. 44
    Dave says:

    Tom, for god’s sake, please tell me you understand that just because some Dutch guy put some splotches of colored oil on a canvas 350 years ago, it does not follow that the same painting has anything to do with abortion in the 21st Century.

  45. 45
    trollhattan says:

    Apologies if this has been noted elsewhere, but WaPo’s odious Jennifer Ruben has chimed in on SGK to expected results: “Planned Parenthood Bullies.”

    But ah, that’s not the beauty of this column, no, it’s that she not only cites McMegan, she drops two McMegan paragraphs smack in the middle of the screed.

    Sooooo, for anybody who thinks there’s too much attention paid to the mewlings of little miss pink designer salt, here’s a counter argument.


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