- Board of Trustees
- Industry executives shape ACS policies.
In 1992, the American Cancer Society Foundation
was created to allow the
ACS to actively solicit contributions of more than $100,000.
However, a close
look at the heavy-hitters on the Foundation's board will give
an idea of which interests
are at play and where the Foundation expects its big contributions
from. The Foundation's board of trustees included corporate
executives from the
pharmaceutical, investment, banking, and media industries.
- David R. Bethune, president of Lederle
a multinational pharmaceutical company and a division of American
Cyanamid Company. Bethune is
also vice president of American Cyanamid, which makes chemical fertilizers
and herbicides while transforming itself into a full-fledged
company. In 1988, American Cyanamid introduced Novatrone, an anti-cancer
drug. And in 1992, it announced that it would buy a majority of shares of
Immunex, a cancer drug maker.
- Multimillionaire Irwin Beck, whose father, William
founded the nation's largest family-owned retail chain, Beck
brought in revenues of $1.7 billion in 1993. Gordon Binder, CEO of Amgen,
the world's foremost biotechnology company, with over $1 billion
in product sales in 1992. Amgen's success rests almost
on one product, Neupogen, which is administered to chemotherapy
patients to stimulate their production of white blood cells. As the cancer
grows, sales for Neupogen continue to skyrocket.
- Diane Disney Miller, daughter of the conservative multi-millionaire
Walt Disney, who died of lung cancer in 1966, and wife of Ron
of the Walt Disney Company from 1980 to 1984.
- George Dessert, famous in media circles for his former role
as censor on the subject of "family values" during the 1970s and 1980s
as CEO of CBS, and now chairman of the ACS board.
- Alan Gevertzen, chairman of the board of Boeing, the world's
number one commercial aircraft maker with net sales of $30 billion
Sumner M. Redstone, chairman of the board, Viacom Inc. and Viacom International
Inc., a broadcasting, telecommunications, entertainment,
and cable television
The results of this board's efforts have been very successful.
A million here, a million there— much of it coming from the very industries instrumental
ACS policy, or profiting from it.
In 1992, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported
that the ACS was "more
interested in accumulating wealth than in saving lives." Fund-raising
routinely stated that the ACS needed more funds to support its cancer programs,
all the while holding more than $750 million in cash and real estate assets
A 1992 article in the Wall Street Journal, by Thomas DiLorenzo, professor of
economics at Loyola College and veteran investigator of nonprofit organizations,
revealed that the Texas affiliate of the ACS owned more than $11 million
of assets in land and real estate, as well as more than 56 vehicles, including
eleven Ford Crown Victorias for senior executives and 45 other cars assigned
members. Arizona's ACS chapter spent less than 10 percent of its funds on direct
community cancer services. In California, the figure was 11 percent, and
9 percent in Missouri (4):
Thus for every $1 spent on direct service, approximately
$6.40 is spent on compensation and overhead. In all ten states,
salaries and fringe benefits
by far the largest single budget items, a surprising fact in light
of the characterization
of the appeals, which stress an urgent and critical need for donations
to provide cancer services.
Nationally, only 16 percent or less of all money raised is spent on
to cancer victims, like driving cancer patients from the hospital after
chemotherapy and providing pain medication.
Most of the funds raised by the ACS go to pay
overhead, salaries, fringe benefits, and travel expenses of its
national executives in Atlanta.
They also go to
chief executive officers, who earn six-figure salaries in several states,
and the hundreds of other employees who work out of some 3,000
nationwide. The typical ACS affiliate, which helps raise the money for the
national office, spends more than 52 percent of its budget on salaries,
fringe benefits, and overhead for its own employees. Salaries and overhead
most ACS affiliates also exceeded 50 percent, although most direct
community services are handled by unpaid volunteers. DiLorenzo summed up his findings
emphasizing the hoarding of funds by the ACS (4):
If current needs are not being met because of insufficient funds, as fund-raising
appeals suggest, why is so much cash being hoarded? Most contributors believe
their donations are being used to fight cancer, not to accumulate financial
reserves. More progress in the war against cancer would be made if they would
divest some of their real estate holdings and use the proceeds— as well
as a portion of their cash reserves— to provide more cancer
from high salaries and overhead, most of what is left of the ACS
budget goes to basic research and research into profitable patented
The current budget of the ACS is $380 million and its cash
$1 billion. Yet its aggressive fund-raising campaign continues
to plead poverty
and lament the lack of available money for cancer research,
efforts to prevent cancer by phasing out avoidable exposures
and occupational carcinogens. Meanwhile, the ACS is silent
about its intricate
relationships with the wealthy cancer drug, chemical, and other
A March 30, 1998, Associated Press Release shed unexpected
light on questionable
ACS expenditures on lobbying (5). National vice president for
and state governmental relations Linda Hay Crawford admitted
that the ACS was
spending "less than $1 million a year on direct lobbying." She
also admitted that
over the last year, the society used ten of its own employees
to lobby. "For legal
and other help, it hired the lobbying firm of Hogan & Hartson,
includes former House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R- IL)." The
lobbying also included $30,000 donations to Democratic and
associations. "We wanted to look like players and be players," explained
Crawford. This practice, however, has been sharply challenged.
Press release quotes the national Charities Information Bureau
as stating that it
" does not know of any other charity that makes contributions
to political parties."
Tax experts have warned that these contributions
may be illegal, as charities
are not allowed to make political donations. Marcus Owens,
director of the IRS
Exempt Organization Division, also warned that "The bottom
line is campaign
contributions will jeopardize a charity's exempt status."
1. Bennett, J. T. Health research
charities: Doing little in research but emphasizing poli-tics.
Union Leader, Manchester,
N. H., September 20, 1990.
2. Bennett, J. T., and DiLorenzo, T. J. Unhealthy
Charities: Hazardous to Your Health
and Wealth. Basic Books, New York, 1994.
3. Hall, H., and Williams, G. Professor vs.
Cancer Society. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, January 28, 1992,
4. DiLorenzo, T. J. One charity's uneconomic
war on cancer. Wall Street Journal,
March 15, 1992, p. A10.
5. Salant, J. D. Cancer Society gives to governors.
Associated Press Release, March 30,
Excerpted from: AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: THE WORLD'S
WEALTHIEST "NONPROFIT" INSTITUTION
by Samuel S. Epstein. International Journal of Health Services,
Volume 29 No. 3. 1999
Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Cancer Prevention Coalition
University of Illinois at Chicago
School of Public Health
2121 W. Taylor St., MC 922
Chicago, IL 60612