Komen Cancels Its Annual Lobby Day

March 28, 2012       Mark Hrywna      

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has canceled its annual Lobby Day this spring while it searches for a new vice president of public policy.

Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun said it was decided to cancel the event this year since the post is vacant. “We’ll do it again in the future. We just didn’t have the leadership in place and we’re searching right now,” she said. Aun didn’t have a specific timeline of when the spot might be filled.

The previous senior vice president, Karen Handel, became the lightning rod in the flap involving Komen and Planned Parenthood of America earlier this year. A former Georgia Secretary of State, she served as a consultant to Komen before being hired by last April as senior vice president.

Last year, about 50 to 75 Komen representatives descended upon Washington, D.C., for the annual Lobby Day, typically held in the spring, talking about health issues and meeting with members of Congress.

“It’s not a budgetary issue. It’s got nothing to do with budget or finances, and everything to do with the leadership position being open,” said Aun, declining to speak specifically about the charity’s finances. “We just didn’t have the capacity this year with that leadership position open,” she said.

Handel resigned several days after a change in Komen’s grant eligibility requirements came to light, which would have excluded any organizations “under investigation.” Planned Parenthood has been under a federal inquiry from a Florida congressman since last year.

Some affiliates objected to the move and Komen’s national headquarters later revised the eligibility requirements to allow organizations that might be under investigation to at least be eligible to apply for funds. Komen provided anywhere from $500,000 to $700,000 in grants annually to less than 20 Planned Parenthood affiliates for programs related to mammograms, education and awareness.

Despite some dips at Komen races around the country, Aun said donations have been “pretty much holding steady,” adding that major corporate sponsors have “reaffirmed support” for the organization. “The goal at this point is just to get people back to a place where people are focusing on our mission. If people don’t support our races or donate to Komen, a woman might not get a mammogram or treatment,” she said. “Just remember that it’s not about Komen, it’s about the women. We fill gaps that no other organization does. I think people get that.”

Aun reiterated that CEO Nancy Brinker has the full confidence of Komen’s board. Several executives at the Irving, Texas headquarters as well as a couple of affiliates have announced in recent weeks that they’re leaving the organization, though none have said they’re leaving directly as a result of the strife related to Planned Parenthood. Komen also has added a second affiliate representative to its 10-member board, in addition to bringing back founding board member Robert Taylor as chairman. He replaces LaSalle Leffall, who will step down as chairman this month but will remain on the board.

Komen’s fiscal year ends this month, March 30. With the exception of 2008, total revenue for the organization and its 122 affiliates has risen every year since 2004 when it as about $159 million. Last year, Komen reported revenue of $312 million for the fiscal year ending in March 2011.