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The American Cancer Society (ACS) is accumulating great wealth in its role as a "charity." According to James Bennett, professor of economics at
George Mason University and recognized authority on charitable organizations, in 1988 the ACS held a fund balance of over $400 million with about $69
million of holdings in land, buildings, and equipment (1). Of that money, the ACS spent only $90 million— 26 percent of its budget— on medical
research and programs. The rest covered "operating expenses," including about 60 percent for generous salaries, pensions, executive benefits, and
overhead. By 1989, the cash reserves of the ACS were worth more than $700 million (2). In 1991, Americans, believing they were contributing to
fighting cancer, gave nearly $350 million to the ACS, 6 percent more than the previous year. Most of this money comes from public donations averaging
$3,500, and high-profile fund-raising campaigns such
as the springtime daffodil sale and the May relay races. However, over the last two decades, an increasing proportion of the ACS budget comes from
large corporations, including the pharmaceutical, cancer drug, telecommunications, and entertainment industries.
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 to come from. The Foundation's board of trustees included corporate executives from the pharmaceutical, investment, banking, and media
industries. Among them:
David R. Bethune, president of Lederle Laboratories, 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 pharmaceutical
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 Henry Beck, founded the nation's largest family-owned retail chain, Beck Stores, which analysts
estimate 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
exclusively on one product, Neupogen, which is administered to chemotherapy patients to stimulate their production of white blood cells. As the cancer
epidemic 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 Miller, former
president 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 in 1992.
Sumner M. Redstone, chairman of the board, Viacom Inc. and Viacom International Inc., a broadcasting, telecommunications, entertainment, and cable
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 in shaping 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 appeals
routinely stated that the ACS needed more funds to support its cancer programs, all the while holding more than..