What We Know About Why Susan G. Komen Is Closing Its Arizona Chapter

Two days ago, the Susan G. Komen Foundation's Arizona chapter excitedly tweeted, "We're dedicated to serving AZ communities! To date we've allocated more than $26.6 mill to local education, screening & treatment."

This afternoon, the breast cancer advocacy group sent out an email titled "Thank You, Arizona" and announced that it was closing its doors after more than 20 years.

As of July 31, all of the group's philanthropic activities in the state, including funding breast-cancer screenings at community health centers and sponsoring research programs at TGen and the University of Arizona, will come to an end.

Anyone who has already signed up for the 2017 Phoenix Race for the Cure in October — typically the organization's biggest fundraising event of the year — will receive a refund, the email also noted.

The announcement — signed by Komen Arizona executive director Christina Mencuccini and board of directors president Jill Bray — cites the organization's financial woes as the reason for the shutdown.

"Closing Komen Arizona was a difficult decision, but was based on financial challenges and current downward trends in overall fundraising and event participation which limited our ability to continue to fulfill our mission locally," they write.

A call to the organization's office on Wednesday afternoon wasn't immediately returned.

Nationally, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has been hurt by a series of of poor political decisions that caused it to lose critical support from donors.

In 2012, the foundation's national chapter decided to stop financing breast-cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood locations.

That turned out to be a public relations disaster — even after the Komen Foundation quickly reversed its stance. The Los Angeles Times reported that in one year alone, the decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood cost the foundation $77 million in lost donations.

Interestingly, Karen Handel, a pro-life Republican who Tuesday won a seat in Congress, has been described as the "instigator" of the unpopular decision to block Planned Parenthood from the funding. At the time, she was the Komen Foundation's senior vice for public policy. She later resigned amid the ensuing fiasco.

The controversy also prompted a closer look at how the Komen Foundation was spending the millions that it had raised in the name of finding a cure for breast cancer, which led accusations of "pinkwashing."

In 2014, the organization teamed up with the fracking industry to create an stunningly tone-deaf campaign in which drill bits were painted pink for breast cancer awareness. Environmental activists quickly pointed out that companies that pump carcinogens into the air were perhaps not so compatible with the goal of ending breast cancer forever.

Not long after, the Susan G. Komen Foundation's Albuquerque, New Mexico, office shut down, officials saying that they didn't have enough money to keep going. Last year, affiliate chapters in Wyoming and El Paso, Texas, followed.

And so far in 2017, Komen offices in eastern Washington and Maine have also closed their doors.

Arizona appears to be the latest casualty.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.