For decades, the American Cancer Society (ACS) explicitly forbade acceptance or use of taxpayers' funds from government at any level. However, as public support for programs began to diminish and revenue growth leveled off, the ACS reversed this policy. It now actively seeks taxpayers' funds. In this sense it reflects a model of how America's major health charities are abandoning their traditional goodwill purposes and becoming political organizations. As donors become disenchanted, the charities view the taxpayer as an alternative, and far more reliable, source of funds and devote their political activity to raising taxes and earmarking the increased revenues for themselves. Health charities subsequently lose their independence as the distinction between government and private charities becomes blurred.
CancerScam investigates Project ASSIST, the joint undertaking between the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). CancerScam details the charities' collaborative efforts to divert millions of dollars in federal cancer funds--under the guise of improving the public health through reducing smoking--to build political coalitions. Bennett and DiLorenzo suggest that the antitobacco campaign is a smokescreen for raising taxes on tobacco and earmarking the increased revenues for the financial benefit of ACS and its allied charities. CancerScam reveals how concern about the AIDS lobby's success in obtaining scarce research funds motivated the NCI to build political coalitions at the grass-roots level which could lobby for federal funding of cancer research. Bennett and DiLorenzo believe that public support of the ACS will be undermined when its emphasis on politics becomes better known and its reputation erodes as it is perceived as little more than an extension of government, subject to bureaucratic regulation and loss of independence.
CancerScam is the follow-up to Bennett and DiLorenzo's Unhealthy Charities: Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth. It is a brave effort that brilliantly shows how government bureaucrats steal funds intended for the highest public purposes and use them for narrow political advancement. As such it will be of interest to those interested in public policy and political science, nonprofit executives, and policymakers.