"The power of the ACS doesn't come from its money or programs, which are relatively small in proportion to the burgeoning budgets of the National Cancer Institute. Rather, ACS' power comes from its ability to influence the spending strategy of the politically passive NCI. ACS actually receives only a small slice of NCI's money, but it wields great influence over where the bulk of the money goes. ACS accomplishes this through an intricate network of influential people who have been enlisted in the crusade.
"While NCI has traditionally been administered by obscure civil servants - more timid than most, since full-time scientific careers provide poor grooming for the rough-and-tumble of Washington politics - ACS, nationally and in thousands of community chapters, has evolved into a socially attractive gathering place for the philanthropic elite (the annual Cancer Ball is a stellar social event in many communities), where good intentions and good connections are firmly cemented by the universal dread of cancer.
"With the leadership of the ACS more or less evenly divided between lay individuals and researchers and physicians, the former category reads like a Who's Who of the American establishment.
"In the category of life members - 'persons of eminence who have rendered outstanding service in the cause of cancer control' - are a select 32, among whom the lay persons include such past and present ACS leaders as: Elmer Bobst, a longtime executive and and now honorary director of the Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company; Emerson Foote, co-founder of the Foote, Cone & Belding advertsing agency; J. Leonard Reinsch, board chairman, Cox Cable Communications; Matthew B. Rosenhaus, board chairman, the J.B. Williams Co.; George E. Stringfellow, past senior vice president, Thomas A. Edison Industries, and Travis T. Wallace, founder and chairman emeritus, Great American Reserve Insurance Company."
This article is primarily a screed on behalf of the chemical carcinogen lobby, who have always been well-nurtured by the health establishment despite the paltry contribution of these alleged hazards as a cause of cancer. In 1976, at a meeting where the advocates for research on environmental carcinogens pressed for more money, Benno C. Schmidt, Chairman of the President's Cancer Panel, said that "one of the things that has been concerning me in recent months is that we are diluting the public urge to get rid of cigarette smoking." It is on the basis of this attitude that smokers' advocates have been misled to whine about pollution instead of about the genuine suppression of research on the role of infection, thereby assisting their persecutors. The establishment sincerely wants the public to believe in "Scary Chemicals," because it helps them manufacture hysteria about smoking and secondhand smoke, and to get away with exploiting confounding to falsely blame smoking for diseases that are actually caused by infection.Waging the Wrong War on Cancer, 1977 / UCSF
"It was a small group of ACS members and associates who handcrafted the National Cancer Act, insuring that government funds for the National Cancer Institute would boost their self-serving strategies. With top NCI appointments no longer subject to review by Congress or by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, ACS was guaranteed influence and placement on the Institute's two major decision-making bodies: the three-member President's Cancer Panel and the 23-member National Cancer Advisory Board. And the new budget-approval process, bypassing the National Institute of Health's complex review system, has brought funding from $230 million in 1971 up to $849 million for next year - an unprecedented amount for a single health institute, nearly one-third of the total NIH budget.
"'They've [ACS] turned NCI into a dollar pump...' says a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which okays funds for NCI. 'They run the whole program, the money goes where they want it to go.'
"Mention 'National Cancer Institute' to most people, even in Bethesda, Maryland (NCI headquarters), and you'll probably be 'corrected': 'You mean, the American Cancer Society.'
"ACS power and affluence depends on its being recognized as the sole dispenser of cancer information and hope, and as the sine qua non of any eventual cancer cure. Their first big publicity blitz was launched in 1945 by advertising magnate Albert Lasker, his wife Mary, now honorary chairman of the ACS board of directors, and Emerson Foote, co-founder of the Foote, Cone and Belding advertising agency...
"A former employee of NCI's Office of Cancer Communications, specifically charged by Congress 'to disseminate information to the practicing physician and to the general public,' told me of the disintegration of the entire Program Liaison Branch, basically because of ACS interference.
"'When NCI gets recognition for some piece of public information, ACS doesn't like it. Sometimes we'd be at the eleventh hour with the budget and everything approved by our superiors, and suddenly there'd be a meeting scheduled with ACS in New York. Their Public Information and Education people would have objections to it, and that was the end. Or they'd have us do busy work, like run tests on messages or think again whether we should say 'Us Against Cancer' or 'We Against Cancer.'
"Eventually it was nothing against cancer, and after 4 or 5 frustrating years, the branch's four staff members left for other jobs and have not been replaced.
"Why would an NCI division director, in this case Mr. Paul Van Nevel, insist that his staff consult first with ACS? An NCI source from another department explains: 'If you make waves, someone will get in touch with someone else and before you know it Mary Lasker says to the NCI director: 'We don't like your director of such and such, so maybe you should think about getting a new one.''
"'A red herring of ridiculous proportions!' Benno Schmidt, a Wall Street investment banker who has been chairman of the President's Cancer Panel, the apex of NCI's power structure, since 1971, spoke in an angry voice of the nasty suggestions of an 'ACS-NCI link' brought up at the House preliminary oversight hearings on NCI this summer. 'I never even heard from the American Cancer Society -- in five years no one from there has even called me.'
"Hasn't Mr. Schmidt been aware of the ACS President and former Vice President Dr. Lee Clark, who has been serving with him on the President's Cancer Panel for five years; or of ACS past officer director and Pennwalt Corporation director Dr. Jonathan Rhoads, who has sat next to him at NCI's monthly National Cancer Advisory Board meetings (Rhoads is the Advisory Board's chairman); or of several other ACS members who serve, or have recently served on the Advisory Board or on important NCI committees -- including Mary Lasker, Emerson Foote, Frank Dixon (consultant for Eli Lilly and Co.) and Elmer Bobst (chairman of the Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company and old Nixon friend and campaign contributor).
"No one controls Benno Schmidt, but he would not have been singled out for such an important position if his views did not coincide with ACS interests. When Senator Ralph Yarborough (the original sponsor of the National Cancer Act legislation) appointed a panel of consultants to make recommendations for the act, names were 'suggested to him' by Mary Lasker and an ACS lobbyist in Washington, including the name of Benno Schmidt, who became chairman.
"Considering the act's provision that officials be appointed by the President without any outside review, and the fact that both Mary Lasker and Benno Schmidt were frequent visitors to Nixon's and Ford's White House, it was natural that members of the panel of consultants and other ACS favorites would fall into position on NCI's National Cancer Advisory Board, which has the final say as to where research funds go.
"Also, monitoring of NCI activities under the act was left to the 3-member President's Cancer Panel, which is to say to Benno Schmidt.Cancer, Inc., 1977 / UCSF
"By all accounts, the most ardent and successful of the cancer-society establishment is Mary Lasker, a New York philanthropist now in her late 70s who still drops in on Capitol Hill a dozen times a year, bearing charts and reports for influential congressmen...
"One reason: Since the 50s, Mrs. Lasker, the widow of Albert Lasker, a highly successful advertising executive, has ranked among the top 20 individual contributors to congressional campaigns. In 1974, the last election in which contributions were indexed by contributor, she gave $43,456 to 25 candidates.
"The biggest gifts ($5000 and $3000 respectively) went to Sen. Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.) and Rep. Daniel Flood (D-Pa.), chairmen of the two appropriations committees overseeing the National Cancer Institute's budget. Other leading Democrats and Republicans on the appropriations committees received $1000 or more each. Between 1972 and 1976 the National Cancer Institute's appropriation rose from $379 million to $815 million."Cancer Society Ducks Issues, 1978 / UCSF
"If code names have meaning, then a terrible thing has happened. American government, especially its gullible element on Capitol Hill, has been captured, bound and gagged by a silent invader.
"Consider the names: the cancer mafia, the health syndicate, the benevolent plotters, the Laskerites, Mary's lambs, Mary's angels.
"There are more. They are terms used to describe one of the most remarkably successful, yet least-known components of national politics - the public health lobby, or, as its various parts are sometimes wryly called, the disease lobbies.
"Many of President Carter's budget proposals for public health spending in fiscal 1981, even though the president may not know it, are based on zealous evangelism of these groups...
"The struggle for public health dollars has become so intense that part of the disease lobby, trying to hold down the chaos, has organized itself into the Coalition for Health Funding, 60 national organizations that watch the budget like hawks.
"The coalition annually produces a complex and detailed alternative budget, typically recommending much more for public health spending than presidents propose. This year's alternative, for instance, calls on Congress to add $330 million to Carter's NIH request...
"That, of course, is one way. But there are other ways - individual buttonholing of congressmen and the orchestration of ideas. Figures such as philanthropist Mary Lasker, columnist Ann Landers and actress Jennifer Jones, whose names are legend at the appropriations subcommittee, have converted that to a fine art.
"Lasker is the spiritual godmother of the sprawling disease lobbies, a friend of presidents and senators and congressmen, who has spent the past 40 years promoting the idea of greater federal spending against disease.
"The foundation created in her name and that of her late husband, advertising executive Albert Lasker, honors medical researchers for scientific advances. The Laskers have contributed heavily to the election campaigns of the congressional friends of health research.
"Mrs. Lasker was a central player behind the surge of congressional spending on NIH during its "golden" years of the 1950s and 1960s. One disease after another got special attention, Congress earmarked money and new institutes were created as she made her persuasive rounds.
"There is more to her style and her influence than Mrs. Lasker would like a listener to believe, but she makes an important point about political process and the way Congress appropriates money.
"'Congress only responds to what it is told," she said last week. "It is very hard for people who are well and dynamic to imagine the plight of those who are ill.'
"'I feel very frustrated that I and others are not able to do more," she said. "But I'm just an individual citizen petitioner. That's all I am, but I do try. I would welcome more citizen petitioners. We have to go and see the congressional people and remind them of the needs.'
"Mary's Angels, they're called."
Jennifer Jones, aka Mrs. Norton Simon, was a trustee of the American Health Foundation between 1978 and 1981.