No donation to American Cancer Society this year

Dear American Cancer Society,

Please do not call our home this year asking for a donation. When you subsidize an unworthy figure who is snatching healthcare from millions of people, and weakening protections for cancer patients, I will give my charitable donations elsewhere.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

13 thoughts on “No donation to American Cancer Society this year”

  1. What exactly are you trying to do, here? Make it impossible for charitable urges to go forward across partisan divide? It seems to me that now we most need things about which people can agree, rather than telling people we cannot accept good deeds from people of whom we otherwise disapprove.

    1. What good deeds is Trump doing? I am not being rhetorical. Is he giving the ACS free use of the facility for the events that take place? If so, will that enable him to make money on the rooms in which attendees stay? Or is he not charging for the rooms? If he is not, are there other things that attendees might spend money on that would line Trump's pocket?

      Even if Trump won't make a dime from this, he could benefit by being seen as a person who does something good for people's health, thereby helping to protect his reputation while he takes away health insurance from millions of people. It's not that "we cannot accept good deeds from people of whom we disapprove." It's that we cannot accept this particular good deed under these particular circumstances.

      1. Although he is unlikely to be allowing free use of the facility, if he were, that would be fully deductible at retail rates. (Which, if the facility weren't already booked, could yield an honest-to-goodness cash-flow profit.)

        1. I think you are mistaken, Paul. It would not be deductible at retail rates. The only thing that would be deductible would be direct costs of the event borne by Mar-a-Lago: paying workers, any damage to the facility, and so on.

          As a general rule, merchants of any sort who donate goods or services to charity are only allowed to deduct the direct cost to them of the donation. Otherwise it would be trivial to carry out a scam of the type you describe.

          1. Not that I disbelieve, but do you have a pointer? Everything I see says that you can donate the fair market value of property you donate. Professional services by a small business are a different matter, but I don't think this is that. (And, of course, if you're willing to self-deal, as Trump family charities reportedly have, you just launder the cash.)

          2. Paul,

            If you look at IRS publication 526 you will see (p. 5) that services are generally not deductible as charitable contributions. I think use of a golf course is a "service" just like dry cleaning is. If you look little further (p. 10) you will see that deductions for donations of inventory – merchandise held for sale – are limited to the lesser of FMV or the cost of the goods.

    2. There are more deserving charities out there than I can afford to give money to. I would prefer to give my money to charities that won't use some of it to enrich evil.

  2. I am confident that a man of your compassion is capable of expressing opposition to an unworthy figure who is snatching healthcare from millions of people more effectively than to publicly snatch your support from a worthy cause. The means are in opposition to the ends, and the tone has a "Cancer patients depend on continuing research to drive improvements in treatments and cures? Screw 'em! What's important here is that a guy I loathe might profit from their fund-raiser" smell to it.

    1. I'm with ya. There is a regrettable tone of sneering condescension towards Trump's voters and his every action, even those which tend to the good. The conservative blogger Instapundit – and he has a hell of a lot of readers – has a catch phrase "You want more Trump? This is how you get more Trump!" and he is dead right about the idea that we would try to have, for Godsake, the American Cancer Society be forced to choose whether it got support from Trumpistas or Anti-Trumpistas. If the ACS thinks it gets more money for its good work by running an event at Trump Central, go for it.

      1. "… even those which tend to the good."

        Trying to escape my bubble here. Can you provide a few examples of "tend to the good?".

    2. This would hold if the loathed individual were a cancer researcher, so the dislike was purely personal. "You're going to give who a grant? That guy's a jerk!! No money for you." Bad argument.

      But it is possible to defend Harold's position on the grounds that money going to Trump effectively detracts from the benefits of donating to the ACS, therefore reducing the value of his philanthropy.

      Remember, it's not as if he is saying he is going to reduce his total giving. In fact he pretty much says he is not doing that. He has simply decided to redirect it to organizations where he perceives a greater net benefit. Is shifting a given amount from cancer research to kidney research any more a terrible thing to do than giving that sum to cancer and not kidney work to begin with?

    3. Again, there are more worthy charities out there than I can afford to contribute to. Harold's call is not to avoid donating to worthy causes; it's to donate to worthy causes that do not also enrich those who are evil.

  3. ACS probably signed the contract 2 years ago, if not more. BUT, in the future, it would make sense for it to try for venues that are not linked to highly inflammatory characters. On either side, although left wing political figures probably don't own massive resorts.

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