Paul Greenberg

Nonprofits can be highly profitable in this country. Talk about doing well by doing good: Komen's CEO, Nancy Brinker, draws maybe half a million a year out of the charity's pot -- $459,406 in 2010, to be exact. Charity pays, at least for those who run one.

No question about it, Ms. Brinker directs a highly successful enterprise. And she may be worth every penny, even if she really screwed up this little matter and 24-hour sensation. But who cares about a moral scruple or two if the money keeps rolling in?

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In a different era, when the infamous Supreme Court decision that divided the nation wasn't Roe v. Wade but Dred Scott, there were also those who thought the moral issue could be ignored, maybe indefinitely with any luck.

The Komen foundation's successive rationales bring to mind those genteel antebellum types who would say that of course they were opposed to human slavery but, then again, the Peculiar Institution was essential to the Southern economy and the nation's. And, really, it was all a peripheral issue that should not distract from the important things. Like keeping things as comfortable and accepted as they are. Why make trouble? Conscience is so inconvenient.

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Now we're told that destroying the most innocent and vulnerable, the least of these, shouldn't be cause for such concern. How many babies in total does Planned Parenthood do away with every year anyway -- a few hundred thousand? Big deal.

It does so year in, year out, with the generous help of outfits like the Komen foundation and the federal government. Why make a fuss about it? Abortions are only a sideline at Planned Parenthood anyway, except maybe when it comes to its bottom line. Nine out of 10 pregnant women who enter a Planned Parenthood clinic get an abortion, according to its annual report for 2010. So what? Couldn't we all just look the other way?

This is the morally confused point any collective endeavor, public or private, may reach when, far from being concerned about doing the right thing, the overriding concern becomes how to keep the cash flowing in, the payroll met, the wheels grinding, the staff filled.

The best guide to what's going on here, confusing as it may seem to the poor observer who has to keep watching the Komen foundation change its mind, is the same principle that's so useful when it comes to figuring out politics: Follow the money.

The important consideration becomes not right and wrong, but ... Public Relations! And here we have a textbook example of Dale Carnegie in reverse: a lesson in how to lose friends and alienate people.

Right now, the Komen foundation and Planned Parenthood deserve the kind of PR problem both have so richly earned. For just a moment the frilly curtains have parted, the pretty pink ribbon untied, and we the people can see just where our money is going. It's not a pretty sight. Indeed, it's about as wholesome and uplifting as what goes on at your average abortion mill.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.