Did you know that the way to cure cancer is to pay executives massive salaries?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay them massive salaries to cure cancer. Imagine, for instance, that you’re a vice president at Sanofi and that your division has come up with a treatment that significantly increases the five-year survival rate for an aggressive cancer. While I’m sure the U.K. Guardian, that bastion of the left, would run a scathing piece about your lavish home on the French Riviera and the seven-figure salary that paid for it, I’d write a full-throated defense of your ability to earn that salary while expressing the earnest hope that you would buy another palatial estate.
I’m instead talking about the example set by the Biden Cancer Initiative, a nonprofit founded by Joe Biden when he left the vice presidency in 2017.
“The Biden Cancer Initiative injects a sense of urgency into the cancer research and care systems, and reimagines how the government, academia, nonprofits and the private sector can better collaborate to take on cancer, with the patient as the focus,” the group says on its website. “The Initiative is a major convening force in driving new actions and collaborations toward ending cancer as we know it.
“The Biden Cancer Initiative works closely with patients and patient organizations, cancer researchers, cancer hospitals and community health centers, research universities, governments, and the private and philanthropic sectors to identify and address the critical issues in cancer prevention, research, and care to achieve these goals. The Initiative brings these groups together to identify barriers, devise solutions, launch pilot projects to test solutions, and disseminate successful solutions in the form of new actions and collaborations.”
How they accomplished this, at least when it came to the allocation of resources, is … curious.
According to a Thursday report from the Washington Free Beacon, tax documents from the Biden Cancer Initiative — released by ProPublica — show that almost 65 percent of money the group spent went to staff salaries, including for executives who pulled down six figures.
Guidance from charity watchdogs generally advises nonprofits to limit administrative compensation and fundraising expenditures to 25 percent.
The documents show that in 2017 and 2018, the organization raised and spent a combined $4.8 million. A bit more than $3 million of that went toward compensation. Then there was the $740,000 spent on meetings and conferences of various sorts.
Grants? Not a single one to be found.
However, Biden Cancer Initiative president Greg Simon pulled down impressive six-figure salaries in both of those years, with $224,539 in remuneration in 2017 and $429,850 in 2018. (By comparison, a 2013 analysis by Charity Navigator found mid-to-large nonprofits pay their chief executives an average of $126,000 a year.)
Both Simon and Danielle Carnival, the initiative’s vice president, were previously from the Obama administration’s Cancer Moonshot program, so Biden clearly looked far and wide for people who would best fit the organization. Carnival, for the record, took in a combined $391,897 in 2017 and 2018.
Three other six-figure executives were added in the organization’s second year.
The initiative was stopped in July 2019, according to The Associated Press, right around the time that Biden presented his health care plan.
The group also presented some potential conflicts for Biden.
A sample from the AP’s reporting: “In January 2018, Biden spoke at a San Francisco conference sponsored by a health tech firm whose chief medical officer is Biden’s son-in-law, who was also on the Biden cancer nonprofit’s board. During that speech, Biden also hailed a medical device entrepreneur who has helped raise funds for Biden’s campaign. Both firms lobby with the federal government.”
Indeed, many of the biotech firms they partnered with — inasmuch as the Biden Cancer Initiative was doing much partnering — have decided interests in currying the favor of the federal government. That becomes a lot easier if they have immediate access to the guy in the Oval Office.
Arthur Caplan, a bioethics professor at New York University, told the AP that he had concerns regarding whether the partnerships the initiative relied on meant the “Biden administration would give favorable treatment for anyone who supported his foundation in the past.”
One of the things I’d like to point out is I’m willing to grant the Democratic presidential nominee that the Biden Cancer Initiative isn’t a grift on his part. His interest in the subject isn’t just because having a nonprofit dedicated to cancer research rings pleasantly in the ears of voters.
Biden lost his son Beau, a veteran and rising star in Delaware politics, to brain cancer in 2015. Inasmuch as Joe Biden can devote his time to philanthropic activities outside of his career, this is a personal one for him.
Instead, I’m going to point out an unpleasant possibility: This is how Joe Biden manages things. This is a microcosm of what it’ll look like if the American voters put the Bidens in 1600 Pennsylvania.
There’s a fairly long list of people who’ve made money off of knowing Joe Biden.
Hunter Biden falls decidedly in this category. The ne’er-do-well progeny of the presumptive Democratic nominee has been taken out of the news by other, more pressing things, and rightly so. That said, Hunter is a man who owes a great deal of his employment history to his last name.
While in a questionably functional state, Biden was pulling down $50,000 a month to sit on the board of a Ukrainian gas company despite the fact he had no experience in Ukraine and no experience in natural gas.
Other well-remunerated jobs on Hunter Biden’s resumé also seem to have obvious connections to his father’s career.
Then there’s James Biden, Joe’s brother. According to The Intercept, he had joined a construction firm which won a $1.5 billion contract to build homes in Iraq. This wasn’t just when Joe Biden was vice president, it was while he was overseeing Iraq policy.
This is how Joe Biden does things.
Democrats allege Trump’s family and close associates have enriched themselves off the presidency. As a candidate for his successor, they’ve picked a man who either embodies those venalities or has stumbled into them because he’s too darn busy to keep track of who’s profiting off of him.
The very best interpretation of what happened at the Biden Cancer Initiative is that Biden is such a softie that he’s willing to reward people far beyond what they’re worth — and doesn’t get much accomplished in the process, since his initiative spent so much on personnel.
The worst interpretation is that, inasmuch as Biden is fully aware of anything, he’s aware he’s being profited off of and doesn’t mind. Why not? It’s not his money.
Whatever your interpretation is, the Biden Cancer Initiative was woefully inefficient.
This was a small organization based on a personal passion of Biden’s.
If this is how he manages that kind of nonprofit, it raises a whole lot of questions about how he would manage a nation.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.