August 17th, 2017; Washington Post
Why any charity would believe that Mar-a-Lago would make a good venue for a fundraiser right now is a bit unfathomable, but apparently, until this morning, The American Cancer Society and the Cleveland Clinic were still on the resort’s schedule. Maybe they were waiting for the president to “hit bottom” when his comments about Charlottesville finally hit home with both and they cancelled their reservations. The loss to Mar-a-Lago will run in the hundreds of thousands; the cost to the reputations of these two charities should be much higher.
Yet here they are, desperately issuing statements about how their values force them to make a difficult decision. After a bunch of corporate CEOs walked out on the president’s business advisory councils, even the head of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce declared the site “morally reprehensible,” adding that she expected more charities to defect.
Other nonprofits, including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in New York, and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami had already taken their business elsewhere.
Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said only that “there were a variety of factors” behind the decision to cancel. One of these factors may have been a letter signed by 1,600 health professionals objecting on the basis that booking the site “symbolically and financially supports a politician actively working to decrease access to healthcare.”
Cleveland Clinic’s deplorably weak positioning was probably a better road than the too-little, too-late statement from the American Cancer Society, which intoned: “Our values and commitment to diversity are critical as we work to address the impact of cancer in every community. It has become increasingly clear that the challenge to those values is outweighing other business considerations.” Well, that took a while.
Laurel Baker, head of the Palm Beach chamber of commerce, said that her advice to nearby charities was, “If you’re looking at your mission statement, can you honestly say having an event at Mar-a-Lago, given all that has transpired, is the best stewardship of your efforts?”
“The club is a member of the chamber. But right is right,” she added in an interview with The Post. “My mantra this week is from Dante: ‘The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.’ Especially for nonprofits. Especially for groups who help people who can’t help themselves.”
Local competing businesses are thrilled.—Ruth McCambridge