By Emily Glazer, Theo Francis and Chip Cutter
JPMorgan Chase & Co. said it is pausing all corporate
political-action committee donations to Republicans and Democrats
for the next six months in the wake of last week's riot at the
The largest U.S. bank by assets is among other companies that
announced this weekend they would make changes to donations via
company PACs. Some, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance
group and Marriott International Inc., said they would pause
donations to Republican lawmakers who objected to President-elect
Joe Biden's Electoral College win after supporters of President
Trump stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. Congress certified Mr.
Biden's win early Thursday, ending attempts to overturn results in
two states from seven Republican senators and more than 100
The actions follow a week in which businesses and their chief
executives have sought ways to ensure a peaceful transition of
power, with some calling for Mr. Trump's removal from office by
invoking the 25th amendment or impeachment. Others say they are
holding back on such action as they await Mr. Biden's inauguration
on Jan. 20.
The announcements could reflect an acceleration of recent trends
among large companies to limit or better disclose political
JPMorgan, the largest bank in the country, made the decision to
pause political giving because of the growing political crisis
following the violence at the Capitol alongside health and economic
crises, said Peter Scher, JPMorgan's head of corporate
responsibility, in an interview.
"The focus of business leaders, political leaders, civic leaders
right now should be on governing and getting help to those who
desperately need it most right now," said Mr. Scher, who is also
chairman of the bank's Mid-Atlantic region. "There will be plenty
of time for campaigning later."
JPMorgan's PAC raised about $900,000 for federal candidates in
the 2019-2020 cycle, according to data analyzed through Nov. 23 by
the Center for Responsive Politics. Its federal candidate donations
skewed Republican, with about 58%, compared with 42% given to
Democrats, according to the Center. It also donated about $100,000
to trade association PACs and party committees.
While the PAC's donations are a fraction of overall political
giving, JPMorgan employees also donate directly to politicians and
other political groups that may not disclose their donors. The Wall
Street Journal reported last week that some CEOs, both Republicans
and Democrats, were considering withholding political contributions
from lawmakers seen as trying to impede a peaceful transition of
JPMorgan's PAC contributed $2,000 since 2017 to a committee led
by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, according to data from the Center for
Responsive Politics. Mr. Hawley has come under fire from members of
his own party, as well as Democrats, for what critics see as his
role instigating Wednesday's Capitol riot.
The bank began discussing potential changes to its PAC giving
several days ago, a person familiar with the discussions said. The
decision to pause all political donations gives the bank time to
think through future giving, the person said.
JPMorgan said in December it would make contributions to food
banks instead of the inauguration given hardships facing
communities affected by the pandemic.
The newsletter Popular Information earlier reported that three
companies -- health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield Association,
Commerce Bancshares Inc. and hotel giant Marriott -- would halt
political spending to lawmakers who impeded the transition
following the violence at the Capitol.
Marriott's PAC has given $1,000 to Mr. Hawley. A Marriott
spokeswoman said the company would pause giving from its PAC to
those who voted against certification of the election. "We have
taken the destructive events at the Capitol to undermine a
legitimate and fair election into consideration," she said.
A spokeswoman for Commerce Bancshares said its employee-funded
PAC suspended donations for "officials who have impeded the
peaceful transfer of power." The spokeswoman added: "Commerce Bank
condemns violence in any form and believes the actions witnessed
this week are abhorrent, anti-democratic and entirely contrary to
supporting goodwill for Americans and businesses."
Commerce Bancshares has given $5,000 to Mr. Hawley's campaign
since 2017, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Chief Executive Kim Keck said
it is suspending contributions to Republican lawmakers who "voted
to undermine our democracy."
"While a contrast of ideas, ideological differences and
partisanship are all part of our politics, weakening our political
system and eroding public confidence in it must never be," Ms. Keck
said in a statement.
The association has given $500 to Mr. Hawley's campaign since
2017, while Anthem Inc., a Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee with
health plans in more than a dozen states, has given $5,000 to
committees supporting the Missouri senator, Center for Responsive
Politics data show.
A spokeswoman for medical-device maker Boston Scientific Corp.
said it is temporarily suspending its PAC activity for an unknown
period of time given the recent violence and polarized political
environment and will review its approach to future contributions.
Popular Information earlier reported on the announcement. The
company has given $3,000 to Mr. Hawley's campaign committee since
CEOs and business groups have condemned the riots and taken
other steps in recent days. The National Association of
Manufacturers on Wednesday called on Vice President Mike Pence to
consider invoking the 25th amendment, which allows for a transfer
of power when a president is unable to fulfill his duties. Twitter
Inc. banned President Trump's personal account from its platform,
citing a risk of further incitement of violence, while the Canadian
e-commerce company Shopify Inc. took stores run by Mr. Trump's
business and campaign offline and Stripe Inc. will no longer
process payments for Mr. Trump's campaign website.
Some CEOs, though, said they didn't plan to adjust their
political funding for now. "I'm not thinking about that at this
point," said Paul Sarvadi, CEO of Insperity Inc., a publicly traded
provider of human-resources and other business services, who has
donated to Republicans. "I think it pays for companies to be more
deliberate, less reactive."
Companies face growing pressure from investors and shareholders
over political spending. Since 2004, 200 of the S&P 500
companies have faced shareholder proposals seeking to limit
political spending or to improve disclosure, according to the
Center for Political Responsibility, a nonpartisan group in
Washington that works with investors to push companies to limit or
better disclose political spending.
Nearly half of companies in the index fully disclose or prohibit
contributions to candidates, parties and political committees, up
from 183 in 2015, according to the group. Most of those prohibit at
least one kind of contribution altogether, often independent
expenditures or contributions to candidates and political
A key factor is the backlash -- from consumers, employees and
investors -- that companies can face for funding candidates who
later take stands conflicting with popular sentiment or the
company's own public positions, said Bruce Freed, the group's
president. He expects companies to come under increasing scrutiny
in coming weeks and months.
"All of their statements become hollow if their political money
is going to members who voted to overturn this election," Mr. Freed
said. "The risk of political giving has gone up exponentially."
Write to Emily Glazer at firstname.lastname@example.org, Theo Francis at
email@example.com and Chip Cutter at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 10, 2021 19:09 ET (00:09 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.