Chase Bank Drops Drug-Policy Reform Groups from Grant Contest

A pair of drug-policy reform groups apparently were among the top finishers in an online grantmaking competition sponsored by JP Morgan Chase & Co., but were nonetheless denied funding by the sponsor, the New York Times reported Dec. 19.

Chase pledged to award grants to the top 100 vote-getters in an Internet-based grant program, and shortly before voting ended the groups Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the Marijuana Policy Project appeared to be in position to get an award based on votes cast at Chase’s Facebook fan page.

However, the bank stopped publicly updating the vote tallies for the Chase Community Giving program days before the deadline, and neither of the two drug-related groups — or an anti-abortion group called Justice for All, another top vote recipient — got a grant.

“They never gave us any indication that there was any problem with our organization qualifying,” said SSDP executive director Micah Daigle. “Now they’re completely stonewalling me.”

“This is a problem of accountability,” added David Lee, executive director of Justice for All. “Simply publish the votes and let us see that the 100 organizations named as winners won.”

Chase spokesperson Joseph Evangelisti said the bank took down the vote tallies “to build excitement among the broadest number of participants, as well as to ensure that all Facebook users learn of the 100 finalists at the same time and so we have an opportunity to notify the 100 finalists first.”

The competition rules stipulate that Chase can disqualify any participant. The company offered grants to the top 100 finishers; programs with operating budgets under $10 million and a mission aligned with the bank’s social-responsibility guidelines were deemed eligible.

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