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JPMorgan Chase pledges not to spend cash on election ads

Companies can now spend as much as they want on political advertising, thanks to the Supreme Court's landmark decision in the Citizens United case from January. But some are pledging to pass on their new powers.

JPMorgan Chase has become the latest company to promise New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio it will not spend treasury money on election ads. The bank joins a list that already includes Dell, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Microsoft and Wells Fargo.

JPMorgan's political contributions policy states: "In the Citizens United Case, the United States Supreme Court extended the ability of corporations to make independent campaign expenditures at the federal level. The Firm has no plans to change our political contributions policies as a result of this decision."

Why would a company opt out of using its new rights?

Citizens United was not a popular decision among Americans. Polling showed 8 in 10 opposed the ruling.

There's already been backlash against companies who give money to pay for political ads. Target wrote a $100,000 check to a pro-business Minnesota political group supporting a candidate who wants to lower corporate taxes -- but who also opposes gay marriage. Consumer groups and gay rights advocates quickly launched a boycott against Target when the retailer's donation came to light. The company's CEO apologized.

But it was practically a fluke that anyone found out about Target's donation. The state of Minnesota has unusually strict campaign finance rules that required the pro-business group to disclose its financial sources. In many other states, Target's contribution would never have been discovered.

There's no uniform, nationwide requirement that a company disclose when it's spending money on a political ad. So it's very hard to track who's active and who's not -- promise or no promise.

By Jia Lynn Yang  |  September 17, 2010; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  Campaign finance , JPMorgan Chase , Target  
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