This campaign season JP Morgan Chase has been holding Town Halls featuring various presidential candidates. Apparently one of CEO Jamie Dimon’s mandates was that the company become more involved politically in terms financial support or interest. Thus far the company has not only supported multiple candidates, but has assigned senior people as liaisons to various campaigns. (One would assume such support dwindles once front runners are more established). Furthermore, by holding Town Halls, we give the impression that JP Morgan Chase does not only financially support candidates, but its employees are politically interested.
The implications should be obvious that a multi-billion dollar company is attempting to gain influence in politics, no doubt to advance its own financial benefit. In fact JP Morgan Chase has its own PAC responsible for among other things donations (PDF).1 On the candidate’s side, they get more money and exposure. From the employees perspective, we get to bask in the glory of a presidential hopeful and get away from our desks for a bit.
But as the emcee pointed out, the main problem with running these events is that the candidates have more important things to be doing – like trying to get elected. As the campaign continues, the only people who will be available will be the ones who have already lost or have nothing left for which to run. A few months ago, JPMC scored Hillary Clinton – and event which I was unable to attend. This brings us to today’s event featuring Senator Fred Thompson, which didn’t quite fill the 200 seat auditorium.
Unfortunately the entire program was roughly 30 minutes. Sen. Thompson spoke for about 15 minutes followed by 3 audience questions. Given the time constraints I cannot blame Sen. Thompson for not going too in depth on any particular issue. My quick impression was that he seemed subdued, down-to-earth, and very straightforward. He outlined the main principles of his platform which sounded typically Republican (free markets, free trade, strong military, lower corporate and personal taxes). Of particular interest was his policy on social security reform which would tie benefits to inflation as opposed to wages.
Given more time, I would have liked to hear his response to William Voegeli’s pragmatic assessment of Republican policies but considering the current polls that might not be an issue.
I will say that from a personality perspective, Sen. Thomson came across as a “straight-shooter.” He calmly presented what he feels are the most important concerns of the country and what he would do differently. Perhaps it was the lack of mainstream media and celebrity, but I found the tone refreshing.
There were some requests for other candidates including Rudy Giuliani and Barack Obama, which I doubt would leave open seats. I’ll post if anything interesting come up in the future.
1. I A quick survey of the PDF shows n 2006, JP Morgan’s PAC made 820 donations nationally totaling $1,342,909.78. It seems that on a national level JPMC tries to hedge between Democrats and Republicans. Certain imbalances are due to JPMC reporting donations made by companies which were later taken over by JPMC. The largest individual beneficiary I saw was Ways and Means Chairmen Charles Rangel with a $10,000 donation.