This Wednesday, JP Morgan Chase & Co. announced the winners of the first round of its “Community Giving” online fundraising contest. The contest let facebook users vote for their favorite charitable organizations, with the top 100 vote-getters winning $25,000 each (and the opportunity for additional funds after the first round.)
Via an article from the New York Times this afternoon, however, Chase appears to have disqualified at least three of the top 100 organizations–Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the Marijuana Policy Project, and Justice for All (an anti-abortion group)–seemingly due to concerns about the organizations’ missions. Though Chase has refused to release the vote totals, all three of the groups seemed to be among the top 100 organizations at the time that the vote tallies were removed from the contest pages. (In the interest of full disclose: I was one of a group of about 30 people who help form Students for Sensible Drug Policy when I was in college and I served on the group’s Board of Directors for a number of years.)
The official rules for the contest gave Chase the discretion to “disqualify any Charity for any reason whatsoever.”
Still, from a PR perspective, one wonders why Chase waited until the final results to disqualify these organizations, especially since it sounds as if all three were consistently among the top 100 groups for the duration of the contest. And, at least in the case of SSDP, the organization appears to have spent a good deal of time organizing its members and supporters to vote for them in the contest. (See, for example, here.) In addition, according to this press release (warning .PDF), SSDP’s Executive Director Micah Daigle said that he been in contact with several Chase representatives during the month-long contest about various issues and none mentioned that the group might be disqualified.
I’m a bit rusty in the area of Contracts, so if any Contracts prawfs out there have any thoughts about whether the disqualified groups might have a claim, please chime in in the comments. (As a side note, at least with a few tweaks of the facts, I wonder if this incident could form the basis for an interesting Contracts exam fact-pattern.)