I was excited that Chase Bank was going to do something positive with some of their post-“crises” windfall profits. The financial giant organized Chase Community Giving, a Facebook contest to give away $5 million to charities. An application allowed nonprofit organizations to compete for votes in two rounds; the top 100 vote getters win $25,000 and become eligible for up to $1 million more. The winning organizations were announced late last week but a few organizations are crying foul. I happen to work for one of them, Students for Sensible Drug Policy. SSDP and the Marijuana Policy Project were both noticeably absent from the list of winning organizations yet are confident they placed in the top 100. However, neither received a disqualification notice nor saw the total number of votes they earned.
Two days before voting ended, Chase removed the vote counters that appeared on each organization’s page, thereby making it impossible to know exactly where any organization stood on the final day of voting. So how do these organizations know they were in the top 100? SSDP’s good friends at the National Youth Rights Association (NYRA), who made it into the first round, kept track of the leaders. NYRA’s Executive Director, Alex Koroknay-Palicz explained the situation to the New York Times:
“For the most part, the organizations Chase picked were exactly the organizations we expected to win, because we had spent a lot of time and effort tracking it,” Mr. Koroknay-Palicz said. “So the biggest surprise was SSDP and a couple of pro-life groups, as well as the organization called the Prem Rawat Foundation, didn’t make it, because they had been doing pretty well.”
According to the leader board he created, Students for Sensible Drug Policy collected 2,305 votes through Dec. 9, when organizations no longer could track their votes or see who had voted for them. The Marijuana Policy Project had 1,911 votes, and Justice for All had 1,512.
SSDP was unofficially in fourteenth place two days before voting ended, so it’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t make it in the top 100. Chase is unwilling to explain whether groups were disqualified or how the winners were finally determined.
This suggests that Chase decided the appropriate organizations to award their money to. It also implies that non-winners didn’t have the public’s support. Since most Americans support legalization, it’s really no surprise that organizations working on the issue would have make it in the top 100.
Although Chase neither donated money to SSDP nor would explain what happened, they’ve had no problem providing our banking services for more than three years. Not any more. The organization is boycotting Chase.