Spin Alert: JPMorgan Chase "Leak" Smells Like PR Stunt

Last Updated Nov 10, 2010 1:46 PM EST

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan political research group in Washington, got its mitts on an interesting "confidential" memo from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) that analyzes the midterm election and outlines the banking giant's expectations for the new Congress.

But what the document discloses is less interesting than the fact that company execs likely wrote and distributed it for pubic consumption. First, as the CRP notes, the memo was prepared by JPMorgan's lobbying arm, which along with its media group exists to sway hearts and minds. Second, it's marked as going to all employees -- you don't send something to more than 180,000 people unless you expect it to get leaked. Third, it says little that anyone with a subscription to USA Today wouldn't already know.

For instance, JPMorgan predicts that congressional Republicans will try to gut key financial reforms enacted this summer under Dodd-Frank. Well, yes -- so they've been telling us for months. The company also says that GOP lawmakers have it in for "Obamacare" and for proposed restrictions on greenhouse gases. Oh, and Washington is headed for gridlock. Ya don't say.

So why put it out there? There's a clue in the identical statement a JPMorgan spokeswoman gave to both the Center and the WaPo. She alludes to the financial firm's "nonpartisan" efforts to educate its employees about issues raised during the election. The memo also refers to JPMorgan wanting to "play a constructive role" in developing public policy.

Uh, huh. This from a company that has spent millions to block financial reform. Following Dodd-Frank, JPMorgan also shifted most of its campaign contributions to the same Republican candidates (along with like-minded Democrats) who had pledged to roll back the new banking regulations. More broadly, company leaders have towed the industry line that the financial crisis wasn't banks' fault.

Like other Wall Street players, in other words, there's nothing remotely nonpartisan about JPMorgan. That's why CEO Jamie Dimon has consistently sought to soften the company's image by positioning himself as a voice of industry moderation and trumpeting JPMorgan's commitment to corporate citizenship. The memo appears crafted to support that perception, even while the company is certain to up the pressure on Congress to weaken the law it purports to uphold.

Still, it's worth a read if only to check out the company's general take on the midterms. Just be careful all that spinning doesn't make you dizzy.

Thumbnail image from Flickr user KB35
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    Alain Sherter covers business and economic affairs for CBSNews.com.