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JPMorgan Chase CEO says halt to political donations 'just a pause'

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JPMorgan Chase CEO says halt to political donations 'just a pause'

JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said that his company's decision to suspend political contributions is "just a pause" as he renewed his criticism of last week's riots at the U.S. Capitol.

The bank is among a raft of big companies that announced changes to their political activities after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed Congress in an effort to stop it from certifying President-elect Joe Biden's victory. JPMorgan Chase also joined other businesses in issuing statements calling for a peaceful transfer to the new administration.

"Our elected leaders have a responsibility to call for an end to the violence, accept the results, and, as our democracy has for hundreds of years, support the peaceful transition of power," Dimon wrote in a statement Jan. 6.

Speaking during a keynote interview at NRF 2021: Retail's Big Show, a conference organized by the National Retail Federation, Dimon again condemned the violence and the refusal of many voters and politicians to acknowledge the legitimacy of the election.

"We had an election. It went through the courts. People raised issues. State governments, courts certified it. We have a new president. Maybe people like it or don't like it," he said. "But in no way should we ever condone violence like that. It's kind of incumbent on everybody, including Republicans and Democrats, to very publicly say: It's OK to protest. No violence. No attacking government buildings, etc."

Dimon also defended the virtues of political participation and described a pragmatic approach to political giving by businesses.

Regarding JPMorgan Chase's decision to temporarily halt donations, he said, "We're talking about [political action committees] here. They're a very small part of the political process."

"It's just a pause," he added. "Our PAC does give money out to people. Of course, no one that was given the money did anyone expect people to be taking seditious acts with it. When you give money out, a lot of politicians take a lot of points of view, and you may not agree with all of them, but you still might help a politician in some way or form. ... Taking a pause, taking a little bit of a deep breath, figuring out what we should change and how we should change it and what other people might change, I think is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and that's what we're going to do."

Dimon said that he is an optimist, and hopeful that the attack last week, which put both Democratic and Republican legislators at personal risk, could be a catalyst for a return to "more civil discourse."

Dimon also expressed his support for the $900 billion pandemic rescue package enacted in December 2020, and said he is in favor of additional relief. President-elect Biden has called the December legislation a "down payment."

"The best way to handle future problems is to minimize the damage [the pandemic] does in the next six months," he said. "There will probably be another package. I support that."

He noted that the economic damage has been concentrated among lower income people, and that high savings among financially healthy households could help fuel an economic rebound once the pandemic is tamed.

"You and I can debate how big the checks should be and where the cutoff is," Dimon said. "But I'm gratified they're [working on another package], and we really have to focus helping those who need it the most."