The biggest bank in the United States won't do business with a Missouri conservative group, forcing it to cancel an event next month featuring Donald Trump Jr.
The Defense of Liberty PAC hired WePay, a payment processor owned by JPMorgan Chase, for the Dec. 3 event at the St. Charles Convention Center, the group's founder, former state Rep. Paul Curtman, said Wednesday.
On Nov. 9, the company notified Curtman it had canceled the contract, refunded the $30,000 already paid for tickets and would not do business with the group in the future.
"It seems you're using WePay Payments for one or more of the activities prohibited by our terms of service," a copy of the message, forwarded to the Independent, states. "More specifically: Per our terms of service, we are unable to process for hate, violence, racial intolerance, terrorism, the financial exploitation of a crime, or items or activities that encourage, promote, facilitate, or instruct others regarding the same."
Those terms are in an entry under the general heading of "Illegal" in the WePay list of prohibited activities.
Curtman said he is puzzled by the decision. WePay has not responded to his messages seeking more information, he said.
"My personal sense of why they did this is kind of along the same lines we have been seeing in our culture in recent years," Curtman said. "If someone has a different idea politically, there is an attempt to silence them or shut them down."
Neither JPMorgan Chase or its WePay subsidiary has responded to an inquiry from the Independent seeking comment.
"It threw a wrench right into the middle of everything," Curtman said. "We had vendors and small businesses and other people who were relying on this as part of their business. We are going to get back on track."
Curtman founded the Defense of Liberty group. He used that name for annual dinners while he was in office and has worked with Sen. Bill Eigel and former Sen. Jim Lembke to expand the organization and give it a higher profile.
The political action committee was organized in July, and it held a fundraiser in August with conservative media personality Candace Owens.
That event drew about 1,200 people. The Trump Jr. appearance was expected to bring 3,000 people, Lembke said.
Lembke made the cancellation known Tuesday during an appearance on KFTK-97.1 radio in St. Louis.
"I think it directly speaks to a woke corporation that is trying to cancel free speech and specifically the speech of Donald Trump Jr.," Lembke said Wednesday in an interview with the Independent.
JPMorgan Chase has the biggest market share of deposits of any bank in the country, surpassing Bank of America this year.
The Defense of Liberty PAC hired WePay because it offered services that fit the event, Lembke and Curtman said. They could handle a variety of ticket prices and the company's costs were reasonable, they said.
"We have gotten to a point where the event has grown to such a size that we did not feel we could handle it in-house any more," Lembke said.
The evening's schedule included a $500 per person pre-event with Trump Jr. and a pricing plan for the auditorium with tickets ranging from $70-$250 for front-row seats, Lembke said.
The group's events have been drawing officeholders and conservative thought leaders, with an audience from throughout the Midwest, Curtman said.
"I can't think of a single instance where anything we have done at any one of these events violates one of their terms of service," Curtman said. "They are trying to shut us down because they don't like our politics."
The Missouri Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization covering state government and its impact on Missourians.