Monday, May 21, 2018

Stop Shopping At Publix ... the corporation has given nearly three quarters of a million dollars to GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam in the past three years ... by gimleteye

Read this excellent OPED in the Palm Beach Post. We are unaccustomed to newspaper editorial boards pushing back against political orthodoxies like the right of corporations to be more powerful than people. In this case, Florida's iconic grocery chain: Publix for its unlimited campaign contributions to the GOP designated front-runner to be next governor of Florida, Adam Putnam.

At Eye On Miami, we've written extensively about Putnam, mostly for his role rubber-stamping whatever Big Sugar wants. Putnam is telegenic and a cool performer. His family was also enriched by the South Florida Water Management District, in the most brazen act of government "philanthropy" to an aspiring politician that we've ever experienced in Florida.

We've also written about Publix. Ten years ago, Natacha Seijas, a Miami-Dade county commissioner at the time and the leader of the county's unreformable, pro-growth majority, was facing an acrimonious recall campaign mounted by citizens who were infuriated by Seijas' support for moving the Urban Development Boundary. The recall campaign collected signatures at places where signatures could be easily gathered compared to door-to-door canvassing ie. Publix parking lots. There had been no prohibition against signature collecting at Publix or anywhere else, until Seijas bitterly complained to the corporate headquarters. (Signature petitions are also required to register amendments to the Florida constitution by ballot referendum. At the time, Publix was heavily investing to oppose a ballot referendum -- Florida Hometown Democracy -- that would have, if passed, inhibited the kinds of sprawl that seed new locations for large state-wide retailers like Publix supermarkets.) The net result: a new state law allowing private corporations to stop petition gathering on their properties.

Our times are "polarizing" as the Post editorial board notes. We need more penetrating analysis of the underlying factors in order for an informed public to make good decisions. For the time being, at least, that means -- we add -- stop shopping at Publix.

Editorial: Publix polarizes with political contributions to Putnam
OPINION By The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board

Publix, the heirs to the company’s founder and its current and former leaders have come under fire for giving Republican gubernatorial candidate and consrevative darling Adam Putnam $670,000 in the last three years.

Publix, the supermarket giant that ranks high among things that residents love most about Florida, is learning the perils of political participation in our polarizing age.

Last week, it was reported that the beloved grocery chain has given more money to Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign than to any candidate since 1995, and probably in its entire history.

Publix, the heirs to the company’s founder and its current and former leaders have given the Republican $670,000 in the past three years. Or, as the Tampa Bay Times put it, “enough money to buy 74,527 chicken tender subs.”

“No other Florida candidate has ever come close to that kind of subsidy from Florida’s largest Fortune 500 company,” the Times said. “Its most recent contribution, a $100,000 donation on April 30, was the largest, too, according to the latest campaign finance filings.”

Publix immediately ran into a deli-slicer of criticism. That’s largely because Putnam, a 43-year-old former congressman who is now the state’s agriculture commissioner, famously responded to criticism of his fondness for the National Rifle Association by calling himself “a proud NRA sellout” — a not-so-funny wisecrack given the mass shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The backlash against Publix was fierce. It included tweets like this, from state Rep. Carlos G. Smith, D-Winter Park: “How many flowers did I buy from your stores for funerals, graves, + memorials for Pulse + MSD victims? #BoycottPublix”

Publix, shifting quickly to damage-control mode, tweeted that it “has not provided financial support to the National Rifle Association.” And it swiftly released a statement meant to distance itself from all controversy: “We support bipartisan, business-friendly candidates, regardless of party affiliation and we remain neutral on issues outside of our core business.”

The trouble with this explanation is that, while certainly business-friendly, Putnam has not shown himself to be “bipartisan.” He’s not a candidate for centrists. He makes overt appeals to social and religious conservatives and the Trumpian anti-immigrant right.

While in Congress, Putnam voted to roll back requirements for the Voting Rights Act. He pressed for stricter voter IDs beyond driver licenses in a thinly disguised effort to suppress minority votes.

As a candidate for governor, he is pushing a “Florida Families First” agenda that includes promises to “fight for the life of the unborn and make Florida first in protecting life,” create an “Office of Faith-Based and Community-Based Initiatives within the Executive Office of the Governor” and establish a “Home School and School Choice Ombudsman.”

Putnam’s NRA rating is A+. He has endorsed the open carrying of firearms, and the carrying of guns on college campuses. He criticized Florida’s recently passed law that raised the firearm-purchase age to 21 from 18 and requires mandatory three-day waiting period for firearm purchases.

Sorry, Publix, these are not bipartisan positions.

Publix and Putnam go way back. Putnam was just 22, running for state representative, when Publix made its first donation, for $500, to the local up-and-comer: Publix’s base in Lakeland is 20 minutes from Putnam’s hometown of Bartow.

The generosity seems to go both ways. As agriculture commissioner, Putnam oversees regulation of Publix’s 800 Florida stores. When a TV station reported in 2016 that seven Tampa-area Publix stores failed health inspections, “Putnam responded the next day by pulling the inspections from the department’s website and eliminating the pass/fail grading system,” the Tampa Bay Times wrote. “He replaced it six months later with a new rubric. Instead of a failing grade, the worst rating issued now is ‘re-inspection required.’ ”

Publix can support whomever it wants. That’s its right as a corporate citizen. With 2010’s Citizens United, after all, the U.S. Supreme Court has given the green light to corporations and unions to spend whatever they like in independent political expenditures.

But in a nation as divided as ours, Publix can’t expect to bankroll a candidate without alienating some portion of its public. Call it a sign of the times, but our system is producing few, if any, “bipartisan” politicians. And now, not even a trip to the grocery store “Where Shopping Is a Pleasure” is immune from the tensions pulling the country apart.


Anonymous said...

Putnam got millions in land deal :

PRabbino said...

Let Publix know how you feel.

Eliza said...

Who is the best person to contact at Publix & is it really effective to object to the corporate controll of our health, lands and future of our children. These are disturbing times. The founder of Publix must be (hopefully) "turning in his grave".