Backfire: When Publix suspended political donations that included Democrats
Thanks to David Hogg, candidates who support the National Rifle Association won’t receive campaign donations from Publix — for now — but neither will NRA critics like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. John Lewis.
While Publix tilts decidedly right in its political giving, the supermarket giant has also donated more than $760,000 since 2008 to Democratic committees, including at least two dozen candidates for federal office at odds with the NRA.
They include multiple members of the Black Congressional Caucus, former Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Patty Murray of Washington, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
The grocery chain based in Lakeland, Florida, also chipped in for presidential candidates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders in 2016, as well as then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, according to campaign finance records posted by Open Secrets.
Publix suspended its political giving Friday after Mr. Hogg and other activists launched a boycott and announced “die-ins” at two stores over reports that the company had donated $670,000 in three years to GOP gubernatorial hopeful Adam Putnam, a staunch NRA supporter.
Minutes before the Friday protests began, Publix issued a statement saying that the company “did not intend to put our associates and the customers they serve in the middle of a political debate.”
“We would never knowingly disappoint our customers or the communities we serve,” said the statement. “As a result, we decided earlier this week to suspend corporate-funded political contributions as we re-evaluate our giving processes.”
The Florida agriculture commissioner, Mr. Putnam has been dogged by his July tweet calling himself a “proud #NRASellout” after a Tampa Bay Times columnist blasted him in an op-ed headlined, “Adam Putnam sells out to NRA.”
The donations to his gubernatorial campaign came from Publix, its founder’s heirs, and former and current company executives, according to the Times.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, who’s running against Mr. Putnam for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, criticized the Publix decision.
“I can’t understand why Publix would cave to such misguided and unfair complaints. The protests against Publix are ridiculous — who the heck wants people laying down in a supermarket? Shopping won’t be a pleasure if left-wing agitators get their way. I’ll always stand up for #2A,” he tweeted.
Like many corporations, Publix has donated to candidates on both sides of the aisle, with the advantage going to Republicans, who received about $4 million of the nearly $5 million donated to federal candidates and committees since 2008.
Among the Democratic beneficiaries were numerous members of the black caucus, including Mr. Lewis of Georgia, Reps. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, Hank Johnson of Georgia, Alcee Hastings of Florida, David Scott of Georgia, Terri A. Sewell of Alabama, and Frederica Wilson of Florida.
With the exception of Mr. Bishop, a rare pro-NRA Democrat, none could be described as big NRA fans. For example, Mr. Lewis, who has received $12,000 from Publix since 2012, said at a gun-control rally in March that he was “proud” to wear his “F” grade from the NRA.
Another lawmakers with an “F” rating, Ms. Gillibrand, who blasted the NRA’s “chokehold” on Congress after the Parkland shooting, has picked up $7,500 from Publix since 2012.
In the presidential contest, Publix donated more to Mrs. Clinton than Republican Donald Trump, with $6,523 to her candidacy and $4,941 to his, along with $3,764 to the Sanders campaign.
In addition, the grocery chain has made charitable contributions to the YWCA, which belongs to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, according to the conservative corporate watchdog 2ndVote.
Mr. Hogg, an 18-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a Feb. 14 mass shooting, has also called for Publix to donate $1 million to the victims’ fund and “never support an A-rated NRA politician again.”
Friday’s die-ins drew 14 protesters to the Parkland store and 25 to an Orlando shop, the Sun Sentinel reported.
While Publix has cheered Mr. Putnam’s “pro-business values” in previous statements, the employee-owned company has also said it has never made direct contributions to the NRA.
In terms of charitable giving, Publix falls in the middle of the pack. 2ndVote gave Publix a 2.1 rating on a scale of 5, with 5 being the most conservative.
Publix has contributed to United Way chapters and Susan G. Komen, which support Planned Parenthood, as well as the pro-life Salvation Army and Catholic Charities. The company statement said Publix would temporarily cease political contributions but did not mention donations to nonprofit groups.
Following the Parkland shooting, companies including Avis, Hertz, Enterprise and United and Delta airlines ended their discount programs for NRA members after coming under pressure to cut ties with the gun-rights giant.
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