Letters to the Editor of the Palm Beach Post reveal that, to some patrons, shopping at Publix no longer is a pleasure, but a pain. The letters came on the heels of a Post editorial assailing Publix for contributing a lot of money to the Florida gubernatorial campaign of Adam Putnam, the state’s far-right-wing agriculture secretary.
In the past three years, Putnam has been rewarded for his perverse political positions with $670,000, the Post quotes from a report in the Tampa Bay Times, which wrote, “No other Florida candidate has ever come close to that kind of subsidy from Florida’s largest Fortune 500 company.” The money, including a $100,000 donation on April 30, came from Publix, the heirs to the company’s founder, and its current and former leaders, the Post said.
This is the guy who last July declared himself a “proud NRA sellout” and said he was open to allowing licensed gun owners to carry guns on college campuses. He criticized a Florida law raising the age for buying firearms from 18 to 21 and requiring a three-day waiting period for their purchase.
Publix responded by saying it donates to Putnam, not to the NRA. What we have here is the denial of a syllogism: Publix supports Putnam; Putnam supports the NRA; therefore, Publix supports the NRA. It’s abundantly clear, even if the relationship is indirect.
A number of people reacted by vowing they would no longer shop at Publix. The Post quoted a tweet from state Rep. Carlos G. Smith, a Winter Park Democrat: “How many flowers did I buy from your stores for funerals, graves, + memorials for Pulse + MSD victims? #BoycottPublix”
Publix said: “We support bipartisan, business-friendly candidates, regardless of party affiliation and we remain neutral on issues outside of our core business.”
Really? As the Post said, Putnam “makes overt appeals to social and religious conservatives and the Trumpian anti-immigrant right.” If Publix has contributed to candidates who are middle-of-the-road on these issues or lean the other direction, it hasn’t said so.
Tit for Tat
It would seem that Publix knows whose bread to butter. In 2016, the Post quotes the Tampa Bay Times as saying, a TV station reported that seven Tampa-area Publix stores failed health inspections. The next day, Putnam pulled the inspections from the Agriculture Department’s website and did away with the pass/fail grading system, replacing a failing grade with “re-inspection required.”
Quid pro quo, anyone?
Publix said it was “suspending” its political contributions. That didn’t satisfy a Post reader from Palm Beach Gardens, who wrote, “We are suspending our shopping at Publix grocery stores until their company ends, not suspends, its political contributions that benefit the NRA.” The reader noted the nearly $700,000 in Putnam donations, and wrote, “Now we wonder how much money Publix has donated to other candidates under similar circumstances.”
Another reader from the same city wrote: “It is most disturbing a company with such a pristine reputation could support anyone who accepts money from the NRA, in light of all the carnage it causes … Corporations should stay away from NRA sellouts like Adam Putnam.”
A Jupiter woman noted that a letter writer had called for leaving Publix alone, and rejoined: “Between Putnam and (Gov.) Rick Scott and this paper’s reporting, this reluctant Republican will be voting for other underdogs come Aug. 28. Leave Publix alone? You bet I will.”
Here is Publix’s statement of principles:
Our founder, George Jenkins, built this company on a set of values. These values make Publix special to our associates, customers, and communities. To keep his legacy alive, we summarized his philosophies into lessons focused on supporting our mission. These are the six lessons Mr. George believed in, and we still believe in today. They are: invest in others, give back, prepare for opportunity, be there, respect the dignity of the individual, and treat customers like royalty.
Publix is investing in politics, giving back for getting special treatment, taking advantage of political opportunity, being there for a political ally, respecting the dignity of the NRA, and ignoring customers’ abhorrence of what the NRA stands for.
Publix’s proclamation is a lofty set of ideals. Too bad it doesn’t rise to them.