Your annual reminder that Publix never really got out of politics

Publix is the largest financial provider to the Florida Retail Federation, which has never stopped giving cash to local politicians.

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Your annual reminder that Publix never really got out of politics
Photo via Publix on Facebook

Despite ending donations to political campaigns in 2018, Publix has once again resumed donations to Florida politicians, and while the Lakeland-based grocery giant is at least being more upfront about it, it’s important to remember that they never really stopped.

According to a report today from the Tampa Bay Times, Publix directly gave $33,000 to Florida lawmakers in February, a sum that was divided into 33 $1,000 donations to both Democrats and Republicans — this, of course, is after the outrage over an unprecedented $670,000 deposit to then gubernatorial candidate and self-described “NRA Sellout” Adam Putnam. 

While this recent sum of cash is certainly significant, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Publix officially ended their practice of donating to politicians in May of 2018. But just six days later, the right-wing trade group Florida Retail Federation (FRF), which is funded almost entirely by Publix, gave $100,000 to Putnam’s political action committee, Florida Grown.

Following this deposit, the FRF proceeded to donate to political campaigns and candidates throughout 2018, and well into 2019. For those of you unfamiliar with the FRF, it is the largest pro-business lobbying group in Florida, with active members like Walgreens, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Walt Disney World Co. and SeaWorld. But even with a roster of some of our nation’s largest retailers, Publix was responsible for almost 86 percent of the FRF’s total funds in 2018.

According to public records, Publix has yet to donate to the FRF this year, but so far the lobbying group has donated a total of $34,000 to political causes, specifically conservative ones. No liberal groups appear on their public filings, but there is a hefty $25,000 deposit to the Republican Party of Florida, and $1,000 on February 18 to Republican and white nationalist whisperer Sen. Joe Gruters, who, as the Times pointed out, also received a $1,000 donation directly from Publix two days later on February 22. 

And this makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider the issues the FRF has lobbied against, like squashing a city's ability to raise their own minimum wage, keeping our state’s incredibly low grand theft threshold at just $300, banning cities from banning plastic bags, and supporting politicians with a penchant for little to no oversight, like Adam Putnam.

Similar to previous years, Publix and the FRF have a lot on the table this legislative session. With bills centered on the anti-immigrant e-verify program and the possibility of cities regaining the ability to ban plastic bags, the beloved grocer and their favorite lobbying group will certainly want those dollars to turn into favorable political action.

As Gruters said to the Times, “You can’t buy votes, period, but it does help to participate in the process.”

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About The Author

Colin Wolf

Colin Wolf has been working with weekly newspapers since 2007 and has been the Digital Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa since 2019. He is also the Director of Digital Content Strategy for CL's parent company, Euclid Media Group.
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