Publix, the popular grocery chain whose stores dot the Southeastern United States, announced Friday that it would suspend corporate campaign donations.
The announcement came just before survivors of the February gun massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School led a “die-in” protest at two Publix locations near the school, an attempt to pressure the company to end its financial support for Adam Putnam, an NRA-friendly Republican primary candidate for Florida’s governorship.
“At Publix, we respect the students and members of the community who have chosen to express their voices on these issues,” the company said in a statement Friday. “We regret our contributions have led to a divide in our community. We did not intend to put our associates and the customers they serve in the middle of a political debate. At the same time, we remain committed to maintaining a welcoming shopping environment for our customers.”
“We would never knowingly disappoint our customers or the communities we serve. As a result, we decided earlier this week to suspend corporate-funded political contributions as we re-evaluate our giving processes.”
The Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this month that Publix — together with the individual donations of its founder’s heirs and those of the company’s current and former leadership — had “given more money to Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial bid than any other candidate since at least 1995 and likely for the entirety of the company’s history.”
The chain also donated money to business groups that in turn supported Putnam’s campaign, the report said. Putnam, in his current role as commissioner of agriculture, oversees health inspections of the grocery chain in Florida, the paper noted.
The Times said Friday that Publix released its statement “moments before” the staged die-in.
Putnam last year called himself “a proud #NRASellout!”
— Adam Putnam (@adamputnam) July 26, 2017
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), likely Putnam’s closest competition in the Aug. 28 primary election, responded to the news Friday by calling the protesters “left-wing agitators.”
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!
— Ron DeSantis (@RepDeSantis) May 25, 2018