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Fox News reports that Publix Super Markets has announced that it has “decided … to suspend corporate-funded political contributions as we reevaluate our giving processes,” a move that comes in the wake of “die-in” protests in two of its stores related to the company’s support of Florida gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam.

The reason: Putnam is a supporter of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and has described himself as a “proud NRA sellout.” Publix’ support for Putnam has been challenged by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a shooting earlier this year claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff members; a shooting just last week at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, resulting in 10 deaths, only exacerbated the situation.

According to Fox News, “The supermarket chain has been criticized by the students for supporting Putnam, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner. Records showed that Publix, its top executives and board members, and their family members have donated more than $750,000 altogether to Putnam or to his political committee. A former top Publix executive who is related to the chairman of Putnam's committee has donated an additional $65,000. The activists have called for a boycott of the supermarket.”

Last Friday, “The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shouted ‘USA, not NRA!’ and caused brief delays at the checkout as customers navigated carts around them on the floor. Pro-NRA counter-protesters also showed up at one store, and two men almost came to blows before police intervened.”

Much of the blowback against the students seems to focus on David Hogg, 18, a senior who has become the public face of many of the student survivors. Hogg helped organize the protests, though he did tell Fox News that “the media has falsely portrayed him as someone who wants to seize guns. He said he supports the Second Amendment but wants tighter regulations, universal background checks and training for people who own AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles.” The Orlando Sentinel reports that at one of the protests, “Hogg asked for a big round of applause for the supermarket chain for allowing the demonstrations.”

The Publix statement about its change in policy said: “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 reevaluate our giving processes.’’
KC's View:
I sort of feel sorry for Publix, which isn’t really used to being at the center of cultural controversies. (It is interesting that this morning, when I went on its website to look for the press release about its change in policy when it comes to political gifts, it was nowhere to be found. Lots of good news press releases, but not this one.)

I think the company did the right thing by allowing the protests, and by deciding to reconsider its political giving policy. The issue of gun violence is one that sharply divides society, and businesses have to be careful, I think, about casting their lots with candidates and policies that are seen by either side as being extreme. (They also have to understand that there are some issues that are seen as so important that they can become the core reason for a citizen to vote one way or another, and maybe even shop one place or another.) That’s not to say they can’t, or shouldn’t, take positions or make donations … but you have to know that there can be repercussions. Communities, more than ever, are not homogeneous, and should not be treated as such.

I might especially steer clear of any candidate that pronounces himself or herself as being a “sellout” to any organization or cause - I don’t care if it is the NRA or the ACLU. I sort of prefer my elected officials not to take knee-jerk positions, to be willing to think about issues in a nuanced sort of way, and maybe even look for places of common ground where compromise can be forged. But maybe that’s just me.