Adam Putnam – Florida Politics

Publix: Where shopping for influence is no longer a pleasure

Publix’s decision, in the face of protests over its Adam Putnam donations, to suspend its political giving this year could mean more than $1 million that the company will not donate this year to various political campaigns and groups.

The company, whose slogan, “Where Shopping is a Pleasure” has graced Florida and other states it serves, announced Friday afternoon it would suspend its political giving, as protesters, called to action by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and activist David Hogg and others, began protests in stores.

They were upset with the more than $670,000 the Polk County-based company had donated to the political committee of Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, someone who has called himself an “NRA sellout.” Hogg and many other Stoneman Douglas survivors have emerged as national leaders of a campaign for gun control since a gunman murdered 17 people in their school Feb. 14.

The Republican state agriculture commissioner, also from Polk County, is not the only beneficiary of Publix’s political donations, and the company likely was far from finished in giving this year.

In the past 10 years Publix has donated nearly $10.9 million to politics, according to records at the Florida Division of Elections reviewed by FloridaPolitics. In the last two election years Publix donated $1.8 million in 2014 and $2 million in 2016. So far this year the company has donated just $620,000. That could mean the company still had plenty more ready to be distributed in 2018, though it could have placed most of its bets last year. Publix’s 2017 donations of $1.5 million was the most ever for the company in an off-year.

Publix has given to both Republicans and Democrats, though it prefers Republicans by a large ratio. Since Jan. 1, 2009, Publix has donated $615,519 to the Republican Party of Florida and has made another 541 contributions to individual Republicans running for office, providing $367,054 to their campaigns. Publix has donated $365,000 to the Florida Democratic Party and made donations to 151 individual Democrats, providing $90,521 to their campaigns during the same period.

Those contributions include money provided to 14 Democrats for this election cycle, including several who have aligned themselves closely with the Stoneman Douglas students movement for gun control.

Forty-nine Republicans have gotten contributions in this election cycle including Putnam and attorney general candidate state Rep. Frank White, who both have gotten the maximum candidate contributions of $1,000.

Otherwise, the big losers in Publix decision could be the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Retail Federation, and the National Association of Independent Businesses of Florida, which are used to getting big donations to their own political action committees from the grocery store company, and then spending it on their own political interests.

Since 2009 Publix has funneled $4.1 million into the chamber’s various PACs, and $3.0 million into the retail federation’s various PACs. Another $450,000 has gone to the NAIB-Florida’s PAC.

Publix also has donated more than $100,000 to the Florida Justice Reform Committee, the Committee for Florida Justice Reform, the Florida Prosperity Fund, and the Committee for Smarter Growth. Gov Rick Scott’s Let’s Get To Work PAC has garnered $50,000.

Publix suspends political giving amid anti-NRA protest

The Publix supermarket chain says it’s suspending political contributions as it reevaluates its giving policy after students from the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were killed called for a boycott because it supports a candidate aligned with the National Rifle Association.

Student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staged “die in” protests at two Publix stores Friday. They are upset over contributions Publix made to Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, who has called himself an NRA sellout.

Publix announced earlier this week that it would “reevaluate” its donations amid the outcry. In another statement Friday it announced it would halt its contributions for now.

The statement emailed by Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said the company would “suspend corporate-funded political contributions as we reevaluate our giving processes.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

Putnam Ad 5.17.2018

Adam Putnam’s committee has spent $3.25M this month

Adam Putnam is on a spending spree.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate’s main fundraising vehicle, Florida Grown PC, tacked on another $226,000 in contributions through the first three weeks of May according to contribution reports on its website, but those gains were outstripped by nearly $3.25 million in spending.

Receiving the bulk of those funds was Smart Media Group. The Virginia-based company took in just under $2.8 million for three media buys — $872,000 on May 4, $1 million on May 10 and $925,000 on May 17. That last check was likely drafted to run Putnam’s newest campaign ad, which touts his plan to invest in vocational education and slams so-called “liberal elites” for their perceived lack of respect for trade workers.

The other $425,000 or so in spending included about $160,000 in payments to Chicago-based i360 for database services as well as a $150,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida, alongside numerous smaller expenditures.

When it comes to money received, Disney is so far the top donor in May. The House of Mouse gave the Polk County pol nearly $70,000 through a pair of its subsidiaries — $50,000 via Disney Worldwide Services and $19,794 via Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Florida Grown also received $25,000 checks from NBCUniversal, Georgia businessman Wayne Pearson, Lakeland retiree Mark Clayton Hollis Jr. and Building On Your Dreams, a political committee connected to Bradenton Republican Rep. Jim Boyd.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran put some cash on the table, too. His political committee, Watchdog PAC, cut the second-term Agriculture Commissioner a check for $20,000 last week.

Watchdog PAC was Corcoran’s main fundraising vehicle for what most onlookers though would be a gubernatorial — or even Attorney General — campaign in the fall. He ended speculation about his political future a couple weeks ago when he announced he would not make a statewide run and would instead back Putnam over U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican Primary for Governor.

The contribution came in on May 17, about a week after the endorsement.

Following Corcoran’s contrib on the ledger were trio of $10,000 checks, one each from TKM Farms, Saunders Real Estate and former TECO Energy CEO John B. Ramil.

The most noteworthy donor under the five-figure mark was Tallahassee lobbying firm Johnson & Blanton, which received $1.25 million in compensation during the first quarter. That includes $425,000 for its work lobbying the Governor and Cabinet, including Putnam.

As of April 30, Putnam’s committee had raised $23.43 million and had about $15.3 million banked. The 43-year-old Republican has also amassed nearly $5.5 million for his campaign account, with $3.6 million on hand. DeSantis’ April finance reports showed total fundraising of $7.8 million and a little over $7 million banked.

Finance reports covering all of May are due to the state on June 11.

Gwen Graham adds political director Monica Rodrigues, two others to team

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has hired Monica Rodrigues to be her campaign’s political director and also added , Ed Rodriguez, and Jenny Busby to head the policy, and operations teams, Graham’s campaign announced Thursday.

Rodrigues, of Miami Beach, previously served as the communication director and development director for Enroll America, helping with the enrollment of 1.9 million Floridians in Obamacare.

A former Navy corpsman and Iraq War veteran, Rodriguez joins the campaign’s deputy policy director. He has previously worked for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America as a legislative associate in the organization’s Washington, D.C. policy team, and also has experiences as a legislative staffer in the U.S. Senate and as a political consultant for Solidarity Strategies.

Busby joins as the operations director. She previously worked as a staffer to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, and also has worked for the Democratic Party and state Sen. Nan Rich.

“Monica, Ed, and Jenny are all motivated, dedicated young Floridians who joined our team because they care about our state and making the future brighter for their generation,” Graham stated in a news release. “With their help, we’re going to continue talking with more Floridians across the state about restoring our public schools, protecting our environment, and creating an economy that works for everyone.”

Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, faces businessman Chris King, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the August 28 Democratic Primary. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and  Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Speaking of dogs … Philip Levine should be more careful before blasting Adam Putnam

Democratic candidate for Governor Philip Levine blasted his Republican opponent, Adam Putnam, for scheduling a fundraiser at the home of a man who a decade ago shot two dogs that wandered into a pasture.

While murdering dogs is abhorrent, the former mayor of Miami Beach probably should have thought twice before attacking Putnam on the issue.

On Thursday morning, Levine tweeted: “Disgusting! Silence is not an option, @adamputnam. @HumaneSociety @peta @petallianceGO @petstrustmiami #sayfie #flapol”

After the outcry, and with little explanation, Putnam’s campaign canceled the event Thursday at the home of Christopher Comins.

Comins, an Orlando businessman, caused a stir in 2008 after a video became public showing him shooting two pet huskies that wandered into a cow pasture.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, a judge acquitted Comins of animal cruelty charges in 2011; he argued the property owner gave him authority to shoot the dogs to protect cattle.

It’s clear Levine respects animal welfare (a really good thing), but as Miami Beach mMayor, he was not quite as observant with his own canine companions (or the laws of Miami Beach).

According to the Miami-Dade Clerk of the Court, Levine received more than a dozen citations for various animal-related infractions, including failure to vaccinate against rabies (2011, 2013 and 2018) and failing to obtain a license for both intact and sterilized dogs (2013, 2014 and 2018).

One of the violations — failure to vaccinate — occurred in November 2013, the same month Levine was elected mayor.

The violations, 13 in all, are as follows:

— Failure to Vaccinate Animal Against Rabies (November 3, 2011)

— Failure to Obtain License Tag for Intact Dog (October 24, 2011)

— Failure to Vaccinate Animal Against Rabies; failure to obtain license tag for intact dog (January 21, 2013)

— Failure to Vaccinate Animal Against Rabies (August 19, 2013)

— Failure to Vaccinate Animal Against Rabies (November 18, 2013)

— Failure to obtain license tag for sterilized dog; failure to obtain license tag for intact dog (February 3, 2014)

— Failure to obtain license tag for sterilized dog (March 13, 2014)

— Failure to vaccinate animal against rabies (September 25, 2017)

— Failure to obtain license tag for sterilized dog (January 16, 2018)

— Failure to vaccinate animal against rabies; failure to obtain license for sterilized dog (February 5, 2018)

It is indeed praiseworthy to champion animal welfare, but it may not have been the wisest thing for Levine to tag the Humane Society (and other organizations) — especially when his own history on the subject is somewhat lax.

Joe Henderson: Publix will survive this, but Adam Putnam? We’ll see

If Adam Putnam’s campaign for Governor ultimately crashes on the rocks, historians will note the time of 8:27 p.m., July 25, 2017, as the point where it began to unravel.

That’s when he sent out a fateful tweet that was equal parts of bravado and miscalculation. It read: “The liberal media recently called me a sellout to the NRA. I’m a proud #NRASellout!”  

Putnam may have believed he was invincible at that point. He didn’t have a serious challenger looming for the Republican nomination and, well, don’t GOP candidates always win the Governor’s race in Florida?

He had money, folksy charm, name recognition, along with the perception by many that this was just his time. After serving in Congress and two terms as state Agriculture Commissioner, this fifth-generation Floridian with small-town Bartow roots seemed to have everything going his way.

But that changed on Valentine’s Day when 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The resulting backlash against the NRA, led by student outrage at how Florida Republicans rubber-stamp basically anything from the gun lobby, brought new and now-unwanted attention to Putnam.

Suddenly, being a “proud NRA sellout” didn’t sound like such a hot idea.

Then, the Tampa Bay Times uncorked a scoop that brought even more eyebrow-raising attention to Putnam. It reported top officials at the beloved Florida grocery chain Publix had donated more than $670,000 to Putnam in the last three years — far more support than it had given any other candidate.

Publix tried to explain it was just supporting a pro-business candidate, but a lot of people couldn’t get past “Proud NRA Sellout.”

Just a few days after that story appeared, 10 people were murdered at Santa Fe High School in Texas. That focused more attention on Publix and, by extension, Putnam.

Calls for a boycott of Publix for its support of gun-loving Putnam quickly grew loud throughout the state, and it has had an impact. The massive grocery chain, realizing potential damage to the brand, had to issue a statement to CBS.com saying it is reconsidering how to handle such matters in the future.

“We regret that some of our political contributions have led to an unintentional customer divide instead of our desire to support a growing economy in Florida,” Publix said in an email to CBS.

“As a result of this situation, we are evaluating our processes to ensure that our giving better reflects our intended desire to support a strong economy and a healthy community.”

Since all of this hit the fan, Putnam’s tweets have concentrated on mundane campaign stuff like the Newberry Watermelon Festival parade last Saturday. He hasn’t used that medium to address the controversy with Publix or the growing backlash against the NRA.

The closest he came to any of this was a tweet that said he was “saddened” by the murders at Santa Fe.

I’m sure he was, but there’s a difference between being “saddened” and being willing to be an agent of change to a culture that believes guns are as essential as food and water.

Putnam’s candidacy remains strong though, and he still bashing the so-called “liberal elite” at every opportunity. I can’t see him losing the GOP nomination to an even more strident Ron DeSantis, and Democrats have yet to prove they have a winning formula.

But it’s not the sure thing it used to look like.

When Publix starts to move an arm’s length away, you may have a problem.

Publix will survive this.

Putnam? Too soon to say.

The internet lasts forever. If you tweet it, you own it.

Rebecca McLaughlin: What Publix can learn from Chick-Fil-A about handling political activists

Publix is currently facing an issue that is increasingly prevalent in American corporations: political activism.

As the left has become more radicalized with their demands for political conformity in the public space, the presence of activist-driven campaigns has increased and become more effective. Progressive activists understand that most American corporations are meek in the face of controversy and often mistake political activism as another type of customer complaint.

The result is that American corporations are easy targets for outrage campaigns spearheaded by mostly progressive activists on a range of environmental, social and economic issues.

Last week, Publix faced criticism on social media for its support of gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a natural fit given that Putnam is a native of Polk County and champion of Florida business.

Part of the Publix culture is putting customers first and responding quickly to complaints about shopper experience.  Publix’s customer-driven approach is part of the magic that allows the company to be a place “where shopping is a pleasure.”

Unfortunately, the Publix approach does not work when the complaints come not from shoppers, but from political activists. The key difference is this: the customer wants a company to make good on its stated goals. An activist wants a company to change it goals.

For the purposes of this article, an “activist” is someone engaging in a political mindset as opposed to a consumer mindset. The idea that a customer can move between being a consumer and an activist is vexing for companies, but is a reality of our increasingly politically infected culture.

Back to the Publix example.

Take a look at the Twitter response that drew the attention of the media last week.

The Publix response, while genuine and true to company culture, violates the three rules every company should follow if subjected to a campaign by political activists.

First, never apologize for your political position. The best corporate example here is Chick-Fil-A. Progressive activists disdain the company for its conservative, Christian values. Chick-Fil-A, however, just keeps growing, even in places such as liberal Manhattan, because Chick-Fil-A doesn’t apologize for its views. Apologies for intentional political stances only draw media attention, attract more activists, and make companies appear less authentic.

Second, never say what your company did NOT do. In the @Publix tweets, Publix clarifies they do not support the National Rifle Association (NRA). By attempting to be unambiguous Publix actually reinforced the idea of a link between themselves and the NRA.  The resulting headline the next day in the Tampa Bay Times actually read “Publix Clarifies: We Support Adam Putnam, Not The NRA.”

By saying what the company doesn’t support, Publix issued a denial and in politics, denials look like guilt.

Third, don’t respond to activists unless the media is directly asking for a response regarding the issue. The criticism of Publix could have been limited to a fringe social media campaign had Publix opted not to respond. By issuing a response, however, Publix created a mainstream media story that probably would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

The Publix story, however, has another layer.

The @PublixHelps Twitter handle also issued a response but one that followed the rules above. Here it is below.

The @PublixHelps tweet was a great response. The tweet simply states why the company supports Putnam without a denouncement of the NRA, mention of gun violence, or denial of any kind.

Simple. Direct. Perfect.

The rise of political outrage culture will continue to create headaches for every American company engaged in any public policy issue. The political minefield can be navigated, but only if corporate marketers are able to understand the differences between the political mind and consumer mind of their customers and obey the three simple rules above.

Remember, progressives still eat at Chick-fil-A and conservatives still buy coffee at Starbucks. If your product is good, even consumers who disagree with you politically can become loyal, lifelong customers.

___

Rebecca McLaughlin is the VP of Client Relations at Strategic Digital Services where she spearheads digital strategy for an array of political and corporate clients around Florida.

Joe Henderson: Sure, young people are registering to vote, but for whom?

The New York Times reported that the number of young people registering to vote since the Parkland killings continues to, using the newspaper’s word, “accelerate.”

That trend is likely to spike upward again following Friday’s massacre at Santa Fe High School in Texas. The overriding factor for the increases obviously would seem to be gun violence in schools, and that is an issue that Democrats in Florida and elsewhere should own.

For Democrats though, there is a disturbance in the force of that narrative.

The Florida Supervisor of Elections Office shows that compared to the end of 2017, the number of registered Republicans increased by 11,065 through the end of April while the number of Democrats declined by 8,977.

It also shows an increase of 11,427 in registrations for what it calls “minor parties.”

Democrats still have more than 200,000 registered voters than Republicans statewide, but they have had that advantage forever and still lost the last five Governor’s races.

In this century, Democrats have won just one statewide legislative race — Alex Sink beat Tom Lee for CFO in 2006.

True, Dems have had some surprising special election success in unlikely places. In HD 72 in Sarasota, Democrat Margaret Good prevailed in February over Republican James Buchanan in a district Donald Trump won by 4.4 points in 2016.

And in Dade County last September, Democrat Annette Taddeo beat state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a special SD 40 race to fill the vacancy created when Republican Frank Artiles had to resign following a racist rant.

After those results, it looked like the predicted blue wave for Democrats would sweep over Florida in the midterms, and it still could. For that to happen though, some things have to change — and the kids will have to be the ones to make the difference.

While it’s almost impossible to predict what Trump will do next and how that will affect his popularity in November, he does seem to be better liked in Florida than most places.

A recent Florida Atlantic poll had his approval at 43 percent — not great, but better here than the national average. If that holds, it might mitigate some of the drag on other Republican candidates that Dems have been banking on.

Rick Scott poses the biggest threat of Democrat Bill Nelson’s career in the U.S. Senate.

Although Scott, once considered a darling of the National Rifle Association, helped push through a modestly tougher gun law in the wake of Parkland, but will that be enough to convince young voters that he can be trusted in Washington?

And just as important for Nelson, will those newly registered voters actually cast a ballot? Turnout is usually modest in midterm elections, even when such critical offices are at stake. That has benefitted Republicans in Florida.

The other X-factor is that “minor party” issue. Idealistic young voters often feel neither major party listens to them, and they can be attracted to the message that a candidate out of the mainstream might offer.

That’s where I think Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam has been smart. He has become a champion of expanded vocational education in the state, even to the point of ridiculing the notion that everyone should go to college as some liberal elitist plot.

I think that’s an issue that could resonate with young voters who see a job market that seems to offer them only service positions at $10 an hour.

In close races, those voters can sink the hopes of a candidate from one of the established parties.

Put another way, while major Republican candidates would love to have a big share of the youth vote, they’re probably OK if it goes to anyone else but a Democrat.

That thought alone should keep Dems awake nights.

Philip Levine adds campaign directors in Miami, North Florida

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has added two more area directors to his campaign with the additions of Megan Sirjane-Samples as north Florida area director and Chris Hudtwalcker as Miami-Dade area director.

Sirjane-Samples previously served as a legislative advocate for the Florida League of Cities, helping to craft the League’s legislative policy statements and assisting on research and analysis of legislative and policy issues to provide league management and local government officials with information on state and municipal policies, laws, budgets, and operations.

Hudtwalcker worked as a legislative assistant to Democratic state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, managing the senator’s legislative and political affairs. Hudtwalcker also worked as Rodriguez’s campaign manager during the 2016 election, working with staff to implement a successful strategy to secure Florida’s 37th Senate District in one of the most competitive races of the cycle.

Levine is battling with Gwen Graham, Chis King, and Andrew Gillum for the August 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republicans are Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis.

“With the addition of Megan and Chris to Team Levine, we are continuing to build the campaign infrastructure best equipped to achieve success in the primary and general elections and flip the Florida Governor’s Office blue,” Levine’s Campaign Manager Matthew Van Name, stated in a news release. “The presence of our area directors throughout the state’s regions allows our team to have roots in communities across Florida and enables us to reach voters in all 67 counties.”

Putnam Ad 5.17.2018

Adam Putnam promotes voc-ed, bashes ‘liberal elites’ in new ad

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam put out a new ad Thursday promising to strengthen vocational education in the Sunshine State and bashing so-called “liberal elites” who don’t respect trade workers.

“As a fifth generation Florida farmer, I know what it’s like to sweat for your paycheck,” Putnam said in the 30-second ad, which features shots of him walking through a factory and shaking hands with workers.

“Today, liberal elites look down on people who work with their hands, pressuring too many kids into student loan debt, leaving them with degrees they can’t use and bills they can’t pay. We need to get back to honoring and respecting experts of a trade,” he said in the ad. “I’ll make vocational training a top priority. Our kids should be career-ready, not debt ridden. College is not the only path to success, and it’s okay to say it.”

A campaign release said the ad will begin running on cable and broadcast statewide beginning tomorrow. The closing frames of the TV spot indicate it was paid for by Florida Grown, Putnam’s affiliated political committee.

The ad follows the campaigns recent release of its “Florida Jobs First Agenda,” which includes a plan to boost vocational and technical education in middle and high schools. When it was released, Putnam said if Florida is going to continue job growth, it needs to better prepare students who don’t pursue a four-year college degree to get jobs in trades.

“As Governor, Putnam’s top priority will be to build a robust education pipeline that puts vocational and technical education back into middle schools and high schools, providing Florida’s students with the tools and practice necessary to find their piece of the American Dream here in Florida,” a Monday press release announced.

Democrats aren’t buying the rhetoric.

“Adam Putnam is a multi-millionaire career politician who spent ten years in Congress voting to make it more expensive for students to go to college and against vocational education. Putnam’s latest ad is another absurd election year attempt to hide his long record of hurting Florida students and working families,” Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Kevin Donohoe said in a Thursday press release.

The FDP release included more than a dozen clippings on past votes Putnam made during his decade in Congress, including his vote against interest rate reductions for federal student loans in 2007. A Lakeland Ledger article from the time said the bill was supported by “all but the staunchest of White House lapdogs.”

Putnam, currently in his second term as Agriculture Commissioner, faces Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican Primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Rick Scott. Four major Democrats are also running.

Putnam sits atop the field in fundraising, with $28.88 million raised including $2 million in April.

The ad is below.

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