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Times Report: Publix Gives Largest Contribution Ever To Putnam, Faces Backlash

Roberto Roldan
WUSF Public Media

According to a Tampa Bay Times investigation, Publix has given more money to Adam Putnam's bid for governor than any other candidate since at least 1995. 

Publix has given Putnam $670,000 in the last three years, or as the Times calculated, “enough money to buy 74,527 chicken tender subs.”

Times reporter Steve Contorno said after that report, many customers of the Florida-based supermarket took to Twitter to express their concerns about the company’s support of Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture and self-proclaimed “proud NRA sellout.”

"In the wake of (the Parkland shooting), there's quite a few people who aren't happy to see Publix, which is a very popular brand beloved by many Florida residents for their clean stores and their pub subs, they're not happy to see them get behind a candidate who is so much a supporter of the National Rifle Association,” Contorno said.

Publix replied, tweeting that its financial support of the Republican Commissioner of Agriculture does not extend to the NRA.

The tweets also say the company supports Putnam because he's the hometown candidate as a Bartow native, just 20 minutes from Publix's headquarters in Lakeland.

Publix’s $100,000 donation to Putnam's Political Action Committee "Florida Grown" on April 30 is its largest contribution ever. Usually, their contributions are about $1,000.

Contorno said it's noteworthy that Florida's largest private business has not traditionally been so invested in a single candidate until now.

"This is unprecedented for Publix in its history and it’s a very well-known Florida company and it's worth pointing out how they are spending their money and who are they choosing to support,” Contorno said.

In 2016, ABC Action News reportedthat after several Tampa Bay area Publix locations failed their state health inspections, inspections were taken offline.

“For all of Publix’s 785 stores in Florida, (Putnam is) in charge of insuring that they are providing healthy food and healthy facilities for Florida,” Contorno said. “During that time, there was a story that came out about several Publix’s in our area, the Tampa Bay area, not passing inspection.”

“In response, he pulled the entire database of health inspections down for six months and came up with a whole new system in which supermarkets no longer can get a failing grade, the worst grade is they just have to come back for a re-inspection.”

Read the full Times story here

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.