If you aren’t already experiencing a bit of “SALE!!” fatigue from the month-long blitz of email blasts attempting to draw you in for holiday shopping sprees, it is likely you will by the New Year. But to counter the incessant advertising (and much-welcome coupons), at least cute holiday photo cards from your friends and their kids and pets will accompany them. This month is a big one for the U.S. Postal Service.
Staggering statistic: about 40 percent of USPS revenue comes from online purchases. And, in January, 2014, it was reported that USPS delivered nearly 90 million packages, or about 10 million packages per day, in the days leading up to Christmas.
But this column isn’t just about holiday mail traffic. It’s about the organizations and individuals who keep the political wheels turning behind the scenes to ensure we keep the holiday spirit alive, year after year.
I’ll begin with the big retailers — some online, some just down the street — whose products are gifted and re-gifted and exchanged and returned, opened beneath trees and around menorahs, at office gift exchanges and in the sharing of charity with strangers.
Three partners share responsibility for lobbying Florida lawmakers for Amazon.com: Brian Ballard, Carol Bracy and Mathew Forrest; and one firm, Metz, Husband & Daughton, keeps the political boat a’sail for eBay.com in Florida waters. Thank Jim Daughton, Warren Husband, Aimee Diaz Lyon, Steve Metz, Andy Palmer, Patricia Green, and Gregory Black for that. Then, there’s Justin Sayfie, who alone lobbies for Google in Florida, the search engine that most likely brought you to those Amazon or eBay products to begin with.
Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy share the distinction of being giants both in the brick-and-mortar and online retail worlds. For its Florida political needs, Target works with Acooa Ellis, David Griffin, Robert Stuart Jr., and Jason Unger; Best Buy with Chip Case alone; and Wal-Mart with a rock star team including Melissa Akeson, Michael Cantens, Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, and four others.
Then, there’s the organization making it click — literally, and figuratively — in Florida’s universe of all things consumer: the Florida Retail Federation. Randy Miller is joined by the whizzes at Johnston & Blanton, as well as by Melissa Joyner Ramba, Samantha Padgett, Todd Steibly, Cameron Yarbrough and many more, to make this happen.
But, wait! How can we be talking about the holiday season without looking at who works on behalf of its spiritual core?
Representing the Florida Catholic Conference are three truly dedicated experts: Ingrid Delgado, James Herzog, and Michael Sheedy; and with the Florida Association of Jewish Federations, you have Mario Bailey, Bernie Friedman and Yolanda Cash Jackson to thank for their commitments, too. David Barkey also lobbies in Florida on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League.
Nationally on the religious/lobbying scene, the Christian Coalition, once a lobbying giant, has been effectively dormant for years. They dropped from spending a high of over $6 million on lobbying in 1998 to nothing over the past few years. Likewise, the Christian Coalition of Florida no longer retains a registered lobbyist.
Catholic Charities spends about $180,000 each year lobbying our federal government, while the American Jewish Committee spends about $130,000 per year doing the same. The Republican Jewish Coalition spent $60,000 so far in 2014 on lobbying, but gave $243,900 in contributions to candidates this year. Comparatively, in 2014, the National Jewish Democratic Council spent nothing on lobbying efforts, and gave $500 in contributions. Nationally, the Anti-Defamation League spent $160,000 on lobbying in 2013 and $80,000 reported so far this year.
Your Christmas trees are brought to you — at least when it comes to the political side of the industry — lobbyists Lee Ann Fisch, Alan Shelby and Jim Spratt, who represent the Florida Forestry Association.
And, to come full circle, we’ll return to those who work on behalf of those who deliver the millions of packages to our doorsteps each year. The Greeting Card Association holds up its weight on the national scene with spending of about $100,000 on lobbying so far in 2014 — a figure consistent with the past many years of reporting. But it is the FedEx Corporation that registers as a truly “heavy hitter” in its annual political activity. FedEx contributions for the 2014 election cycle rang in at $1.9 million, giving the company a rank of 121 out of over 16,000 groups. Lobbying expenditures are even more impressive: $12.2 million in 2013 and $9.6 million reported for 2014 so far — landing FedEx a rank of 23 out of 4,252 lobbying entities in 2014.
Nobody lobbies for your neighborhood carolers, however. And, nobody needs to. There are some things that are above the political fray. And holiday cheer — in whatever form it takes for you — needs no intervention from lawmakers to bring.