Let’s start off by acknowledging what Memorial Day commemorates: the brave sacrifices by countless Americans made to secure our freedoms, safety, and values. The observation of Memorial Day is wholly reflective, somber, and meaningful. So much so, that our elective representatives have set a day aside where public institutions are closed and where people are encouraged to do the same in their own ways.
That said, for many Americans, the long weekend of Memorial Day is equally a time to get outside with family — to grill, game, and boat their way into this unofficial beginning to summer.
Therefore, Memorial Day Weekend is at least in part brought to us by those entities that provide for our sundry celebrations: firework companies, Publix, spirits distributors, boating outfits, and so on.
If “holidays where you set off fireworks” were a category on Family Feud, Memorial Day wouldn’t be in the top two — but would certainly be on the list.
So far in 2014, the American Pyrotechnics Association contributed $6,000 to four Republican candidates — Jeff Denham of California, Sam Graves of Missouri, and Charlie dent and Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania. In 2012, the organization contributed $14,165 in total, to Sam Graves of Missouri, Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, and $1,000 to Jason Altmire – then, a Pennsylvania Democrat and now the chief of Florida Blue.
Florida’s much-loved Publix is known for its stellar lobbying efforts in the state, and is also a formidable player in Washington. So far in 2014, Publix has contributed $361,940 to federal candidates, $33,800 to leadership PACs, $36,330 to parties, and $325,000 to 527 committees. In sum, these total a respectable $718,570 in federal contributions, landing Publix at No. 151 out of 14,108 lobbying entities.
High on Publix’s federal contribution list: the Republican Agriculture Commissioners 527 ($200,000); the Republican Governors Association 527 ($100,000); the National Republican Congressional Committee ($25,000); Mitch McConnell ($16,200); and Lindsey graham ($15,200). Florida’s Steve Southerland and Vern Buchanan are also on that list. According to OpenSecrets.org, Publix’s top issues lobbied in 2013 were health issues, taxes, agriculture, food industry, and copyright and trademark. Expect more contributions from Publix before the 2014 cycle is over. In 2012, the grocery giant contributed $1.7 million in full, and spent another $470,000 on lobbying efforts.
Publix’s state lobbying efforts are currently driven by Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley, and Teye Reeves of Floridian Partners. In the 1st quarter of 2014, the firm brought in between $10,000 and $19,999 in fees from Publix for legislative lobbying, and up to $9,999 for executive branch lobbying.
Then, there’s spirits. And boy, Florida’s lobbyists for beverage issues had a drink-deserving session this year.
SKD Consulting Firm’s Dick Scott brought in between $30,000 and $39,999 from ABC Fine Wine & Spirits in the 1st quarter of 2014 for legislative lobbying, and another $30,000 to $39,999 for executive branch lobbying. During the same time period, Premier Beverage Company paid Southern Strategy Group between $10,000 and $19,999 for legislative representation and another $10,000 to $19,999 for executive branch representation.
Then, Southern Wine & Spirits of America worked with Ballard Partners and the Labrador Group for their lobbying efforts. The organization paid Ballard Partners between $30,000 and $39,999 for legislative lobbying; and paid Labrador Group’s Brecht Heuchan between $10,000 and $19,999 for legislative and up to $9,999 for executive branch representation.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States hired Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace Jr, and Chris Schoonover of Capital City Consulting at fees of between $10,000 and $19,999 for legislative branch lobbying, and up to $9,999 for executive branch representation.
Then, the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association worked with GrayRobinson, Heffley & Associates, and Jefferson Monroe Consulting; while the Beer Industry of Florida hired Advantage Consulting Team and Gentry & Associates to do its bidding.
Add up all those numbers and its clear what kind of stakes are at play for beverage interests. Nationally, the figures associated with beer and wine are even more staggering. The National Beer Wholesalers Association alone ranks No. 46 in all federal donations, contributing $1.6 million to candidates so far in 2014, and spending over $1 million on lobbying. During the 2012 campaign cycle, this association contributed over $3.7 million to candidates and spent another $1 million on lobbying.
Boating interests also have a big stake in Florida recreation. The Boat Owner’s Association of the United States (BoatU.S., Inc.) worked with Capital Ideas and Bonnie Basham to lobby Florida lawmakers in the first quarter of 2014, compensating between $10,000 and $19,999 for legislative representation and another $10,000 to $19,999 for executive branch lobbying.
The National Marine Manufacturer’s hired Hopping Green & Sams; Marine Industries Association of Florida contracts with Rayborn Consultants and Timmins Consulting, and the Marine Industries Association of South Florida is represented by David Custin.
The lists go on. But so must the fun. So on that note, I leave you to your Memorial Day observations, reflections, commemorations and barbeques.