We’ve all seen the words “turkey” and “lobbyist” in the same sentence before. But, more than likely, this referred to the role of special interests in securing political pork for clients. Indeed, Florida’s political process has its own special “turkey day” which falls after each legislative session, before the governor gets to the bulk of budget signings and vetoes. We have Florida TaxWatch to thank (or chide) for that.
But today, in honor of Thanksgiving, we bring to you a different look at turkeys and lobbyists — namely, those individuals and organizations whose work helps ensure the very things that define this holiday.
In Florida, Thanksgiving may as well begin with the letters P-U-B-L-I-X. Score have been written about what sets this grocery chain apart from others. And come holiday time, thanks be given for that! The Publix lobby team in Florida consists of Floridian Partners’ Charlie Dudley, Jorge Chamizo, Teye Reeves, and Lindsey Napier. Nationally, however, Publix is also growing its political presence. Publix contributed $737,420 to political candidates during the 2014 election cycle, and spent $250,000 on lobbying. In 2012, these figures were far higher: $1.2 million in political contributions and $470,000 on lobbying.
Of course, the national food industry has lots of cooks in the political kitchen. The Grocery Manufacturers Association alone spent $14.3 million on lobbying in 2013, ranking number 16 of all lobbying organizations nationally.
Nationally, Kroger is one of the biggest suppliers of canned foods. During the 2014 election cycle, this food giant gave $109,880 in political contributions and spent $350,000 on lobbying. Even Campbell Soup Company lobbies: in 2013 it spent $580,000 on these activities.
Tyson Foods rang in far higher in 2012, spending $1.9 million on lobbying, and contributing another $373,761 to political candidates.
The United States is the world’s largest turkey producer. In fact, Americans consume more turkey per person than do residents of any other country — to the tune of about 16.4 pounds per person, per year. That said, you won’t find much political activity from Butterball, the nation’s largest turkey producer — nor for Jennie-O, the number two. On that note, the famed Bruce’s Yams is absent from national lobbying halls.
Moving back to Florida, where turkey comprises a small portion of overall poultry and egg production, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation nonetheless has a strong presence in state policymaking. The FFB works with lobbyists Adam Basford, Frank Matthews and Robert Lance Pierce in these efforts — often aligned alongside the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association‘s H.F. Calhoun, III.
Food, though, is just one piece of the Thanksgiving experience. Black Friday, once just a day, has inched into a week- to month-long experience for shoppers. Leading the retail interests’ charge in Florida is the Florida Retail Federation, which stands 16 strong in its lobby corps. Randy Miller takes the helm with his team including Travis Blanton, Melanie Brown, Amy Christian, Jon Johnson, Melissa Joyner Ramba, Cameron Yarbrough, and Todd Steibly.
Wal-Mart is also a force to be reckoned with — both in terms of Black Friday fame and political prowess in Florida. The retail giant’s lobby team of includes Billy Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Melissa Akeson, Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, Michael Cantens, Matt Blair, and Amanda Stewart.
While home-cooked meals and 4 a.m. Black Friday excursions at the local mall may be the norm for some, many others travel for the holiday; and still others enjoy the expert cooking of professional chefs who offer Turkey Day spreads galore. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association brings an A-List of lobbyists to its efforts, including Jim Daughton, Jeff Hartley, Aimee Diaz Lyon, Steve Metz, Andy Palmer, Herb Sheheane, Warren Husband, and eight others.
So, this year, as you enjoy the last few weeks of 2014, and keep your distance from politics to focus fully on family, remember… your turkeys, shopping excursions and sweet potatoes have some hard-working folks behind them.