Feb 1, 2021 - News

Publix embroiled in controversy over heiress' Trump-linked donations

Left: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images. Right: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Publix heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli donated about $300,000 to fund the rally that preceded the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol last month, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The donation is only the latest in controversial political spending by associates and beneficiaries of the popular Lakeland-based grocery chain, which employs 225,000 people and did $38.1 billion in retail sales in 2019.

  • Fancelli, 71, is a part-time Lakeland resident and the daughter of Publix founder George W. Jenkins, who died in 1996.

What happened: The donation paid for the lion’s share of the roughly $500,000 rally at the Ellipse, where former President Trump incited attendees to march to the Capitol.

  • "InfoWars" huckster Alex Jones arranged for the donation, WSJ reports.

The backdrop: Fancelli and her two children contributed as much as the law allows to Trump’s re-election campaign in 2019: around $171,000.

  • She gave more than $980,000 to both the Republican Party and Trump’s campaign in the 2020 cycle.

The big picture: Publix affiliates have a long history of giving big bucks to conservative causes.

  • In 2018, Publix leaders gave $670,000 to the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, who declared himself a "proud NRA sellout," prompting "die-in" protests led by survivors of the Parkland shooting.
  • In 2019, heirs to the Publix fortune gave $25,000 to a PAC supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis.

What they're saying: Responding to criticism, Publix tweeted: "The violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was a national tragedy. The deplorable actions that occurred that day do not represent the values, work or opinions of Publix Super Markets."

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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