Southwest Florida reps follow party line in opposing American Rescue Plan, which passes House

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi gavels an end to the vote approving the American Rescue Plan. (Image: C-SPAN)

March 10, 2021 by David Silverberg

The US House of Representatives today approved a Senate-amended version of the American Rescue Plan (House Resolution 1319) by an overwhelmingly party-line vote of 220 to 211.

It will be finalized by the signature of President Joe Biden, expected on Friday, March 12.

All Republicans and one Democrat voted against it: Rep. Jared Golden (D-2-Maine).

In keeping with the Republican Party position, all of Southwest Florida’s representatives voted against it as they had opposed it when it first passed the House on Feb. 27, and took the opportunity to denounce it anew.

The 628-page bill provides families with $1,400 in stimulus payments, speeds COVID vaccine distribution and extends unemployment benefits of $300 a week until Labor Day, Sept. 6.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) denounced the bill in the Budget Committee and on the floor of the House when it was first introduced in February. Before the vote he announced: “Today, I will again vote in opposition to the non-COVID relief package Democrats are falsely claiming to be COVID-19 relief. My fellow @GOP colleagues and I have exposed the outrageous pork and erroneous spending incorporated in this bloated bill and the people deserve better.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) warned before the bill’s passage that: “If this fake #COVID bill becomes law Florida’s seniors will be hit with a $30.8B Medicare cut over 10 years. Also, under the new funding formula #FL will receive about $1.2B less in direct funding than they would have under the formula in past bipartisan COVID bills.”

Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) complained: “Rather than stimulating the already healing economy, Democrats chose to turn our nation into a welfare state with more government handouts. This recent COVID ‘relief’ bill proves that there is no stopping their pursuit of socializing our workforce.”

In contrast, Democrats hailed the passage of the massive bill, the culmination of the efforts of Biden and House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.).

Pelosi called the day “historic” and “a day of fulfillment.”


Statement by President Joe Biden on the House Passage of the American Rescue Plan

For weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of Americans – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – have made it clear they support the American Rescue Plan. Today, with final passage in the House of Representatives, their voice has been heard.

Now we move forward with the resources needed to vaccinate the nation. To get $1,400 in direct payments to 85 percent of American households. To expand coverage and help with lowering health care premiums. To give small businesses what they need to stay open. To expand unemployment insurance, provide food and nutrition assistance. To help keep a roof over people’s heads. To cut child poverty in half.

This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance.

I want to thank all the members who voted for it, especially Speaker Pelosi, the finest and most capable speaker in the history of our nation. Once again, she has led into law an historic piece of legislation that addresses a major crisis and lifts up millions of Americans.

On Friday, I look forward to signing the American Rescue Plan into law at the White House – a people’s law at the people’s house.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Florida voter suppression bill comes before state Senate hearing; Floridians can oppose it now

A bill in the Florida Senate could cripple mail-in voting and add unwanted expenses to county budgets. (Photo: Author)

March 9, 2021 by David Silverberg

The most significant bill suppressing voting in Florida is scheduled for committee consideration tomorrow, March 10—and Florida residents can weigh in with their opposition.

Senate Bill 90 would require voters seeking to vote by mail to renew their mail-in request every year in the calendar year of the election rather than the current two years. That means that voters seeking a mail-in ballot for the 2022 election would have to wait until next year to request it.

Introduced on Feb. 3 by state Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-12-Sumter County), the bill has already been approved by the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

The Florida Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, has scheduled a hearing on it for tomorrow.

While the bill is ostensibly intended to prevent voter fraud, it has been denounced by county election supervisors, who worry that it will add unnecessary financial burdens to their counties.

The Miami Herald, editorialized that, “While not solving any real problems, it would force supervisors of elections to scramble to comply and notify voters, costing counties hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Further, it “smacks of a partisan attempt to confuse voters and catch them off guard in next year’s election.”

Florida Democrats have denounced the bill.

“Why do Florida Republicans want to limit vote by mail access? Well it all comes down to who has access to the franchise,” Marcus Dixon, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director told News4 in Jacksonville. “So even though the vote by mail system worked well here in Florida this past election, any time too many people have easy access to the ballot box, Republicans feel like they need to change the rules.”

Manny Diaz, Florida Democratic Party Chair, agreed. “This is not an issue of Republicans versus Democrats, but instead an issue of Republicans versus democracy,” Diaz said. “Florida Republicans keep showing us that when given a choice between defending the rights of voters, or suppressing voter access, disturbingly they will all too gladly suppress, harm and sacrifice our most sacred Constitutional right, on the altar of preserving power for the sake of power.”

Comment: What you can do

Florida residents can weigh in on this issue before, during and after it comes up for a hearing in the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee.

They can contact their state senators and urge them to oppose it.

To find your senator, go to Find Your Legislators and enter your address. Your senator will appear along with a button to e-mail that senator. Tell your senator to oppose SB 90 and keep the mail-in voting provision the way it functioned in 2020.

The members of the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee are:

Chair:

Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-27-Estero)

Vice Chair:

Sen. Joe Gruters (R-23-Sarasota)

Members:

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

US Senate passes American Rescue Plan; amended bill expected to pass House next week

Rubio, Scott vote against bill with rest of Republicans; Donalds praises defunding Planned Parenthood

The US Capitol.

March 6, 2021 by David Silverberg

Today, shortly after noon, the United States Senate approved the American Rescue Plan (House Resolution 1319) by a party-line vote of 50 to 49.

Both of Florida’s Republican senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, voted against the bill along with the rest of the Republican caucus. One senator, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), did not vote.

The Senate worked through the night to consider and vote on numerous amendments following a demand by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that the 628-page bill be read aloud in its entirety, an effort that added 12 hours to deliberations.

The amended bill now returns to the House of Representatives to be voted upon with the Senate amendments. The House is scheduled to reconvene at noon on Monday, March 8 and a vote may take place on Tuesday.

All of Southwest Florida’s members of Congress, Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), voted against the bill when it was first considered in the House last Saturday, Feb. 27. Their positions are not expected to change when it returns to the House. Donalds has strenuously spoken out against the bill on the House floor and in subsequent statements.

Immediately after the Senate vote today Donalds tweeted: “I am happy to see that PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] money will no longer be going to institutions like Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood. Taxpayer dollars should never fund abortion on American soil or abroad.” He also expressed thanks to Democratic senators who rejected a minimum wage increase: “Thank you to the Senate Democrats who sided with Senate Republicans on rejecting the $15 minimum wage increase. Bernie, Pelosi, and Schumer want to run America like California, New York, and Vermont; let me remind them that there are 47 other states in our union.”

Among its many provisions, the $1.9 trillion spending bill provides for $1,400 in economic stimulus to American families, $300 in weekly unemployment benefits to workers affected by the pandemic until Sept. 6, funding for COVID vaccine distribution, and aid to state and local governments affected by the pandemic.

In her own statement following Senate passage House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.), stated: “Today is a day of great progress and promise for the American people, as the Democratic Senate has passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to save lives and livelihoods.”

She concluded: “The American Rescue Plan is a beacon of hope for America’s families and a sign that, as President Biden has promised: Help Is On The Way.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

US House passes American Rescue Plan aiding needy and speeding vaccines; all SWFL Reps vote ‘no’

Rep. Byron Donalds presents proxy votes for fellow congressional Republicans during last night’s legislative session. (Image: US House)

Feb. 27, 2021 by David Silverberg

This morning at 2:01 am, by a vote of 219 to 212, the US House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, House Resolution 1319, providing $1.9 trillion in relief, support and COVID countermeasures.

Unsurprisingly, Southwest Florida’s members of Congress, Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), all followed the Republican Party line and voted against it.

The bill proposes providing every needy American household $1,400 in immediate cash relief. It will boost the national vaccination program by setting up federal vaccination sites and increasing testing. It will support small businesses and is projected to boost an economy badly damaged by the pandemic. (A full analysis of the impact of the plan and the need for it can be read here.)

Donalds had long opposed the bill, which was first considered by the Budget Committee, on which he sits. When the committee considered the bill on Feb. 22, he called it “bloated and misguided” and denounced it for supporting Planned Parenthood and women’s choice. He also attacked the plan in his first speech on the House floor on Feb. 3.

On Friday, Feb. 26, Donalds appeared on WJLA-TV, a local Washington, DC television station to further denounce the bill, accusing Democrats of “using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to pass just about every liberal wishlist policy.” He also said that state and local governments only needed help because they mismanaged their economies and they should imitate Florida, which has opened up despite the pandemic.

“Unfortunately in too many states and too many localities, they have decided to go with these radical, drastic lockdown policies that have hurt businesses and have hurt Americans,” he said.

 (According to state official figures, as of this writing Florida has had 30,624 deaths since the start of the pandemic. According to the COVID Action Site created by dissident data scientist Rebekah Jones, the actual number is 31,162, or 538 more than the official number.)

With House passage the Recovery Plan bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to be narrowly approved.

A provision providing for a $15 minimum wage was stripped from the bill when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it could not be included as part of a budget reconciliation bill.

Donalds vociferously opposed raising the minimum wage throughout its consideration in the House, arguing that it “will be devastating to businesses in my district and throughout our country. Democrats need to leave their radical policy echo chambers and listen to the American people.”

In a speech advocating passage, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) said “This legislation is transformative, lifting 12 million Americans out of poverty and generating $1.25 for every dollar spent.  And a great source of pride for us all, because this legislation will cut child poverty in half.” She also vowed “we will continue our ‘Fight For 15’ [an increase in the minimum wage], which would give 27 million Americans a raise.” 

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

QAnon show, Michael Flynn, coming to Fort Myers

Michael Flynn, center, pledges “Where we go one, we go all,” a QAnon slogan, in a July 2020 video he posted that was reported by CNN. (Image: CNN)

Feb. 23, 2021 by David Silverberg

Michael Flynn, the disgraced former national security adviser, and a QAnon-promoting traveling roadshow are coming to Fort Myers.

Two fundraising events with Flynn are scheduled for Thursday, March 11. One will be a dinner at the Roots Restaurant and Treehouse Rooftop Lounge on Bell Tower Drive in Fort Myers, according to the organizers.

The event marks the emergence of Flynn from a previously announced “secret location.” He was to have been the main speaker at a fundraising dinner in Naples on March 10.

However, when the original venue, Shula’s Steakhouse, canceled the booking, the dinner was moved to the “secret location,” according to its organizer, Christy McLaughlin, a former Republican congressional candidate and conservative activist. That dinner was intended to benefit her Constitutional Warriors Political Action Committee.

In the past, McLaughlin had organized a Naples fundraiser that featured Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio, who appeared unannounced at the event. McLaughlin also promised unnamed and unannounced guests at the Flynn dinner.

The new dinner is being presented by The Florida Conservative, a conservative blog, and Red Pill Roadshow. No names for specific individuals are provided by either organization’s website.

Red Pill Roadshow is a traveling production that promotes the QAnon conspiracy theory in a tent-revival atmosphere. It was born out of a 2019 Washington, DC rally called “The Great Awakening,” which in QAnon mythology is an apocalyptic battle between Donald Trump supporters and their enemies. (In American history “the Great Awakening” was a religious revival that swept the American colonies in the 1730s and 40s.)

QAnon is a widely-repudiated online conspiracy theory holding that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles are running a global child sex-trafficking ring and controlling the country and its culture. The cabal was said to be plotting against Donald Trump who was secretly fighting them while in office. This battle was to culminate in “The Storm” or “The Great Awakening,” when Trump was going to round up members of the cabal in mass arrests. Q is supposedly a high-level intelligence officer who chronicled the battle.

Red Pill Roadshow was founded in 2019, according to its website, and is dedicated to “Bringing The Great Awakening to your town.” The “red pill” is a reference to the 1999 movie The Matrix, in which a red pill reveals the truth about a falsely constructed world.

The video on the Red Pill Roadshow website features a “Great Awakening” event in Washington, DC event held on Sept. 11, 2019.

“While putting the show together, we experienced how the fake media and big tech worked hand-in-hand in attempting to silence our opposing political views,” states the text on the website. “However, their efforts to censor us and to deny us our right to peacefully assemble and to free speech didn’t have the desired outcome the opposition had hoped for.

“So, now enter the Red Pill Roadshow, created specifically to bring The Great Awakening free-speech events to your town!” 

According to the website, Red Pill Roadshow has been banned from Twitter and Instagram.

In Florida, Red Pill Roadshow has held events in Jacksonville and Tampa. An extensive account of the August 2020 Jacksonville event appeared on the website DailyDot.com, an online news outlet, in an article, “On the floor for the Red Pill Roadshow, a QAnon tent revival.”

According to that article, McLaughlin addressed the Jacksonville crowd, saying that “If Donald Trump isn’t re-elected in November, America will cease to exist.” The article quotes her saying  she was “thrown out of law school for being a conservative. ‘Now I’m Florida International University’s worst nightmare,’ she snarled, then suggested defunding colleges.”

The article also stated that: “A stack of fliers on a trashcan encouraged joining right-wing militias, including Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters.”

QAnon was specifically condemned by a resolution passed in the US House of Representatives in October 2020, which found that “the conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon undermine trust in America’s democratic institutions, encourage rejection of objective reality, and deepen our Nation’s political polarization.” The resolution passed by a vote of 371 to 18, with two of Southwest Florida’s representatives voting for it. (Then-Rep. Francis Rooney was absent.)

According to the announcement on the Florida Conservative blog, the Fort Myers event consists of two fundraisers, one for SW Florida Heroes Foundation, Inc., which benefits first responders.

The beneficiary of the second fundraiser is not revealed in the announcement.

In the past, McLaughlin has been an adamant opponent of  COVID-related masking. While the event announcement does not say if masks and social distancing will be required, the likelihood is that it will be unmasked.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Michael Flynn dinner moving to ‘secret location’ after being booted from Shula’s Steakhouse

Feb. 6, 2021 by David Silverberg

A conservative fundraising dinner in Naples, Florida featuring Michael Flynn, the disgraced former national security advisor pardoned by former president Donald Trump, is moving to a “secret location” after being booted from Shula’s Steakhouse in the Naples Hilton, according to its organizer.

Christy McLaughlin announces a ‘secret location’ for her PAC’s dinner event. (Image: Christy McLaughlin/Facebook)

The dinner, scheduled for March 10, was organized by Christy McLaughlin, a former Republican congressional candidate, Proud Boys supporter and conservative activist.

The dinner, promoted as a “constitutional gala,” was intended to raise money for McLaughlin’s Constitutional warriors Political Action Committee. McLaughlin announced creation of a group with that name at the time of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. The Flynn dinner marks its public debut as a political action committee.

McLaughlin insisted that despite the cancelation of its original venue, the event would go forward.

“The radical left—Antifa, BLM [Black Lives Matter], who knows? —has come after us in the form of cancel culture yet again,” McLaughlin said in a 90-second Facebook video posted on Thursday, Feb. 4. “They’ve even gone so far as to attack the venue of our event, the location of our event, personally going after the manager of Shula’s, the restaurant that we were going to hold the event at. The radical left can try to prevent this event from happening all they want but I want to tell you one thing and I want to be very, very clear: cancel culture will not cancel this event.”

Because Shula’s had declined to provide the venue, McLaughlin said “we are now going to reassess the location and keep it a total secret.” Existing ticketholders could discover the location by getting in touch with her, she said, but “we are going to have it at a secret location where the radical left will not be able to protest or interfere with our meeting event with Gen. Michael Flynn.”

Also scheduled to speak was Kimberly Klacik, Republican candidate for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, who was defeated in the 2020 general election.

The Jan. 25 announcement of the dinner mobilized progressive activists in Naples to protest Flynn’s presence and contact Shula’s management, which responded.

Enrique Tarrio, Proud Boys chairman and FBI informant, addresses a gathering at the Naples Mercato on Dec. 3, 2020. (Image: Christy McLaughlin/Facebook)

On Dec. 3, 2020 McLaughlin organized a similar fundraising dinner for the Republican candidates in the Georgia Senate runoff elections at The Counter in the Mercato in Naples. Although John DiLemme, founder of the Conservative Business Journal, was the featured speaker, the group was addressed by Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, a Trumpist, conservative group advocating violence and white supremacy that played a prominent role in the Capitol insurrection. Pre-event publicity for the gathering never mentioned that Tarrio or the Proud Boys would be present.

The original announcement of the Dec. 3, 2020 event in Naples, which did not mention the presence or attendance of the Proud Boys and its chairman.

Although Flynn and Kacik were the featured speakers at the Shula’s event, McLaughlin stated that there would be “a few more special guests who might be attending as well. Any body want to guess who it is?”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Donalds sides with Marjorie Taylor Greene while Diaz-Balart votes against her, bucking Republicans

In first floor speech, Donalds attacks $15 minimum wage, Biden plan to aid the needy

Forced to wear a mask under House rules, anti-masker Rep. Byron Donalds delivers his first speech on the floor of the US House yesterday. (Image: C-SPAN)

Feb. 4, 2021 by David Silverberg

Tonight, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) voted to allow Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-14-Ga.) (also referred to by her initials, MTG) to retain her committee assignments in the House of Representatives—in contrast to fellow Southwest Florida congressman, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), who voted to strip them away.

Donalds, along with fellow Southwest Floridian Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), was in the minority and House Resolution 72 passed by a vote of 230 to 199.

Committee assignments are critical for members of Congress to have input into legislation, represent their districts and contribute to governing the United States.

Greene had propagated baseless conspiracy theories like QAnon, called for the assassination of fellow members of Congress, including House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.), denied the reality of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said the Sandy Hook and Las Vegas shootings were fake and staged by anti-gun activists, made anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic accusations including that lasers in outer space run by the Rothschild family created California wildfires, and supported former President Donald Trump’s contention that he won the election, which he has conclusively been shown to have lost.

The resolution was extremely short and simple:

“Whereas clause 1 of rule XXIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives provides, ‘A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.’; and

“Whereas Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene should be removed from her committee assignments in light of conduct she has exhibited: Now, therefore, be it

“Resolved, That the following named Member be, and is hereby, removed from the following standing committees of the House of Representatives: Committee On The Budget: Mrs. Greene of Georgia. Committee On Education And Labor: Mrs. Greene of Georgia.”

House Resolution 72

As of this writing, Donalds had not issued a statement on his vote.

In contrast, Diaz-Balart tweeted: “I’ve previously stated that MTG’s comments are unacceptable, & today I voted to remove her from her committee assignments.” Diaz-Balart went on to list Democratic members whom he thought should also be punished for their remarks including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-5-Minn.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-43-Calif.) and former representative Cynthia McKinney. “If MTG is being removed from her committee positions for her past inappropriate comments, then these members should’ve received the same treatment. I’ll continue to demand that Democratic leadership & the press stop the double standard & hold these members equally accountable.”

As of this writing Steube had not issued a statement on his vote but had tweeted criticism of Democrats for not wishing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before House Judiciary Committee hearings.

Donalds denounces Biden

In addition to his vote to protect Greene, Donalds delivered his first floor speech on Wednesday, Feb. 3, denouncing President Joe Biden’s plan to stimulate the economy and assist Americans in need due to the pandemic.

Donalds participated in the debate over House Concurrent Resolution 11, establishing the US budget for fiscal year 2021 and setting future budget levels for the decade ahead.

The bill passed by a party-line vote of 218 to 212, with Donalds voting against it.

“This budget resolution is not about economics, it is not about COVID-19, it is not about helping our schools reopen,” Donalds said in his 4-minute speech. “This budget resolution is purely politics. It is an opportunity to push through an agenda through budget reconciliation where, if you actually studied our economy, and studied the fact that now close to 40 million Americans have been vaccinated by the vaccine from the tracks that are getting reopened. We should study this. We should be more targeted and we should not be putting forward a massive spending bill where no study has ever been given.”

In the speech he argued that $1 trillion from the previous year had already been appropriated and not yet spent. He argued that opening up economies—despite the pandemic—was the best way to fight unemployment. He also opposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, which is in the Biden plan, arguing that it would actually decrease employment.

He opposed a $170 billion provision to help local school districts reopen, pointing out that teachers picketing for safe schools, particularly in Chicago, would not help schools reopen, unlike Florida, where schools are opening despite the pandemic. “All they need is leadership,” he said of schools. “They don’t need more money.”

He also opposed any aid to state and local governments. “If you want to help state and local governments take care of their revenue problem, you should open up. They should not come back to this Capitol and get money. Because why should Florida pay for New York?”

He also sent a letter with his objections to Pelosi.

Donalds now on committees

Donalds has now received his committee assignments and sits on the Committee on Oversight and Reform, House Budget Committee, and House Committee on Small Business.

On the Oversight and Reform Committee, Donalds will sit on the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee and the Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee.

Other well-known members of the full Oversight and Reform Committee include three Democratic members of the progressive “squad:” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-13-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-7-Mass.). Rep. Jim Jordan (R-4-Ohio), a vocal defender of Donald Trump, sits on the Republican side.

On the House Budget Committee, Donalds will be serving with Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-3-Colo.) an extreme right-wing member. This was the committee on which he would have served with Greene had she kept her assignment.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Heiress puts Publix’s political cash in spotlight; Rep. Donalds largest Publix PAC recipient in SWFL

The connection to the Capitol insurrection is not the first time Publix has come under scrutiny for its political donations. In May 2018 Parkland students protested National Rifle Association donations in Publix supermarket aisles. Above, student David Hogg, leader of the action at a Publix protest. (Photo: David Hogg/Twitter)

Feb. 2, 2021 by David Silverberg

Support for the Jan. 6 anti-election rally on the Ellipse in Washington, DC by the heiress to the Publix Super Market fortune has cast a spotlight on the grocery’s long history of financial support for political candidates, including those in Southwest Florida.

Julie Jenkins Fancelli (Photo: Barry Friedman-LKldNow)

On Jan. 30, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Julie Jenkins Fancelli, daughter of Publix founder George Jenkins, contributed $300,000 to support the rally that turned into the riotous attack on the US Capitol building.

The same day Publix management issued a tweet stating: “Mrs. Fancelli is not an employee of Publix Super Markets, and is neither involved in our business operations, nor does she represent the company in any way. We cannot comment on Mrs. Fancelli’s actions.

“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.”

Aside from the Ellipse event, Publix has long been politically active in Florida and across the country through its political arm, Publix Super Markets, Inc. Associates Political Action Committee (PAC).

In the 2020 election cycle, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) received the largest political contribution from the PAC, $5,000, among Southwest Florida congressional delegation, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC).

His donation was larger than the PAC’s contributions to his fellow Southwest Florida Republicans. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), received $1,000 and Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), received $500.

The Publix PAC disbursed a total of $531,700 to 250 recipients across the country during the 2020 election cycle. The bipartisan recipients ranged widely from Alabama to Wyoming and included both House and Senate candidates and state-level candidates in North Carolina. The PAC contributed to both primary and general races as well as both the Democratic and Republican House and Senate campaign committees. (A complete list can be seen at the FEC website.)

Well-known Republican recipients include Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ($5,000, whose check appears to have never been deposited) and Florida’s senators Rick Scott ($2,500) and Marco Rubio ($1,000). Among Florida House Republican members the PAC contributed to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-1-Fla.) ($1,000) and Brian Mast (R-18-Fla.) ($1,000). Out of state, it supported Rep. Liz Cheney (R-At Large-Wy.) with $2,500. She voted to impeach Trump after the insurrection and has been attacked by fellow Republicans.

Well-known Democratic recipients included House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5-Md.), who received $5,000 and Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) ($1,000 in the primary). In Florida it contributed to such candidates as Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-23-Fla.) ($2,000), Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.) ($1,500) and Rep. Donna Shalala. (D-27-Fla.) ($2,000 in the general and $1,500 in the primary), who lost her race.

While covering a wide ideological spectrum, the Publix PAC’s contributions were almost always to incumbents rather than challengers. In Georgia, the PAC supported Republican senators Kelly Loeffler ($1,000) and David “Sonny” Purdue ($2,000), both of whom lost close races to Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, neither of whom received any contributions from the PAC.

Political contributions reported to the FEC are legal and fall under existing campaign finance regulations. The Publix PAC contributions were fairly typical of large corporations that deal with different governments in multiple states.

According to the company’s “facts and figures,” Publix operates 1,265 stores in seven Southeastern states, with the largest number, 817, in Florida. It also operates nine distribution centers and 11 manufacturing facilities in Florida and Georgia. Jenkins founded the chain in 1930 in Winter Haven, Fla. He died at age 88 in 1996.

Political contributions buy goodwill and can pay off in a variety of ways, in addition to endorsing a candidate’s policy positions.

In 2016 Publix contributed a total of $8,100 to the campaign of conservative Republican Francis Rooney, who eventually won election in the Florida 19th Congressional District. During his time in office Rooney was a strong opponent of union activities, in particular denouncing the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker education and advocacy group. On March 2, 2018 his op-ed, “Worker centers: How unions circumvent federal rules” appeared in the conservative Washington Examiner. He also sponsored or cosponsored bills to reduce union activity and make it more difficult to organize unions and easier to de-certify them. The bills were never enacted into law.

The Fancelli controversy is not the first time Publix has come under fire for its political contributions. In May 2018 Publix announced it would suspend political contributions following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. Protesters led by student David Hogg lay down in supermarket aisles to oppose its donations to Adam Putnam, a Republican gubernatorial candidate and National Rifle Association supporter.

“We regret that our contributions have led to a divide in our community,” the company said in a statement at the time. “We did not intend to put our associates and the customers they serve in the middle of a political debate,”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Biden action on climate change benefits Southwest Florida

A prime example of climate change and sea level rise in Southwest Florida. Above, experimental dome homes on Cape Romano near Marco Island when they were first built on dry land in 1980.
Below, the same structures in the same location in 2018 following intensifying hurricanes and sea level rise.

Jan. 28, 2021 by David Silverberg

Southwest Florida stands to directly benefit from President Joe Biden’s latest initiatives on climate change and the environment.

Yesterday, Jan. 27, Biden issued the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad a wide-ranging and comprehensive directive organizing his administration’s response to the climate change crisis. It assigned Cabinet secretaries specific tasks to establish a government-wide climate effort and structured the executive branch to “pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.”

The measure immediately and directly affecting Southwest Florida and Florida in general is a pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters. Existing leases and permits will be subject to a “rigorous review.”

While not mentioning Florida or the Everglades specifically, the order effectively protects the region from oil exploration in environmentally sensitive federal Everglades areas and immediately off the coast, which has been a longstanding concern for local environmental activists.

In this the Biden measure joins an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in the waning days of his administration that extended an offshore drilling moratorium for 10 years to 2032. 

At the same time that the Biden order pauses fossil fuel exploration and exploitation, it aims to increase renewable energy production with “the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030 while ensuring robust protection for our lands, waters, and biodiversity and creating good jobs.”

In the broadest sense the executive order will attempt to mitigate the human impact creating climate change and build resilience to face its effects. The United States will initiate the steps required to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, take aggressive action on a wide variety of fronts and review “harmful rollbacks of standards that protect our air, water, and communities,” according to a White House statement.

Florida is uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with urban flooding and beach erosion due to sea level rise throughout the state as well as stronger and more damaging hurricanes.

Along the Southwest Florida coast climate change is a contributor to saltwater intrusion, beach erosion and storm damage as well as hotter and drier seasons contributing to wildfires and drought.

Full text of Section 208 of the Biden Executive Order covering oil development on public lands and offshore waters:

Sec. 208.  Oil and Natural Gas Development on Public Lands and in Offshore Waters.  To the extent consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of the Interior shall pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices in light of the Secretary of the Interior’s broad stewardship responsibilities over the public lands and in offshore waters, including potential climate and other impacts associated with oil and gas activities on public lands or in offshore waters.  The Secretary of the Interior shall complete that review in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Secretary of Energy.  In conducting this analysis, and to the extent consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of the Interior shall consider whether to adjust royalties associated with coal, oil, and gas resources extracted from public lands and offshore waters, or take other appropriate action, to account for corresponding climate costs.

Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Banyai announces candidacy, seeks re-match with Donalds for congressional seat

GOP freshmen reps offer cooperation to Biden but Donalds missing from letter

Cindy Banyai being interviewed yesterday by Dave Elias, NBC2 political reporter on local Republicans departing the Party after the Capitol insurrection. (Image: NBC2)

Jan. 21, 2021 by David Silverberg

After only 18 days in Congress, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) already has a challenger when he next faces election in 2022—Democrat Cindy Banyai, who opposed him last year.

Banyai announced her candidacy late on Tuesday evening, the night before President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

“It would be my great honor to serve the people of Southwest Florida in Congress,” Banyai stated in her announcement. “We need someone who will work for our community, not participate in political charades that destabilize our country. If we want unity and a government that works, we need someone who will put the people first. I am proud to announce I am running for US House of Representatives Florida 19 again in 2022. It’s time to make Trump’s crony, Byron Donalds, a one-term Congressman.”

Banyai, who holds a doctorate from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, runs her own consultancy based in Fort Myers, Banyai Evaluation & Consulting, LLC, specializing in assisting non-profit organizations. She is also an adjunct professor in political science at Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Donalds record so far

Donalds’ most important policy vote to date was to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Banyai noted that Donalds’ vote “placed him in what some are calling the ‘Sedition Caucus’ for participating in Trump’s political theater that in part inspired the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6,” she stated. “Donalds ran on unwavering support for Trump and has demonstrated that is his priority in his early days in office, despite Trump’s incitement of the attack on the US Capitol. We need true servant leaders, not sycophants, and I am ready to serve.”

Donalds attended the inauguration of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday. However, he did not sign a letter from 17 Republican freshman representatives to Biden stating that “we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.”

Three members of the seven-member Republican “Freedom Force,” signed the letter. The “Freedom Force” is a Republican imitation of the Democratic “Squad” of four progressive representatives. The three signers were Reps. Stephanie Bice (R-5-Okla.), Carlos Gimenez (R-26-Fla.) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-11-NY).

“Of course Byron Donalds is not a signatory,” tweeted Banyai. “He went to the inauguration today, but it wasn’t because he is ready to put partisan politics aside and work for the people.”

As of this writing, Donalds had not made a statement on his decision not to sign the letter.

According to local media reports, Republicans in the heavily conservative district have been leaving the Party since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which could be a factor in the election.

Further, while the candidates will be running in what is now the 19th Congressional District, which covers the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island, by the time of the election the district’s boundaries may change as well as its number due to redistricting following the 2020 Census. The 2022 election could feature a significantly different population and area.


The letter from the Republican freshmen to President Joe Biden:

Liberty lives in light

©2021 by David Silverberg