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The Washington Post reports that Publix Super Markets has been compelled to be more explicit in distancing itself from the political activities of Julie Fancelli, the 72-year-old daughter of the company's founder.

Fancelli has been implicated in the insurrection that took place on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC, through her financial support of organizations that helped stage and promote a rally there that directly led to the attempted to the violent march on the Capitol.

"Fancelli is facing public scrutiny as the House committee investigating the insurrection seeks to expose the financing for the rally that preceded the riot at the U.S. Capitol," the Post writes.  "Fancelli is the largest publicly known donor to the rally … After an initial report a few weeks after the rally that Fancelli had donated about $300,000, Publix released a statement saying that she was not involved in the business and that it could not comment on her actions."

But now, as reports emerge that Fancelli donated more than twice that much, Publix management has gone further, "saying it 'cannot control the actions of individual stockholders' and issued an unusual rebuke of a member of the founder’s family. Because the company is privately held, Fancelli’s stake — if any — is not a matter of public record."

“We are deeply troubled by Ms. Fancelli’s involvement in the events that led to the tragic attack on the Capitol on January 6,” Publix said in a statement to the Post.

Some more context from the Post story:

"Fancelli has never served on the Publix board of directors or as a company executive. She previously owned a business that sold millions of dollars worth of food to Publix at a time when family members were running the chain, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Fancelli left that company, Alma Food Imports, Inc., in 2017.

"Publix declined to disclose how many shares Fancelli owns in the private company. She does not appear in recent SEC filings that list individuals who own at least 5 percent of the company’s shares. The majority of shares, which are not traded publicly, are owned by employees, from store cashiers to truck drivers.

"The company temporarily stopped making campaign donations after survivors of the mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school protested Publix’s contributions to the 2018 gubernatorial campaign of Republican Adam Putnam, an outspoken National Rifle Association supporter.

"As Fancelli’s involvement in the Jan. 6 rally has emerged this year, some Publix shoppers have threatened boycotts on social media."

KC's View:

I'm not sure that Publix has to worry too much about boycotts in markets where it is entrenched, but this is a company with expansionist plans.  It may be that the company could be more vulnerable to political attack as it moves into new markets, though that also depends on the degree to which the current environment persists or worsens … not to mention the degree to which Fancelli commits her resources.

This is complicated, and I have some degree of sympathy for Publix - it isn't the company's fault that someone closely linked to the company - even if they have no operational or leadership roles, and even, it appears, a limited financial interest in the company's performance - gets connected to a violent assault on the nation's Capitol.

There have been other companies around the country that have found themselves dealing with these kinds of issues to varying degrees.

For example, in Louisiana, Rouses co-owned Donald Rouse Sr. found himself on the defensive because of his presence in Washington on January 6, though he quickly emphasized that he only attended the rally that preceded the attack on Capitol Hill, and he condemned the violence that took place that day.

I've actually been a little surprised that Meijer, the iconic Michigan-based retailer, seems to have avoided any blowback even as Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Michigan), scion of the family that founded the company, has taken a lot of grief for his vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump and his criticisms of some members of the GOP as well as those with insurrectionist impulses.

Like I said, it is complicated.  What companies have to realize is that they have to make choices, and that it is increasingly hard to stay on the sidelines as issues of enormous and existential import seem to emerge every day.

One other note … Publix also has been dealing with another founding family issue this week, though this one is sadder.   Carol Jenkins Barnett, the daughter Publix founder George W. Jenkins, passed away this week at age 65;  five years ago, she had been diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Fox Business notes that Barnett "began with Publix in 1972 as a cashier at Grove Park Shopping Center and later worked in the company's corporate marketing, research and development department. She earned a bachelor's degree in business and marketing from Florida Southern College in 1979.

"In 1983, she was elected to Publix's board of directors, where she served for 33 years, and in 1991 she was named chair and president of Publix Super Markets Charities. In 1998, she received the doctor of public service honoris causa from her alma mater.

"Both Jenkins and her husband Barney are well known for their philanthropy work, giving back to nonprofits, including United Way, Florida Partnership for School Readiness, and Family Fundamentals and funding community projects, including Barnett Park and the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children at Lakeland Regional Health. Her final philanthropic gift was the founding of Bonnet Springs Park."