Did Bill Penzey make undeclared corporate contributions to the Democratic Party? Penzey, the owner of Penzeys Spices, is known for his emails to his customers excoriating conservatives, Trump voters, and even people who moved to Waukesha County for a better life. All of them are guilty of racism, according to Penzey’s emails. But now Penzey’s advertising for his company’s spices has a flavor of express advocacy for a candidate for public office.
“And if someone asks you why they should vote when this is only a primary, remind them of Tammy Baldwin,” Penzey wrote in a sponsored post on Facebook just before the August 14 primary. “Not a lot of bright spots lately in Wisconsin politics. But still, even though she’s running unopposed in the primary, getting the chance to vote for an honest-to-goodness American hero like Senator Baldwin is a treat for us that those in the other 49 states can only imagine. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to feel good about yourself for doing what is right.”
“Express advocacy,” in campaign finance terms, is when an advertisement crosses from expressing a viewpoint on an issue to actually urging the audience to vote for someone. Issue advocacy does not have to be declared to the relevant election authorities, but express advocacy on behalf of a candidate could trigger reporting requirements.
According to Rick Esenberg, president for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, it’s possible Penzey would not have to declare the contribution depending on the amount spent on the advertisement. “It’s subject to reporting requirements if more than $ 2500 is spent or if there is a committee formed for the purpose or who spends more than half its revenue on EA,” Esenberg said in an email.
Penzey did not respond to an inquiry from Media Trackers asking how much he spent on the paid promotion for the sponsored post, nor did he answer whether he declared the express advocacy expenditure.
The long, paid promotion post on Facebook was to promote his Spices and Kindness special in addition to announcing his support for the Democrats. The post was titled, “Update – Kelda Helen Roys’s Arizona Dreaming Avocado Toast,” and Penzey wasted no time before telling people his political sentiments.
“Eight years ago our state’s humanity came under attack,” Penzey wrote in the first paragraph. “Vote Tuesday 8/14 to restore Wisconsin to a place where elected leaders have the strength to protect our schools, environment, and kindness no matter how big of a campaign donation offered.”
In case you didn’t know who Penzey thinks is attacking Wisconsin’s “humanity,” he makes it clear in the second paragraph.
“Tuesday’s election in our home state of Wisconsin is incredibly important, not just here but to the nation as a whole as well,” Penzey wrote. “Everything that’s been done to our country’s politics in this age of unlimited political spending by the Republican Party was first tested here in Wisconsin. Tuesday is the next big day in continuing to put things right.”
Ironically, after selling some shallots, pepper, and cinnamon sugar, Penzey attacks Wisconsin Republicans and the governor for using “unlimited funds” to attack teachers, promote racism against Native Americans, and “selling out the environment.”
“We must address what is happening in the White House, but just removing the tip of the iceberg changes pretty much nothing,” Penzey wrote. “For real change we must also address the source, and that’s up to us, the Wisconsin voters.”
Penzey has even watched too many Star Wars movies. “In studying their blueprints, what we’ve found is that their Death Star has no defense against human compassion,” Penzey wrote. “Our kindness is our strength. Please use this knowledge any way you can.”
But Penzey doesn’t stop at urging his followers to use The Force. After noting that Kelda Roys, a Democratic candidate for governor that came in a distant third in the primary, was a big fan of Penzeys Spices’ Arizona Dreaming on Avocado Toast, Penzey even includes in a postscript to the readers a link to help them find their voting location.
Penzey is also aware that his sponsored Facebook posts have crossed the line from promoting his products to political advertisements. “And since we believe cooking is all about taking care of humanity, our posts now fall into the new political category,” Penzey wrote. “Your shares, likes, and comments really now mean more than ever as they help overcome the extra barriers our posts face.”
It’s ironic that while Penzey complains about “unlimited spending” on behalf of Republicans, he has no problems using his corporation to make expenditures to expressly advocate for the election of Democrats. It’s a good thing the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United case, protected the free speech rights of his business.
This article appears courtesy of Media Trackers.