A Spice Company Spent $92,000 on Pro-Impeachment Facebook Ads in a Week
A Wisconsin-based purveyor of pepper, paprika and poppy seeds spent more on impeachment-related Facebook ads than any entity besides President Trump.Candidates, campaigns and companies have unleashed a flood of Facebook advertisements related to impeachment, and it might come as no surprise that President Trump and his re-election campaign are far outspending everyone else.
But last week, the second biggest spender was an entity you might not be familiar with: a purveyor of pepper, paprika and poppy seeds based in Wisconsin.
Penzeys Spices, a family-owned company in Wauwatosa, spent nearly $92,000 on Facebook advertisements related to impeachment from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, according to data from a communications agency that tracks political spending.
(That was eclipsed by Mr. Trump and his campaign, which spent more than $700,000.)
Bill Penzey, who founded the company in 1986, said he found out about the second-place ranking on Wednesday when customers emailed him.
When he shared the news with his wife, "she burst out laughing," he said. "A sort of, 'What have you done this time?' kind of laugh."
Penzeys sells spices online and has dozens of brick-and-mortar stores across the United States. Mr. Penzey declined to share financial information but said the money he spends on Facebook ads is less than what he used to spend on print catalogs, which he stopped sending out about four years ago.
The data on Facebook impeachment ads, which was reported by Axios on Wednesday, came from Bully Pulpit Interactive, a communications agency based in Washington whose 2020 Campaign Tracker shares information about political spending. The agency used an in-house program to identify Facebook ad copy with the words "impeach," "impeachment" and "impeaching," a spokeswoman said.
By those parameters, Penzeys beat out every other ad buyer in the country, save its commander in chief. The spice company topped Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democratic presidential candidate; Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader; the Democratic Governors Association; and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Facebook's publicly available data shows that from Oct. 2 to 8, Penzeys was the seventh-biggest spender on ads about "social issues, elections or politics" — a broader category than just impeachment — and the only entity in the top 10 that was not a politician or a policy-oriented organization.
Penzeys spent nearly $120,000 on Facebook advertisements addressing politics during those seven days, Facebook data showed. (That's less than Democratic presidential candidates like Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Elizabeth Warren, but more than Pete Buttigieg.)
The company's ads aren't subtle. "This week the curtain was finally pulled back on how deeply un-American the Republican Party has become," said one Facebook poston Oct. 3, referring to the impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump. The same post encouraged readers to sign up for a cooking newsletter.
But Mr. Penzey has been politically outspoken for a while, and that's no secret to his customers. Followers of the chain's Facebook page regularly see long messages criticizing the latest Trump administration news, with spice-related content sprinkled in.
"I like to say it's not a line we crossed," Mr. Penzey said. "It's a line that crossed us. We've alway been about kindness and compassion. And with the recent trends in the Republican Party and unlimited political spending, it's created this message of anger toward marginalized people in order to create votes for tax cuts for the very wealthy."
In May, the company advertised a spice called "Justice" — the ingredients include shallots, garlic, onion and green peppercorns — while soliciting donations for the news organization Mother Jones. In July, it promoted a spice called Tsardust Memories — it has salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg and marjoram — as a nod to Russian electoral interference, insisting in all caps that the issue was "NOT A NOTHING BURGER!!!!!"
In November, the company used Facebook to encourage people to vote in the midterm elections. "Don't let history lump you in with the white hoods and robes crowd," Mr. Penzey said in a Nov. 2 post. "History has its eyes on all of us, and history remembers."
Facebook has been criticized for taking a hands-off approach to moderating political content — including paid ads — even when they include false information. But it has also been accused of censorship by conservative politicians, including Mr. Trump, who argue that the social network is more accommodating to liberal points of view.
Penzeys may use "season liberally" as a trademarked slogan, but its outspokenness is not just a reaction to the president.
The New York Times reported in 2006 that Mr. Penzey had started a food magazine that touched on prison reform, immigration policy and international adoption. He lost customers after his first issue featured a gay couple — two men who had triplets via a surrogate mother — long before gay marriage was legal in Wisconsin.
The politics haven't hurt Mr. Penzey's business, he said, adding that he has lost some customers but gained some, too.
"If you are a company and you have values, now is the time to share them," Mr. Penzey said. "Now is the time that it's important to share them."
New York Times, October 11, 2019
October 14, 2019
Voices4America Post Script. If you need Chile peppers, or cinnamon, or any spices this week or for Thanksgiving, you may want to think Penzeys Spices.
We are loyal to our friends. Unlike Trump. Ask the Kurds. #PenzeysSpices #TrumpGenocide