Hy-Vee CEO tells employees he’s concerned about the tax policies of ‘some of the candidates’ this election cycle

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Waterfront HyVee. Wednesday, Feb 5, 2020. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker sent a video about the upcoming election to his company’s more than 245 stores, Iowa Capital Dispatch reported. In the video, which is being played in store breakrooms, Edeker tells employees that current tax policies are in the best interest of the West Des Moines-based chain and warns about social unrest as “a problem around the community.”

I never endorse and I try not to ever push a certain candidate or a direction. I always try to speak about Hy-Vee. I have some of the concerns about some of the policies that are being discussed by some of the candidates. Some of the tax policies would be very impactful to Hy-Vee. And the changes in taxes were part of the way we were able to bring a lot of good things to the employees this past year. Social unrest unfortunately continues to be a problem around the community and we continue to invest in our local groups who we really think can bring unity to our towns.

“Edeker’s message is clear: Donald Trump and the chaos of his presidency have been good for business,” Lyz Lenz wrote in the Dispatch.

There’s nothing illegal about Edeker telling his workers that current tax policies were “part of the reason” the company has decided to do “a lot of good things” for them, because he doesn’t name any candidate responsible for those policies or explicitly say workers should vote for a particular candidate. Likewise, saying he has “concerns some of the policies that are being discussed by some of the candidates” doesn’t violate any laws as long as he doesn’t use names.

Responding to questions from Lenz about the video, Hy-Vee Senior Vice President for Communications Tina Potthoff said in email, “It’s imperative that a business of our size constantly be talking about economic outcomes on a local, state and national level on a continual basis. That’s just good business.”

Potthoff suggested the video shouldn’t be viewed in relation to the election, but as a broader statement about public policies.

“The year doesn’t matter, but the policy does — and certain policies can have detrimental effects on the retail sector if not closely monitored and reviewed,” she wrote.

Like most large companies, Hy-Vee contributes to both major parties, but typically gives more to Republicans. The Hy-Vee Inc Employees Political Action Committee, which is largely funded by Edeker and other Hy-Vee executives, has contributed $30,000 to the Iowa Republican Party during this election cycle, and $10,000 to the Iowa Democratic Party.

In May, Hy-Vee hosted a panel discussion on COVID-19 and the neat supply chain at its West Des Moines headquarters for Vice President Mike Pence when Pence visited Iowa to highlight Gov. Reynolds’ approach to the pandemic, which the Trump administration considers a success.

The event didn’t really provide any new information about food distribution during the pandemic, but did feature abundant praise for Reynolds, Trump and Pence from the CEOs who participated. Edeker, who presided over the discussion, concluded the discussion by thanking Pence for his “great leadership” on COVID-19.

Vice President Mike Pence holds a round-table discussion on coronavirus and food supply in West Des Moines, joined by Gov. Kim Reynolds and Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker. — video still

The approach to controlling the spread of COVID-19 the Trump administration and the Reynolds administration have taken has done little to slow the pandemic in Iowa — on Sunday night, the state set a new record with 561 hospitalized COVID-19 patients — but Hy-Vee has seen its business improve.

“Due to COVID-19, many supermarkets have set records this year with so many consumers opting to eat at home versus eat out,” Pottoff said in an email to the Dispatch. “Hy-Vee had more than $11 billion in sales in FY 2020 compared to slightly more than $10.6 billion in sales in FY 2019.”

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