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Penzeys Spices is spending more on impeachment ads than Elizabeth Warren

“Now caring about people is a ‘political’ thing, I suppose." - CEO Bill Penzey

“Now caring about people is a ‘political’ thing, I suppose." - CEO Bill Penzey Paul Sableman

Last month, the U.S. House launched an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Ever since, individuals and organizations have been throwing money at Facebook ads, hoping to sway the public one way or another. Thanks to data reported by Axios, we now know who they are.

The biggest spender should come as no surprise to anyone. That would be Trump himself, at $718,000. But the No. 2 slot might take you aback. It isn’t Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren ($20,000.) It isn’t even the National Republican Senatorial Committee ($46,000).

That honor goes to Penzeys Spices – the Wisconsin company most likely behind the hot curry blend in the back of your cupboard. It has used its clout as the nation’s largest independent spice retailer to spend a whopping $92,000 on impeachment posts since the infamous whistleblower report came out.

It wouldn’t be half as surprising if you knew anything about CEO Bill Penzey. He’s been one of Trump’s loudest critics from the beginning. About a week after Trump was elected, Penzey used his customer email list to send out the following missive:

“The open embrace of racism by the Republican Party in this election is now unleashing a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades. Let’s commit to giving the people a better choice.”

The email – and a follow-up email calling out Trump voters for having chosen “an openly racist candidate” -- went viral, eliciting both praise and contempt. Then-Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke responded by tweeting that Penzey was a “typical hate-filled white elitist lefty.” A few Twitter users replied to tell him they’d just thrown their spices in the garbage.

But Penzey held his ground. To this day, you can find lengthy posts on the company Facebook page about the state of the nation, and even buy Penzeys’ “cool V for Victory pin” to celebrate the impeachment proceedings.

Predictably, not everyone is thrilled.

“It’s a shame that a spice company has to be so political as to alienate anyone who thinks differently,” a Facebook user commented on the post. But critics were outnumbered by commenters thanking Penzey for openly taking a side and sticking with it.

“Thank you for being an amazing company,” one commenter said, adding: “The chimichurri rub is fabulous.”

Penzey, who's been taking quite a few phone calls on the subject lately, says topping that ad chart wasn't something he set out to do. The company mostly continued posting as it always has, and it got a huge response in all the excitement over impeachment.

He doesn't think his beliefs are special. Being in the spice business and hanging around cooks simply teaches you to care more about other people. Cooks, he says, are generally caring by nature, and generous with their time and talents.

“Now caring about people is a ‘political’ thing, I suppose.” 

He admits he’s lost customers due to his beliefs. He chuckles about angry emails from customers vowing to “quit [him] for the fourth time.” But he’s gained even more. He thinks the majority of Americans share his views on Trump – and that there’s hope for us yet.

“If you’re somehow involved in a business, and your business has values, now’s the time to radiate those values.” You never know how many people will thank you for it.