Investigative
7:00 am
Fri October 5, 2012

Truth Squad on Prop 6: Flagrant Fouls on bridge TV ads

One of the proposed constitutional amendments on the Michigan ballot this fall would require a statewide vote before state money could be spent on any “new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles” could be built in Michigan. The amendment would require the vote even before any tax money could be spent planning an international crossing. This would effectively stop the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor. The effort is funded by the family that owns the Ambassador bridge.

Michigan Watch teamed up with the Center for Michigan's Truth Squad which reviewed the ads for and against the proposal.

The Matty Maroun family and its entities are SPENDING millions of dollars on TV ads to persuade people to vote ‘yes’ on Proposal 6. The Truth Squad has reviewed many of the previous ads and consistently rated them as ‘Flagrant Fouls.’

Two more ads are airing now. They feature what appear to be typical Michigan residents explaining why they plan to vote ‘yes.’

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“That’s our money that the politicians are spending.”

“There’s a huge Michigan debt clock that’s ticking and getting bigger all the time.”

“We can’t go out and start building bridges. Our grandkids are going to have to pay that debt off.”

John Bebow is with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad.

“First of all it’s been very, very well documented that grandkids in Michigan are not going to have to pay that off because the Canadian government is going to pay for the bridge. Michigan taxpayers of any age, including your grandkids, are not on the hook for that project.”

Bebow says the other ad being aired by the Maroun family-funded group, ‘The People Should Decide,’ uses a similar format of Michigan residents explaining why they intend to vote ‘yes’ on Proposal 6.

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“Do you know how many police…”

“How many firefighters…”

“Teachers…”

“…could we hire for the money they’re going to spend on this bridge?”

“Again, we’re not spending money on this bridge," Bebow responded. "You cannot legitimately or accurately claim that a lack of police on the streets or a lack of teachers in the classroom has anything to do with this. This not only borders on fantasy, it is fantasy. In this case we called yet another Flagrant Foul on the anti-bridge ad campaign for that one.”

While the Ambassador Bridge owners, the Maroun family and its various entities are spending millions of dollars on these TV ads, the side opposing Proposal 6 has aired almost no TV ads. As of yet, no coalition has gelled to coordinate an effort.

The only thing close to ads have been web-only videos, interview clips with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.

The Truth Squad reviewed this recent clip of the Lieutenant Governor criticizing Michigan's reliance on the Ambassador Bridge as a main artery of trade between Michigan and Canada.

“An 83-year-old structure that is already past its life expectancy and hoping for it to live forever is not a good strategy for the future employment prospects of the state of Michigan.”

John Bebow says the Truth Squad thought that statement was a bit of a stretch.

“There are a number of bridges that are even older than the Ambassador Bridge that still carry a lot of traffic. The Brooklyn bridge, for example, is 46 years older than the Ambassador Bridge and still carries 120,000 vehicles a day.”

Another statement from the Lieutenant Governor’s video also raised eyebrows at the Truth Squad.

“There is a billionaire monopolist right now who enjoys a stranglehold on commercial transportation between the two largest trade partners in the nation. This one billionaire is funding an ad campaign, a multi-million dollar ad campaign, to completely distort the facts.”

Bebow says the Truth Squad took issue with the phrase 'stranglehold on commercial transportation.'

“We think that overestimated the Maroun family’s influence. There are other crossings that they don’t own. Although there’s no doubt the crossing right in Detroit is absolutely pivotal.”

The Truth Squad issued 'Warnings' for those two points in the Lieutenant Governor’s video.

So, to sum up, the Truth Squad issued ‘Flagrant Fouls’ for the current vote ‘yes’ on Proposal 6 TV ad campaign by the group ‘The People Should Decide’ and ‘Warnings’ to the Snyder administration for their statements encouraging the people to vote ‘no’ on Proposal 6.

10:20 a.m. Clarification: introduction tweaked to clarify vote required before Michigan tax dollars could be spent on an international bridge or tunnel.