Commentary
1:40 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Ambassador Bridge owners "paper over all the truth with money"

Last week I received an indignant angry e-mail from a Republican woman I’ve known for many years, someone who has worked for Republican officeholders and in many campaigns.

She wrote after getting a flyer in the mail from an outfit called “Americans for Prosperity,” which has been acting as a front for the Ambassador Bridge owners, the family of Manuel “Matty” Moroun.

“Lies!” my friend wrote on the piece. “I have received several pieces now of expensive “literature,“ with loads of misinformation and outright lies,” she told me.  “They are shameful pieces (which) deliberately use messaging that will get Republican-leaning voters in an uproar,” she added. Most recently, they have been doing so by seizing on the phrase “community benefits.“

Last month, two Democratic state senators said they wanted a new bridge, but were unwilling to vote for one until there was a promise of community benefits for the people of Delray, the area where the American side of the bridge would go.

When I asked one senator what he meant by community benefits, he said, just a seat at the table for residents-- consideration for jobs for which they might be qualified, and some guarantee about air quality during construction.

This has been standard practice with most big developments.

But the flyer from the front group was, indeed, filled with lies. It said the government would be out $100 million dollars for “welfare style giveways.” There were a lot more open fabrications, such as that the bill would cost the taxpayers $2.7 billion.

The truth is that the bridge will cost nothing. The woman who received the flyer has worked in high-level state positions, and told me that the financial costs of any community benefits would in fact be assumed by those who win contracts to do the work.

“Michigan taxpayers would not foot the bill,” she told me.  The flyer with all these fabrications was apparently mailed only to solidly GOP neighborhoods -- my friend lives in one of those -- and urged voters to call their state senator and parrot back the flyer.

Now, I’ve been covering campaigns for many years, and almost all exaggerate and over promise. But complete lies used to be seen, and ought to be seen, as totally unacceptable.

The same day my friend sent me this flyer, a Wayne County Circuit Judge ruled the bridge company had, in effect, lied again. Judge Prentis Edwards has repeatedly ordered the bridge company to finished specific work designed to improve freeway access to the Ambassador Bridge. The company signed a contact promising to do it, but hasn’t. The judge held them in contempt of court.

He may next take control of the project away from the company. In response, Matthew Moroun charged that Prentis did this because he wanted the governor to appoint the judge’s son to a district court vacancy, even though there‘s no evidence of that.

As is well known, the Morouns have spent hundreds of thousands successfully attempting to influence the legislature.

What isn’t known, however, is how long one special interest will be allowed to block a badly needed economic development, by, as my Republican friend said, “papering over all the truth with money.”

I suspect we’ll find out soon.