New report details Ambassador bridge owner's efforts to sway Congress

Jun 6, 2012

A new report from a Washington-based watchdog group finds Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun spending a lot of money to influence Congress.

The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington--or CREW--tracked campaign donations from Moroun’s family, company, and associates.

Their examination of campaign finance data found more than $1.5 million in Congressional donations from 2004 through the first quarter of 2012.

Moroun has long opposed efforts to build a new, publicly-funded Detroit-Windsor crossing that would compete with his bridge. It seems he’s ramping up those efforts, particularly at the federal level, as that project gains momentum.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan says the group first stumbled across Moroun’s name while looking into a PAC linked to House Majority leader Eric Cantor.

“And we found that Mr. Moroun, and people associated with him and his company, had made significant campaign contributions in an effort to dampen support for the public project,” Sloan said.

Sloan says the contributions target Michigan members of Congress.

“It’s clear that the Morouns were looking to spread out the money among those who could be helpful to them,” Sloan said. “They also increased their lobbying expenditures considerably. This is all a typical Washington pay-to-play scheme. This is how it works.”

“And many of these Michigan members of Congress then went to bat for Mr. Moroun. In fact, some [Macomb County Rep. Candice Miller, in 2008] went so far as to write to the then-US Secretary of Transportation, trying to get a hold put on the public bridge.”

But Sloan says CREW also found donations to powerful Congressional leaders outside Michigan—including Cantor, and current US House Speaker John Boehner.

The top recipients of Moroun-related campaign donations from 2008-2012, according to the CREW report:

  • Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI): $82,700
  • Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick (D-MI, defeated in 2010): $78,700
  • Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI, defeated 2008): $61,400
  • Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI): $44,400
  • Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA): $25,000 (all in 2011)
  • Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI): $23,500

Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Company dismissed the report as biased.

A written statement from DIBC spokesman Mickey Blashfield read, in part:

“CREW has a well-known agenda, and it appears this installment won’t be deterred by facts or context. They have started from a misguided, self-created premise, then systematically ignored any balance as they editorialize. CREW has not considered the variety of business and transportation interests our company has across the country, and they seem to have overlooked the documented millions of Canadian dollars influencing American interests, ­ border, trade and otherwise…

 

…The fact that the Morouns are civically active, philanthropic and interested in good government should not be a surprise to anyone except CREW.”