Friday, September 23, 2011

Matty's pants on fire: Bridge company lies exposed

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2011 at 4:29 PM

We don’t know for sure who first said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” We do know, however, that billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun and his Detroit International Bridge Co. are heeding that advice big-time in their desperate attempt to keep a publicly owned bridge from being built across the Detroit River.

The reason for that opposition is simple enough: The company, which holds a virtual monopoly over cross-border commercial truck traffic going between Detroit and Windsor, doesn’t want the competition. To protect the estimated $60 million a year it makes off bridge tolls — not to mention the cash it hauls in from its Gateway Plaza fueling stations and duty free shop — the company has demonstrated a willingness to say just about anything.

You don’t have to take our word for it.

The Michigan Truth Squad — a project of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Michigan think tank — has just hammered the DIBC for deceptive television ads it is running in an attempt to scare the public and state legislators away from supporting the publicly owned span.

The problem with the ad is that it suggests that Gov. Rick Snyder, supporting what is now being called the New International Trade Crossing, will be taking money away from fixing the state’s potholed roads and crumbling bridges.

The Truth Squad’s take on that claim?

“While the spot accuses Snyder of neglecting local roads and bridges to build a new span to Canada, it neglects to inform viewers that a deal the governor has struck with the Canadian and U.S. governments could kill the two birds with one stone. Local roads and bridges could get funding for repairs if the deal on the bridge goes through as promised.”

Which brings us to another lie the bridge company has been spreading.

It has to do with that $550 million the Canadian government has offered to cover Michigan’s share of the new bridge.

Moroun and company have been trying to scare folks by claiming that the state and its taxpayers could be on the hook for that money, no matter what the Canadians and Snyder claim.

But a report released this week by the Anderson Economic Group describes the potential liability for Michigan as “limited," adding that "risk rests with the Canadian government and/or bond underwriting institutions.”

It should be noted that the Anderson Economic Group is a private company not know to be especially prone to tout public-sector efforts.

That report contributed to what appears to be a particularly bad week for Moroun. Along with everything else, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce — which had been sitting on the sidelines in regard to this high-profile issue — finally weighed in.

Now, the state chamber has joined the U.S. and Detroit chambers of commerce — along with just about every major business in the state — in voicing support for the publicly owned bridge.

More and more, this is turning into a battle of Matty vs. the world. It is a testament to the old guy’s tenacity (not to mention his immense personal wealth and accompanying political clout) that this fight wasn’t over long ago.

More by Curt Guyette

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