Campaign finance watchdogs: Moroun money flooded Detroit City Council races

Jul 5, 2018 at 2:10 pm
Campaign finance watchdogs: Moroun money flooded Detroit City Council races
Detail from a mailer

In the monthlong afterglow since the Moroun family graciously allowed Ford to buy the long-vacant Michigan Central Station, perhaps one notable report escaped many metro Detroiters' notice: the quantity and quality of money the Moroun family spent on Detroit's most recent City Council elections.

We'd reported on one instance of Moroun money affecting the race of Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez.

In that case, Central Trucking, owned by the Morouns, donated more than $60,000 to a newly created PAC, which funded a stream of mailers that vilified Castaneda-Lopez, likely the handiwork of Jackson Consulting Group, headed by political consultant Chris Jackson, the developer who attempted to bribe then-Councilmember Monica Conyers, then turned state’s witness to testify against Sam Riddle.

The money apparently got results, even if it did not result in the ouster of Castaneda-Lopez, who has locked horns with the Morouns on issues in her district. Castaneda-Lopez had been polling 59 percent against the challenger's 34 percent before the Aug. 8 primary. By the Nov. 7 election, she garnered just 52 percent of the vote compared to the challenger’s 47 percent.

According to the results of an investigation by Fox 2 Detroit and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the Morouns not only spent widely in the race, but were responsible for the most money donated by any party. The report, released last week, showed that the family directly supported Janeé Ayers, George Cushingberry, Brenda Jones, and Jewel Ware. Through various PACs, the family and its associated companies supported Ware against Mary Sheffield in District 5, and supported Roy McCalister Jr. in District 2, in addition to the District 6 race involving Castaneda-Lopez.

How does this square with the Moroun family's recent "charm offensive," in which Matthew Moroun has gone before the media to champion his family's achievements, such as boarding up the buildings it owns or unloading a property it had no plans for? Not very well, according to seasoned observers.

For instance, when we spoke to former state Rep. Steve Tobocman about the council race late last year, he said, “What’s distressing to me is that there have been at least two different news reports over the last couple months about how Matthew Moroun, the son of Matty Moroun, is here to be a good corporate citizen." Taking stock of the family's role in the election, he said, "that doesn’t occur to me at all like turning a new leaf.”

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.