Lies before your eyes

The bridge baron's ads twist the truth, to say the least

If you live in Michigan and watch television at all, you have undoubtedly seen the commercial being run by the Detroit International Bridge Co.

You know the DIBC — the Manuel "Matty" Moroun-controlled outfit that owns the Ambassador Bridge. It is the same company that illegally took control of a piece of Detroit parkland and refused to give it back. That injustice was remedied when the local citizenry rose up and tore down the fence erected by the DIBC.

And it's the same DIBC that saw its president, Dan Stamper, briefly jailed for contempt of court earlier this year after the company refused to follow the orders of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards and abide by the terms of a contract with the state regarding construction of the Gateway Plaza in southwest Detroit.

It's also the same company that hired notoriously sleazy political hack Dick Morris to help with its efforts to keep a publicly owned bridge from being built downriver.

So, given the company's track record, it came as no surprise last week when the Michigan Truth Squad, a project of the nonpartisan Center for Michigan think tank, slammed the bridge company for producing a TV ad that is grounded in a cynical attempt at deception.

It is just one more nail in the coffin of Matty Moroun's credibility. But when you're as rich as Croesus, it is apparently easy to be a Lazarus when it comes to peddling propaganda. As long as the money holds out, the lies will continue to be told.

In terms of the bridge company ad currently being aired in heavy rotation, the lie is this: The spending of public money on the proposed New International Trade Crossing (formerly the Detroit River International Crossing) will rob money from other transportation projects such as the repair of pothole-filled roads and crumbling bridges. 

The straightforward response to that claim is: "absolute bullshit." But the professionals over at the Truth Squad are a bit more diplomatic, declaring: "The ad gets many facts wrong, especially with the either/or premise that Michigan can either fix local bridges and roads or build the new bridge to Canada. Accusing special interests of pushing for the bridge is certainly the pot calling the kettle black when it comes to the generosity of DIBC, its owners and executives."

What's key here is, as the Truth Squad points out, this isn't an either/or situation. That's because Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed using the $550 million the Canadian government is offering to help cover Michigan's share of the new bridge to leverage an increase in federal transportation dollars. That means more pothole filling and bridge repair if the deal goes through, not less.

As for that offer from the Canucks, Matty and company would have us believe it is some sort of trap that will lure Michigan taxpayers into unwittingly supporting a project they will eventually end up paying for, no matter what proponents of the publicly owned bridge now claim.

That's another bit of bull that was thoroughly refuted last week. The debunking came in the form of an independent report issued by a private firm, the Anderson Economic Group, which took an in-depth look at the two bridge proposals now on the table: the NITC and a new span Moroun wants to build adjacent to the existing Ambassador Bridge.

What Moroun wants even more than permission to build his new bridge is to stop the publicly owned span from being constructed. If it is built, it will provide competition to the highly lucrative near-monopoly he has on cross-border commercial truck traffic in this region. 

And so, the billionaire mogul and his minions will say just about anything to scare taxpayers and their elected representatives from supporting the NITC. That includes the oft-repeated claim that the NITC will put Michigan taxpayers at risk.

Not true, says the Anderson group. As it is now structured, the deal with Canada limits Michigan's financial exposure because "the risk rests with the Canadian government and/or bond underwriting institution(s)." 

Furthermore, although it doesn't do so directly, the report also supports the Truth Squad's contention that, rather than inhibit other transportation projects, a bridge deal with the Canadians will actually open the door to more federal matching funds — in excess of $2 billion, in fact — coming to Michigan.

Just how desperate is Matty at this point? Very.

A measure of that desperation can be found in this tidbit disclosed last week by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network, which reported:

"The Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) has spent $4.7 million so far this year for a grassroots-lobbying television advertising campaign opposing the proposed New International Trade Crossing."

With the announcement last week that the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has come off the fence and joined the Yellow Pages-sized list of NITC supporters, it has become clear that this is now a fight in which Moroun has few allies. 

But Matty does have countless millions more left to spend, so don't expect the lies, deceptions and distortions to stop anytime soon. It is far past time, however, for anyone to continue falling for them.

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