Anyone who watches TV in Michigan was not the least bit surprised by a report released today by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) that found the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) has spent $4.7 million just this year alone on TV advertising to keep its monopoly opposing the proposed New International Trade Crossing (NITC) across the Detroit River to Canada.
Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun is pulling out all the stops in order to keep his monopoly on the busiest commercial border crossing in all of North America, and his TV commercials, despite being debunked by the Michigan Truth Squad, are running almost non-stop again after a brief summer hiatus.
That figure is gross sales, according to a press release from the non-profit and nonpartisan MCFN. Data on the ad campaign were collected by MCFN from the public files of the state’s television broadcasters and cable systems. Despite the fact that the ads are clearly aimed at influencing a piece of legislation in the Michigan Legislature by exhorting citizens to contact their legislators and Governor Snyder to oppose the bridge, the bridge company is not even registered as a lobbyist with the Department of State. In other words, the company did not have to report a single penny to the public.
Not only that, but the bridge company’s lobbyist – Lansing, multi-client firm Karoub Associates -has never filed a lobbyist’s financial reporting statement, and Karoub reported no advertising activity in the first seven months of 2011, according to MCFN.
“This is a clear example of a major deficiency in the State’s lobbying disclosure system,” said Rich Robinson, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “Detroit International Bridge Company should have registered as a lobbyist and reported its $4 million grassroots lobbying campaign. Instead, it reported nothing.”
Not only that, but the Washington, D.C. rightwing lobbying group “Americans for Prosperity” – that has bankrolled the teabagger fad – has spent tens of thousands of dollars this year on radio ads and direct mail – including fake eviction notices – urging lawmakers to reject the new bridge.
That $4.7 million does not include the direct, reportable contributions the Moroun family and their various companies have made to political candidates. That has been pegged at $550,000 in 2010 and another $55,500 this year, according to the MCFN. Any contributions the Morouns have made, or will make, to candidate committees in 2011 will not be disclosed until February 2012, due to the state’s “flaccid campaign finance reporting requirements.”
The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is a nonpartisan, nonprofit coalition of organizations and individuals concerned about the influence of money in politics and the need for campaign finance reform in Michigan. MCFN conducts research on campaign contributions and their relationship to election outcomes and issues of public policy, supports access to campaign finance information and develops educational initiatives for the public on the subject of campaign finance reform.