Truth Squad calls flagrant foul on new round of bridge ads

Originally posted by the Michigan Truth Squad

The People Should Decide is a ballot question committee funded, according to available campaign finance statements, almost entirely from interests linked to Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun and his family. Proposal 6 is a constitutional amendment to require a public vote before the state of Michigan could participate in an international bridge or tunnel project. The proposal is aimed at the Next International Trade Crossing, a bridge between Detroit and Windsor that will compete with Moroun’s Ambassador for freight and passenger traffic.

QUESTIONABLE STATEMENTS:

“It may end up being free during their term in office, but eventually we the people are going to be paying big for it.”

The primary line of attack used by Moroun interests against the NITC project has been the “public will pay” claim. As far back as 2010, the government of Canada extended an offer to cover Michigan’s $550 million share of initial costs for the project, which Canada would cover with tolls. That offer, along with a pledge by Canada to cover the bills should tolls prove insufficient, is incorporated in the agreement signed June 15.

“Quit being so arrogant with our money.”

What money? The ad does not say. The agreement between Michigan and Canada places the financial onus of the NITC project on the Canadian and U.S. governments (the federal government will fund the cost of the customs plaza on the Michigan side of the bridge).

The Michigan Department of Transportation calculated that $42 million has been spent on studies and planning regarding a second Detroit-Windsor bridge.

“That’s our money that the politicians are spending.”

Again, “our money” is not explained.

“There’s a huge Michigan debt clock that’s ticking and getting bigger all the time.”

This is a new claim from the Moroun camp. The phrase “debt clock” evokes the ongoing national debate over the federal debt and websites, such as this one, that track its movements.

The most recent comprehensive financial report for state government, for the year ending Sept. 30, 2011, reported, “The state’s total long-term bonded debt as of September 30, 2011, was $7.3 billion, an increase of $268.6 million from the prior year. The increase represents the net difference between new issuances, payments, and refundings of debt.”

Between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011, the state’s total liabilities grew by about $800 million. During the same span, the state’s total assets grew by about $1.4 billion.

Michigan’s general bond rating, from the rating agency Standard & Poor’s, was AA- in May 2012, down from a rating of AAA (the highest) in 2002.

It is not clear how this reference applies to the NITC project or Proposal 6 since the state of Michigan, under the June 15 agreement, is not incurring debt.

“We can’t go out and start building bridges. Our grandkidsare going to have to pay that off.”

See above on reference to agreement between Canada and Michigan for Canada to cover bridge project’s costs.

For context, the Michigan Department of Transportation says it owns 4,407 National Highway System structures greater than 20 feet long. A count including all agencies of NHS bridges longer than 20 feet yields 10,967.

How can they tell us there’s no money for education and schools, but there’s money for a bridge.”

Again, the June 15 agreement puts the onus on Canada to fund construction of the bridge project. The Legislature has not made an appropriation for construction costs for NITC. The state funds “education and schools” primarily through the School Aid Fund, a restricted state account.

“Somebody’s going to end up paying for that bridge, and it’s going to be our children.”

Again, there is no explanation for this claim. Canada is pledged to finance construction, including Michigan’s share, and recover its investment via tolls collected. If tolls are insufficient, the June 15 agreement puts Canada in charge of covering the difference.

“Do you know how many police, firefighters, teachers, could we hire with the money they’re going to spend on this bridge?”

Another leading and unsupported claim. State dollars have not been appropriated to build the bridge. In fact, it’s possible to construct a reverse argument on this point:

Gov. Rick Snyder negotiated with the federal government to allow Michigan to use the $550 million state “share” (which Canada is covering) toward the state’s total investment for federal matching funds for highway work. As detailed in this report from the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, that deal will mean $2.2 billion in federal highway funds – which can be spent across the state. Such federal funds, in theory, would lessen pressure on state lawmakers to appropriate money from the state general fund for road work – general fund money that also can be used to bolster police, fire and school ranks.

For further context, Moroun family interests have been the primary funders – say the most recent campaign documents available– of Proposal 5, a constitutional amendment that would require supermajorities of the Legislature to enact tax changes. If Prop 5 passes, the likelihood of investments in new police officers, firefighters and teachers will be less, not more.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

The battle over a second bridge is about money – the Moroun family’s money. The expectation is that a second bridge will reduce traffic on the existing Ambassador, thereby costing the Moroun family money. There is a reason that the family interests have spent millions in campaign contributions, lobbying efforts and TV ads in recent years to stop the NITC project – not to mention what sums have been spent by Moroun interests in legal challenges to the project.

Michigan voters may want to ask themselves one question : Why are Moroun family interests spending millions to “protect” the average taxpayer?

TRUTH SQUAD CALL:

Flagrant foul. These ads repeat claims, or advance new variants of old claims, that do not match available documents. The agreement with Canada puts the financial onus on Michigan’s neighbor, not Michigan, for paying the bills, including interest. Since Michigan is not appropriating construction dollars, no dollars are being diverted away from other public uses. Michigan is not increasing its debt load with the NITC project.

The Michigan Truth Squad calls “Flagrant foul” on The People Should Decide TV ads for baseless and misleading claims

Originally posted by the Michigan Truth Squad

The People Should Decide – anti-New Detroit Bridge TV ads

Who: The People Should Decide
Featured Campaign Material: Television ad
Truth Squad call: Flagrant foul

QUESTIONABLE STATEMENTS:

“The bridge to Canada. $500 million just in interest payments. And with hidden costs — up to $8 billion.”

The source of these claims is an Aug. 12 study commissioned by the Detroit International Bridge Co., owned by Manuel “Matty” Moroun. Moroun interests are spending millions of dollars on ads in an attempt to scuttle the proposed New International Trade Crossing bridge linking Detroit and Windsor.

A Moroun-financed ballot proposal group, The People Should Decide, released an executive summary of that study, performed by O’Keefe & Associates of Bloomfield Hills.

The summary doesn’t explain the $500 million in interest payments or who is responsible for making them. It projects that Canada could still owe $360 million on bridge construction by 2065 and that cost overruns could push the cost of the bridge, now estimated at $2.1 billion, to as much as $8.6 billion.

Although a June 15 agreement between Michigan and Canada to build the bridge calls for Canada to pay the entire cost of the bridge, including Michigan’s $550 million share for building a connection to the bridge from Interstate 75, the O’Keefe report warns that Michigan taxpayers should be wary of getting a “free lunch” and that the project should be scrutinized for potential “hidden costs.”

“But the real price isn’t just in dollars. It’s what we’re giving up: high quality teachers for our kids; more cops on the beat; firefighters and EMTs; reduced pension taxes for seniors. Real cuts hurting real people.”

Michigan isn’t giving up anything because Canada is responsible for the cost of the bridge. The claim that there will be “reduced pension taxes for seniors” makes no sense. This appears to be some sort of a scare tactic, warning seniors that their financial security is somehow threatened by building the bridge.

“Rick Snyder wants his bridge to Canada so much, he keeps claiming it’s free. But he’s not telling you government studies show with traffic down, there’s no justification for it.”

Traffic declined on the bridge during the past decade, mainly because of the severe, decade-long economic recession Michigan endured in the 2000s.

But traffic has been rising since a low point in 2009, according to data collected by the Public Border Operators Association. Ambassador Bridge traffic has risen from 6,494,620 cars and trucks in 2009 to 7,252,916 vehicles in 2011, an 11.67 percent increase.

The 2011 total of 7.25 million was still well below the 2006 number of 9.68 million, however.

Ambassador Bridge traffic was up 3.18 percent through the end of June from the same period a year ago.

“Rick Snyder wants his bridge to Canada so much, he keeps claiming it’s free. But he’s not telling you that a government study said it could cost up to $6 billion.”

The ad cites a 2007 PricewaterhouseCoopers study done for several federal, Michigan and Canadian government agencies in this claim. The study did say that total bridge costs could be as much as $6 billion, but said the project would “most likely be in the range of up to $3 billion.”

“But last year alone Canada dumped 7 million cubic yards of trash in Michigan landfills. His bridge will bring in even more trash from Canada.”

This is speculation not supported by recent statistics. In 2006, Michigan’s U.S. senators, Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, won an agreement with the province of Ontario to end the shipment of municipal trash by the end of 2010.

Overall, shipments of Canadian trash from all sources fell 20 percent in fiscal 2011, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The DEQ said it expected the volume of Canadian trash to fall again this year.

“But he’s not telling you Michigan will owe Canada millions in interest and they’ll own the bridge.”

Once again, a June 15 agreement between Michigan and Canada says Canada will be responsible for all of the bridge project’s costs. Toll revenue is expected to pay for the bridge’s construction and operational costs. But Canada is obligated to pay for any shortfalls and will own the bridge.

“But what about the millions a year in tolls that bridges in Michigan like the Blue Water will lose?”

Total revenues generated by the Blue Water Bridge connecting Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario, nearly doubled between 2002 and 2011, from $11.5 million to $21.9 million in raw numbers, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. Adjusted for inflation, the increase is about 68 percent.

A presidential permit application for the NITC bridge filed in June by the state of Michigan offered a range of revenue estimates for the Blue Water Bridge, all of which show bridge revenues rising by 2035.

The application also said the state does not have enough detailed financial information about the Ambassador Bridge to determine if its viability is threatened by construction of the NITC bridge.

“Rick Snyder says Canada will pay for his bridge, but Canada won’t. Listen to the Transport Minister: ‘How much money are we going to pay for the new Windsor bridge? Zero taxpayer dollars.’”

Then-Transport Minister Chuck Strahl made the statement during a session of Parliament on March 23, 2011. His statement is taken out of context. He later went on to say that no taxpayer dollars would be used because the bridge would be a “P3 project,” or public-private partnership.

Under the June 15 agreement signed by Snyder and Canadian officials, a joint Michigan-Canada authority will be established to build and operate the bridge. Tolls paid to Canada are expected to pay for those costs, but Canada is responsible for any shortfalls.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

Nearly every claim made in these ads is a distortion, exaggeration or a twisting of facts.

Moroun wants to maintain his near monopoly on serving traffic traveling between Detroit and Windsor via the Ambassador Bridge. His blizzard of television ads shows he will not let facts and fair play get in his way.

TRUTH SQUAD CALL:

Flagrant foul. The Moroun camp continues to throw out figures and scenarios without sufficient evidence to back them. The Michigan-Canada agreement calls for Canada to cover bridge costs, even cost over-runs, utilizing revenue from the bridge itself. If that revenue falls short, Canada is pledged to cover the gap. The claims about Michigan giving up police, teachers and firefighters lack any visible basis. The ad questions traffic counts on border crossings, yet fails to mention that traffic on the Ambassador Bridge and other links is up in recent years. No evidence is provided for the claim that more Canadian trash is headed to Michigan; existing evidence points to the exact opposite.

The People Should Decide – mailer (Michigan Truth Squad)

Originally from: Michigan Truth Squad

Front

Back

QUESTIONABLE STATEMENTS:

“Snyder’s bridge. Not free. Not even close.”

The flier is the latest salvo in a fierce political fight over a proposal to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor. The campaign document is paid for by The People Should Decide, a group funded primarily by interests tied to Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun. Moroun wants to build his own second span connecting Detroit and Windsor. The People Should Decide has spent $4.6 million opposing the bridge, which would be publicly funded, but privately operated. PSD is backing a November ballot proposal that would require popular approval for the state to construct or finance an international bridge or tunnel.

Gov. Rick Snyder has championed the crossing as a boon to trade and job creation since taking office. In June, U.S. and Canadian officials announced an agreement to build the bridge with guarantees from Canada to pay Michigan’s $550 million share of the project. The sum is to be paid back by tolls collected on the Canadian side of the crossing.

“Who will pay for lost property taxes from condemned homes to build a new government bridge?”

Canada has agreed to pay for land needed for the bridge on both sides of the bridge. Construction on the Michigan side would force demolition of an estimated 250 homes, dozens of businesses and up to five churches. Under eminent domain law that governs such projects, property owners are compensated at fair market value for property loss. The agreement with Canada stipulates that the request for proposals to build the bridge must include a community benefits plan and involvement of affected communities.

“ … a new interchange for I-75 to connect the new bridge to existing highways?”

The I-75 highway interchange is predicted to cost $385.9 million (covered by Canada) and the U.S. Inspections plaza $413.6 million, with cost of the plaza to be paid by the U.S. General Services Administration. The bridge itself is projected to cost nearly $1 billion and is to be financed by investors under a concession agreement. Canada is agreeing to pick up the remainder of the project’s cost.

“… lost toll revenues and lost jobs from the existing bridges and tunnel that already connect Canada and Michigan?”

As owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Moroun’s profits would presumably be affected by another crossing he does not own. A 2011 report by the Anderson Economic noted a potential revenue drop to the Ambassador Bridge of nearly $70 million by 2030 if the new span is built.

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is owned by the cities of Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.  Tunnel traffic and revenues have been trending up in 2012.

“If the new government bridge for Canada is such a great economic boon for Michigan why did the Michigan Legislature, repeatedly, vote against building it?”

Moroun has lobbied hard against the bridge and has managed to convince enough key Republicans to forestall legislative approval. It has never come to a vote by full membership of either the state House or state Senate. A state Senate committee in November 2011 decided not to authorize the project by a 3-2 vote.

Bridge proponents — which include the major automakers and numerous businesses — maintain the price of doing nothing is costly. The congested 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge is the busiest international border trade crossing in North America, with more than 7,000 trucks crossing each day. Almost a quarter of all merchandise trade between Canada and the U.S. uses the bridge. A study by the Ontario  Chamber of Commerce found that delays in the Detroit-Windsor corridor could cost the United States and Canada $17.8 billion by 2030 and 70,000 lost jobs.

Opponents say a public bridge could “lose billions,” citing a 2011 study by Conway MacKenzie of Birmingham that the bridge would lose $4.7 billion over 20 years. Conway MacKenzie was hired by Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. to conduct the study. Snyder disputes the analysis.

“Why does Governor Snyder say the new government bridge for Canada will bring jobs now when their permit request says construction won’t begin for five more years?”

Snyder has long maintained the bridge — whenever it is built — will add thousands of jobs and improve trade between the United States and Canada. A study by the Center for Automotive Research estimates that construction will create 6,000 jobs each of the first two years and 5,100 in each of the final two years. Moreover, the $550 million Canada is shouldering as Michigan’s share can be used by the state as matching funds to capture $2.2 billion in federal money that can be spent on roadway projects across the state. The Center estimates that will generate an additional 6,600 jobs annually for four years.

The Michigan Department of Transportation says fall of 2013 is the tentative start time for construction.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

With this flier, The People Should Decide continues a campaign against the bridge that remains long on assertion, but short on facts. There is considerable evidence the existing single crossing to Windsor is costing business and hampering trade. Opponents have not clearly shown how the project would do substantial harm to Michigan taxpayers.

FOUL OR NO FOUL:

Foul. The flier makes notable claims it does not prove.

Detroit International Bridge Company Continues to Mislead the Public

By now, Michigan citizens are no strangers to the misleading tactics the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) employs to mislead the public.

The bridge company’s most recent piece of propaganda, which aired statewide, tries to connect the recent jailing of company officials Manuel “Matty” Moroun and Dan Stamper with the proposed New International Trade Crossing (NITC) and continues to lie about the cost of the new bridge to Michigan taxpayers.

The Michigan Truth Squad and Grand Rapids television station WZZM recently dispelled the latest in a series of misleading DIBC television ads. The Michigan Truth Squad called a “Flagrant foul” on the ad while WZZM rated the ad a “3 out of 10 on the truth meter.”

This isn’t the first time the bridge company has come under fire for its advertising tactics. In September 2011, the Michigan Truth Squad called a “Foul” on a DIBC ad that made misleading statements regarding Governor Rick Snyder and his support for the NITC.

In April 2011, the Michigan Truth Squad called a “Foul” on the DIBC for using misleading statistics and claiming, without proof, that the NITC will cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million a year, which is simply not true.

The DIBC continues to blame the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Snyder administration for their legal problems. The United State District Court summarized the DIBC and its misinformation tactics best in its 2010 rejection of the company’s appeal:

“Considering this Court’s more than thirty-five years as a judicial officer, DIBC may be entitled to its recognition as the party who has devised the most creative schemes and maneuvers to delay compliance with a court order. DIBC’s schemes fail, however, as they lack support in the law…”

Michigan Truth Squad calls “Flagrant foul” on Detroit International Bridge Company for latest attempt to mislead public

Michigan Truth Squad

Who: Detroit International Bridge Co.
Featured material: TV and Internet ad
Truth Squad call: Flagrant foul.

QUESTIONABLE STATEMENTS:

This is the ramp the Ambassador Bridge company built to connect with the interstate. But the state won’t finish their side. ON SCREEN: MI DOT official: “… the state is responsible for the missing ramp, not the bridge company…” Toll Road News, Jan. 17, 2012

The ad implies that an official from the Michigan Department of Transportation provided a direct quote. In reality, the story referenced in Toll Road News paraphrases an unidentified MDOT employee.

The state had to stop construction on its portion of the ramp, which is supposed to allow truck traffic to go directly from customs inspections to Interstates 96 and 75 without using city streets, because federal highway dollars would have been endangered if it proceeded with the project without permanent easements for the property. The Federal Highway Administration gave the state permission to continue with the ramp construction last week.

http://www.freep.com/article/20120125/NEWS01/120125058/Feds-approve-work-on-Ambassador-Bridge-ramp-MDOT-says?odyssey=nav|head

… an activist Detroit judge, whose son the governor just appointed to the bench, put the Ambassador Bridge people in jail.

The ad correctly states the actions and relationships. On Jan. 12, Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards, Sr. jailed Manuel “Matty” Moroun and Detroit International Bridge Co. executive Dan Stamper for not complying with a 2010 order to proceed with work on the ramp project connecting the Ambassador Bridge with area interstates.

http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/local/ambassador-bridge-owner-manuel-%27matty%27-moroun-order-to-jail-20120112

Six weeks earlier, Edwards’ son, Prentis Edwards, Jr., was appointed by Snyder to the 36th District Court in Detroit.

http://michiganlawyerblog.wordpress.com/tag/prentis-edwards-jr/

However, the identification of Prentis Edwards, Sr. as an “activist judge” implies, without providing any evidence, that he allows his personal views to influence his decision-making.

Oh, and the governor’s bridge? You have to pay for it. (While the words “Snyder’s $2 Billion Bridge … YOU pay for it” are displayed on-screen.)

While several consultants for the bridge company have made that claim, no independent analyst has. The Canadian government has offered to pay Michigan’s share of the project, $550 million, a sum to be paid back in tolls. Snyder struck a deal with the Federal Highway Administration to use that $550 million toward federal highway matching funds that are required for other road and bridge projects.

Brickey on Oct. 12, 2011, testified that the legislation last year to authorize Michigan’s participation on the New International Trade Corridor shielded taxpayers from being on the hook for bridge construction costs.

Overall impression

This is at least the fourth television ad run by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge with similar claims and inflammatory language. The bridge company spent in the vicinity of $5 million on such ads in 2011 alone. DIBC opposes a public-private bridge backed by Gov. Rick Snyder, as it would be competition.

http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20110919/FREE/110919899/report-ambassador-bridge-owners-spend-4-7-million-on-ads-opposing-rival-detroit-river-crossing

Foul or no foul

Flagrant foul for suggesting, without evidence, that the state is intentionally delaying ramp construction to further its case for a new bridge, and that the bridge will cost taxpayers $2 billion.

Lies before your eyes

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

Detroit Metro Times

By Curt Guyette

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

Michigan Truth Sqaud Calls “Foul” on Latest DIBC Ad

Detroit International Bridge Company – Fix Us First TV ad

Who: Detroit International Bridge Company
Featured political material: Fix Us First TV ad
Truth Squad call: Foul

Click here to download transcript.

Questionable statements:

“Republicans and Democrats agree. Michigan’s potholed roads and crumbling bridges are a mess. Dangerous to our families and hurting our economy.” On screen: “’Local bridges in need of repair’ – WILX, Lansing.”

Michigan’s poor infrastructure is no secret, with almost half of the state’s 83 counties returning roads to gravel in 2010 due to lack of funds for repairs. Michigan’s infrastructure received a “D” in the 2009 report card by the American Society of Civil Engineers. And Michigan was second only to Pennsylvania in worst roads, according to a 2010 survey by “Overdrive” magazine for truckers.

However, the news source cited on bridges in the ad lacks a date. Presumably, it was a 2011 story about a Washington, D.C.-based Transportation for America study reporting Michigan with the 13th worst bridges in the nation. The report found 13.1 percent of Michigan’s bridges are “structurally deficient,” according to federal standards, compared with a U.S. average of 11.5 percent. The ad also shows Polaroids of potholes and dilapidated bridges, but it’s not clear where those were taken — or if they’re even in Michigan.

“But Rick Snyder has a higher priority than fixing our local roads. Rick Snyder wants to build a bridge to Canada instead.” On screen: “’Michigan roads ranked 37th out of 50’ — Source: ‘Transportation of America.’”

A proposal for a new public-private Detroit-Canada bridge has been out there for years, with the state House voting in favor of it last year. Under the deal, the Canadian government would put up Michigan’s share — $550 million — to build the bridge. The Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge, has its own plan to build a second span. The DIBC opposes a public-private bridge, as it would be competition.

In his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder announced he had struck a deal with the Federal Highway Administration. If Michigan builds the new public-private bridge, the state can use the $550 million the Canadian government had offered towards federal highway matching funds that are required for other road and bridge projects. So that means that if the deal goes through as Snyder outlined, the new Detroit-Canada bridge will help Michigan fix local roads — which is the exact opposite of what the ad claims.

As for the citation, the group is Transportation for America — not Transportation of America. As noted above, it did a study of bridges, not roads, showing Michigan ranking 37th out of 50th. The Truth Squad could not find a Transportation for America study on roads with Michigan ranking 37th.

“The special interests and contractors want the money. Snyder wants a monument. Call your legislators today, and tell them, ‘Fix our local roads!’“

The ad doesn’t specify who the “special interests are.” There certainly are many groups and individuals with an interest in building the new public-private bridge, including the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, Business Leaders for Michigan, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, the Michigan Farm Bureau and Meijer. Contractors would certainly want the work. However, Snyder has said that DIBC could bid on building the bridge — so the company could get in on the action.

What the ad neglects to mention is that the DIBC is a special interest invested in not building the bridge. The nonprofit Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports that the Detroit International Bridge Co. has spent $4.7 million this year in lobbying ads against the new bridge. The data comes from public files of the state’s television broadcasters and cable systems. The Detroit News even reports that the DIBC is running ads in Iowa targeting presidential candidates on the Michigan bridge. The pro-bridge side has not gone up with any TV ads, MIRS newsletter (subscription-only) reported in a Sept. 19, 2011, story.

The Moroun family, which owns the Ambassador Bridge, also has donated generously to political campaigns. The family and top executives have given to the tune of $1.8 million in the last 13 years, according to the Detroit Free Press. In the 2010 cycle, the family donated $550,000, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Moroun sponsored a breakfast this year for the Bipartisan Freshman Caucus. This year, the Moroun family has given $85,000 to caucus and lawmaker leadership funds. Data for individual candidate contributions won’t be disclosed until February 2012 in reports to the Secretary of State’s Office.

As for Snyder wanting a monument, that could be a reference to the governor comparing the project to the Mackinac Bridge. He carried around a copy of Lawrence Rubin’s “Bridging the Straits” while plugging the new bridge at the Mackinac Policy Conference. Snyder has not proposed naming the bridge for himself, however. He refers to the bridge as the “New International Trade Crossing.”

Overall impression:

No one can argue that Michigan’s infrastructure is deteriorating and the DIBC ad effectively demonstrates this with black and white pictures of crumbling roads and bridges — even if we don’t know where they are. However, the ad gets sloppy by failing to cite a date for a TV news report and gets another study’s details wrong. And the ad attacks Gov. Rick Snyder for wanting to build the bridge, implying it’s because he wants some sort of shrine for his legacy.

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. And while the ad darkly warns of special interests salivating over the new bridge, it neglects to mention the interest the DIBC has in making sure it never gets built — and the millions it’s spent lobbying against it.

Foul or no foul:

Foul. 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.

Download Truth Squad analysis.pdf.