Moroun tries to buy his way into the Michigan Constitution

Moroun spends record $29M in ballot fight to block new bridge to Canada

By Paul Egan
Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau

LANSING — Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun has spent nearly $30 million on his ballot proposal to force a referendum on a new publicly owned bridge to Canada is approaching $30 million, setting a record for the most money spent on one side of a ballot proposal in Michigan, according to campaign finance reports filed today.

Moroun’s ballot committee, the People Should Decide, reported today that Moroun’s companies have contributed $24.4 million to the ballot initiative since July 20. Before that, he and his companies had poured $4.7 million into the effort. As of today, the reports filed document only about $20.4 million of what the committee has spent, mostly on TV ads.

“It’s pretty stunning,” said Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “This has been a pretty expensive project.”

Up until now, the most spent on one side of a ballot proposal was $19.7 million, spent by one of the two sides on a 2004 casino proposal, Robinson said.

The spending does not include the millions Moroun and his companies spent on TV ads opposing the proposed public bridge across the Detroit River to Canada before he launched his ballot initiative this year.

In contrast, the group that supports a new public bridge to Canada and wants to block a requirement for a referendum has raised slightly more than $800,000, records show, leaving it at about a 30-1 fund-raising disadvantage.

Donors to the pro-bridge effort include: General Motors, which gave $500,000; Chrysler Group LLC, which gave $100,000; the Fund for Michigan Jobs, which gave $75,000, and the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, which gave $25,000. An electrical transmission company, ITC Holdings, and Michigan Paving and Materials Co. each gave $25,000 to the pro-bridge effort, while the Michigan Townships Association gave $20,000.

So far, no direct contributions from Ford Motor Co. have been reported.

The only reported expenditures by the pro-bridge committee are about $85,000 in legal fees.