The Detroit International Bridge Company Is At It Again

With Matty Moroun and Dan Stamper fresh out of jail, the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) took their misinformation campaign to the airwaves once again. In their latest statewide television ad, the DIBC urges viewers to say “no” to the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), claiming the project will be the cause of new gas taxes and car registration fees. Below is the latest claim made by the DIBC:

DIBC: “Snyder really wants to bypass the legislature and spend $2 billion on a new bridge.”

NITC: The New International Trade Crossing will not cost Michigan taxpayers a cent. The State of Michigan will not expend any tax dollars to the authority and will not be liable for any debts or obligations as the legislation states:

An agreement involving the authority and a public agency of Canada relating to the Canadian contribution shall not impose any obligation on the department, the authority, this state or a political subdivision of this state to repay the Canadian contribution from revenues other than project revenue and project contribution.

Furthermore, should the tolls collected from the bridge fall short of the dollars needed to repay the Canadian and/or private investors in the project, the Canadian government has agreed to accept the responsibility for any shortfalls.

The ad inaccurately connects gas taxes and car registration fees, which would be used to repair Michigan’s roads and bridges, to the construction of the proposed NITC. The ad also fails to mention a several key points regarding the NITC including who will pay for it.

The bridge itself will be paid for by private investors through a public-private partnership financing agreement. The Plaza, I-75 connection, and Michigan’s share of the custom’s plaza will be paid by the Canadian Government’s $550 million investment in the project. The Canadian government and private investors will be repaid by the tolls collected on bridge and Canada has also agreed to accept responsibility for any project shortfalls.

The DIBC has succeeded once again in creating a misleading ad, littered with ambiguous statements. The only truth behind the latest DIBC ad is that Governor Snyder has asked the legislature to find additional ways to improve existing roads and infrastructure that have absolutely nothing to do with the NITC.

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.

Fact Check #23

Ad campaign proves that the Detroit International Bridge Company will say and do anything to protect their monopoly

The Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) is up to their old tricks…again. The DIBC has spared no expense to protect its international border crossing monopoly, spending more than $400,000 to run a 30 second television ad across the state and hiring Washington D.C. political consultant, Dick Morris to serve as a spokesman for the DIBC and spread misinformation regarding the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) project, also known as the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC).

The DIBC wants you to believe that our economy will never recover and traffic volumes will never increase. While at the same time, they want to build a second span next to the existing 82-year old Ambassador Bridge (even though they have not received necessary approvals in the U.S. or Canada). They want you to believe that the NITC will cost Michigan taxpayers. The new Moroun/Morris team will say and do anything to protect the DIBC’s $100 million a year monopoly at the Detroit-Windsor border.

Below is the misinformation used in the television compared to the actual facts:

Misinformation: “In the past 10 years the number of cars and trucks crossing from Michigan to Ontario dropped by half.”
Fact
: Detroit-Windsor border traffic was up by more than 17% in 2010 and continues to increase as the economy continues to improve. In fact, the DIBC, in their application for financing their proposed new bridge, estimated that Ambassador Bridge traffic would double by 2030.

Misinformation: “Bureaucrats and politicians still want to build a new $2 billion bridge.”
Fact
: The cost of the bridge on the Michigan side of the border is $1.3 billion. More than 100 businesses, business associations, organizations, community and labor leaders support the New International Trade Crossing including automakers (Chrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Honda, and Toyota), agricultural businesses (GreenStone Farm Credit Services, Michigan Agri-Business Association, Michigan Allied Poultry Industries Inc., Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Milk Producers Association, and Potato Growers of Michigan Inc.), area chambers of commerce (Detroit, Jackson, Ontario, Southern Wayne Regional, and Traverse City), Michigan companies (Amway Corporation, Campbell Soup Company, Kellogg Company, Meijer Inc., Walbridge, and Wolverine World Wide, Inc.), current and former Governors (Rick Snyder, Jennifer Granholm, James Blanchard, John Engler, and William Milliken), and many more across the state and region.

Misinformation: “They know we don’t need it.”
Fact
: Canada is Michigan’s largest trading partner. 60 percent of all Michigan trade is with Canada. More than $44 billion worth of trade between the United States and Canada crosses the Detroit-Windsor corridor every year the need for a reliable and secure crossing is now greater than ever. Michigan businesses are losing millions of dollars a year from delays at the Ambassador Bridge.

Misinformation: “They even know they will lose money and stick Michigan taxpayers for $100 million every year.”
Fact
: This is just completely made up. Canada has committed to contribute $550 million to build the Michigan portion of the NITC project. The Canadian government will also be responsible for any shortfalls in toll revenue. The Canadian contribution will be repaid by bridge tolls.. The NITC bridge will not cost Michigan taxpayers a single dime.

Misinformation: “Politicians have a bridge they want to sell you. A bridge we can’t afford, money we don’t have.”
Fact
: Canada will contribute $550 million to cover the Michigan portion of project and also cover any project shortfalls  so that neither Michigan nor its taxpayers will have to spend a dime. Furthermore, Governor Rick Snyder has secured a unique agreement with the Federal Highway Administration that will allow Michigan to use the $550 million provided by Canada  to secure more than $2 billion in federal matching funds that can be used to improve infrastructure and roads across the state.

Fact Check #21

If you believe this – I’ve got a floating Bridge I want to sell you

Matty Moroun’s company to build ‘Bridge-on-Demand’ floating bridge

The Detroit International Bridge Company, owner and operator of the Ambassador Bridge, said it plans to design and build a mobile “Bridge-on-Demand” floating bridge as a backup in case a natural disaster or terror attack destroyed a key bridge in the U.S.

“The Bridge-on-Demand system is the ultimate solution to providing redundancy in the face of a crisis,” said Dan Stamper, DIBC president. “Its mobility will allow for secure land-based storage, where the Bridge-on-Demand system can be called upon for deployment across the Detroit River, or anywhere else across the nation in very short order.” Detroit Free Press, July 30, 2010.

This is “deja’vu all over again”, as Casey Stengel would say. The fact is that Dan Stamper told the Michigan House Transportation Committee on June 12, 2008, that the bridge company “…was working with the (Department of) Homeland Security” on this idea.

However, a check with the Department of Homeland Security indicates they have never heard from Dan Stamper or any representative of the Ambassador Bridge Company on this idea.

This whole idea of a “floating bridge” sounds like something out of a Road Runner cartoon and a blow-up bridge made by Acme. Imagine 8,000 trucks and another 12,000 cars crossing over a floating bridge every day as the answer to providing security and redundancy to the most important crossing in North America.

Gregg Ward, who runs the Detroit-Windsor truck ferry downriver of the Ambassador Bridge, says that the strong current and the blocking of shipping lanes would be problematic. “…a floating bridge would be very disruptive of river traffic which he says is vital for the regional economy. Great Lakes freighters making heavy use of the Detroit River carry coal for electric power generation and along with ores for steelmaking, plus construction materials, finished steel products and more.

The continuously strong current in the river (4.3 knots, 8km/hr) makes any queuing of ships problematic.”

Once again, the Ambassador Bridge representatives make claims that are outlandish and claims that are blatantly transparent attempts to buy time for an old bridge that no longer meets the needs of North America.

Protecting the jobs of seven million Americans and 220,000 Michiganders who rely on that crossing is serious business and deserves serious ideas and discussions.

Fact Check #20

The Status of The Ambassador Bridge’s Second Span

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Matthew Moroun, Vice-Chairman of the Detroit International Bridge Company suggested that his company was close to winning key approvals to build a second bridge across the Detroit River.

Mr. Moroun said, “we are now 80% of the way there,” and added “best case, we would get the permit sometime this year.  Worse case, we would have to wait until next year.”

What Mr. Moroun is referring to is the completion of the Ambassador Bridge master Plan Study, which was paid for, and commissioned by the Government of Canada to study and develop a 25-year plan for the Ambassador Bridge Canadian inspection plaza.  The study identifies Canada Border Services Agency’s requirements at the Ambassador Bridge.

So why would the Government of Canada pay for a report to help the Ambassador Bridge make a case for their second span?  Quite simply, it was done because the Government of Canada takes its responsibility to review the bridge company’s environmental submission very seriously and did not want any further delay in evaluating the bridge company’s environmental assessment.

In December 2007, the bridge company submitted its Environmental Impact Statement for the building of a second bridge to the replace the existing Ambassador Bridge. Since then, the bridge company was advised by the Government of Canada on numerous occasions that its environmental submission was deficient in its analysis and that its submission could not be further reviewed without additional information.

To ensure no further delay, the Government of Canada took the extraordinary step of hiring an independent engineering consultant to develop a master plan for the Canadian plaza at the Ambassador Bridge. Such work is typically done by the proponent.

It is important to note that while the Master Plan Study will be used by the bridge company to help them complete their environmental assessment submission, the Master Plan does NOT provide authorization for the bridge company to build its second span and in no way removes the need for the bridge company to obtain all necessary permits such as authorization under the Navigable Waters Protection Act and construction approval under the International Bridges and Tunnels Act, as well as municipal building permits…

If the Bridge Company completes its environmental work, it could still take up to a year to evaluate the submission and to hold public consultations.

The DRIC is still the only project to have completed its environmental assessment on both sides of the border.

Fact Check #19

Ambassador Bridge takes their lies to the airwaves

What the Ambassador Bridge Company says below is a lie.

Radio Ad: Paid for by the Detroit International Bridge Company

“Looks like Governor Granholm and the Michigan Department of Transportation have their hands in our pockets again. Right! And this time its billions of dollars for the DRIC bridge we don’t need, we cant afford, and which benefits Canada. Leave it to MDOT to misuse our tax dollars. Five billion dollars for a bridge when they can’t fix Michigan roads and highways that are falling apart each and every day. This year alone, MDOT had to cancel 100 road projects and repairs on more than 500 bridges, because it doesn’t have the money, and legislation in favor of the DRIC would give MDOT unprecedented power and spending money with no oversight from Michigan legislators or consequence. That’s frightening, just look at MDOT’s horrible track record on big projects, who can forget the Zilwaukee bridge fiasco. The last thing Michigan taxpayers need is giving more power to MDOT, and that’s exactly what our state senators need to hear. Lets get Michigan’s priorities straight. People need to call their senators and tell them to vote no to MDOT and Canada’s DRIC bridge legislation.”

The Moroun family, who own the bridge, are desperate as they see their monopoly over traffic between Detroit and Windsor slipping away. The Morouns have heard repeated testimony from the Governor, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Transport Canada and a host of supporters – like Ford Motor Company, Chrysler and every major union in the state – that a new government-owned bridge between Windsor and Detroit WILL NOT COST MICHIGAN ONE PENNY. Canada will pay all costs. It’s a FREE BRIDGE for the state of Michigan that will create thousands of construction jobs for Detroit and Michigan citizens. Jobs when we need them more than ever.

As billionaires, the Morouns believe they can say anything because of their wealth.  This Radio Ad   is a good example as they attack the Governor, the Department of Transportation and Canada — the largest trading partner for Michigan and 26 other states.

Other wealthy Michigan families have helped revitalize downtown Detroit, built stadiums and created facilities for the needy of the community (like the Delray Neighborhood House). But, look at this photo of the Michigan Central Depot, one of the more than 600 vacant properties the Morouns own which have allowed them to assume the role of the largest slum lords in Michigan. They use their wealth for one purpose – to take care of themselves. Their outlandish conduct will stop only when Michigan state senators vote to approve the new government-owned bridge from Detroit to Canada.

Fact Check #18

As Ronald Regan would say “…there you go again!”

And that’s what the U.S. District Court Judge Robert Cleland said to the Morouns about the claim that their Detroit International Bridge Company is a “ federal instrumentality.” It’s the latest in a string of legal decisions which have gone against the Morouns that include a Michigan Supreme Court decision last month which upheld a lower court ruling that called for them to demolish toll booths, gas pumps and a portion of their duty free shop on the U.S. side of the bridge because they illegally built the structures on city property. In doing so, DIBC also took control of and blocked off City streets without any permission from the City.

Even the federal government cannot simply take over property it doesn’t own. You have to wonder when this irrational bullying will stop. Only when people in power, like Judge Cleland, do the right thing.

Detroit International Bridge Co. not exempt from state and local laws, U.S. District Court judge rules

Crain’s Detroit Business

By Bill Shea

The Ambassador Bridge is not a “federal instrumentality” a U.S. federal judge in Detroit ruled today — undercutting the defense used by the span’s private-sector owner to fend off accusations his bridge company has behaved illegally in its effort to add a second span.

The ruling could force the bridge company to modify what’s been built at the crossing site in recent years, including toll booths.

The Michigan Supreme Court in 2008 affirmed a lower court ruling that Grosse Pointe trucking industrialist Manuel Morouns bridge is a “limited federal instrumentality” that exempts it from state and local laws, such as zoning, because the bridge is involved in cross border traffic and trade.

That ruling has been the backbone of the Detroit International Bridge Co.’s assertion that its behavior in the $230 million Ambassador Gateway Project that improved the connections between the bridge and I-75 and I-96 is protected.

DIBC has been sued by businesses affected by the project, which claim the company illegally took local streets and blocked access.

The federal instrumentality claim also has been used by DIBC in the litigation linked to its effort to construct a span adjacent to the current bridge — a project opposed by Canada and others.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland today granted the U.S. government’s motion for summary judgment on the status of the crossing while rejecting a motion filed by the bridge company seeking summary judgment in its favor.

The case stems from a 2009 complaint by Commodities Export Co. against the U.S. government and the bridge company related to construction of the Gateway Project. Owners of the export company have a bait shop that remains in the middle of the project. DIBC is involved in ongoing litigation against a variety of defendants related to both the gateway project and the second span.

The federal government filed a cross claim in February against DIBC, claiming neither the bridge nor the bridge company are federal instrumentalities. The bridge company has not yet commented on today’s ruling, and it’s not yet known if it will appeal the ruling.