Sep 17, 2010

Campaign cash trumps 10,000 Michigan jobs

The word from Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, on Thursday that it is unlikely that the Senate would vote on legislation authorizing the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge this year just proves that billionaire benefactor and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun spent his money wisely.

Instead of 10,000 Michigan jobs and a much needed bridge, Michigan appears to get nothing. Subscription only Gongwer reported on Thursday that Moroun, who has fought tooth and nail to keep his private monopoly on a private border crossing, “recently gave $30,000 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee,” and they “put $35,000 into the Capitol Affairs political action committee from May through July. That PAC later gave $20,000 to Mr. Bishop's attorney general campaign fund.”

The news came just about a week after the Chair of the Transportation Committee, Sen. Jud Gilbert, R-Algonac, said he had just come out with a new draft of House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada to build the bridge and take advantage of Canada agreeing to fund Michigan’s share of the bridge. Gilbert said back in June that he was going to slow-walk the bill, not kill it. This announcement came as a surprise to the many DRIC supporters, as well as to Gilbert.

One of the main reasons offered for trying to kill it was ridiculous. According to Gongwer, “Gilbert said in recent days there had been increasing discussion among Senate Republicans about the awkwardness of an incoming governor inheriting responsibility for implementing a massive project he did not support.”

The DRIC study began in 2000 under former Republican Gov. John Engler when it was clear we needed to replace the aging Ambassador Bridger and increase border capacity and security. The DRIC bridge has widespread support from a diverse coalition. In fact, the only people that seem to really oppose it are Senate Republicans and the Moroun family.

The fact is the bridge had the support of the last three Michigan Governors, including Democratic Govs. Jim Blanchard and Jennifer Granholm and Republican Engler, as well as Republican Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

Even some groups that normally support Republicans support the DRIC bridge. According to Gongwer, “Sarah Hubbard of the Detroit Regional Chamber, a major proponent of the DRIC, said stakeholders in the issue have been working "around the clock" to address concerns and help Mr. Gilbert put together the new version of the bill.”

She said the DRIC is far from dead this session, and they will continue to work to get at least an up or down vote, at least in the lame duck session in December. If nothing else, there will be a vote on a motion to discharge the bill from the Transportation Committee.

This is far too important to Michigan and Canada’s economy to let it be killed by Moroun’s money.

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