LANSING – 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.
That figure is gross sales. Data on the ad campaign were collected by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network from the public files of the state’s television broadcasters and cable systems.
DIBC’s ad buys totaled $4,074,000 during the period from March 7th through June 21st. After a summer hiatus, the campaign resumed on September 5th and has spent $618,000 more, statewide, through September 19th.
Despite the fact that the ads are clearly grassroots lobbying, exhorting citizens to contact their legislators and Governor Snyder to oppose the bridge, Detroit International Bridge Company is not even registered as a lobbyist with the Department of State.
Central Transport International, Inc., another corporate holding of DIBC’s owner, Manuel J. “Matty” Moroun, is listed as a client of Karoub Associates in the State’s lobbying disclosure database, but it has never filed a lobbyist’s financial reporting statement. Karoub reported no advertising activity in the first seven months of 2011.
“This is a clear example of a major deficiency in the State’s lobbying disclosure system,” said Rich Robinson 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.”
“It appears that we’re living with an honor system in an environment where there isn’t much honor,” Robinson said.
The top spender in the Summer 2011 lobbying reports, StudentsFirst, reported spending $951,000, including $900,000 for its grassroots-lobbying advertisements advocating legislation to overhaul state teacher tenure rules. Only 35 other state lobbyists reported any mailing or advertising expenses, and their spending for those purposes totaled less than $35,000.
Contributions complement advertising
Members of the Moroun family have made numerous direct contributions to Michigan political committees as an alternative form of investment in their policy interests. In the 2010 election cycle, M.J., Nora (M.J.'s wife), Matthew (M.J.'s son) and Linsay Moroun (Matthew's wife) gave various state PACs, leadership PACs and candidate committees more than $550,000. So far in 2011, records show Moroun family contributions of $55,500 to the House Republican Campaign Committee ($20,000), the House Democratic Fund ($10,000), the Senate Republican Campaign Committee ($10,000), the Senate Democratic Fund ($10,000) and the leadership PACs of Reps. Jase Bolger ($5,000) and Woodrow Stanley ($500). 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.