It’s well-known that MI-08 Republican Congressman Mike Bishop is a bought-and-paid-for lapdog of the Moroun family. The patriarch of that family, Manuel “Matty” Moroun, is the billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge that spans the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor. Although there is a desperate need for an additional bridge to facilitate truck traffic that now backs up for miles on busy days, Moroun is equally desperate that no additional bridge be built unless he is the one that builds it and profits from it. He went so far as to attempt to get voters to pass a ballot initiative back in 2012 that would assist him in maintaining his monopoly. Voters rebuffed him but he has never given up hope. He has fought another bridge proposal, one that is now a done deal and will be called the Gordie Howe International Bridge, tooth and nail and nobody has been more helpful along the way, exploiting his government position and political connections, than Mike Bishop.
Bishop has been swimming in Moroun campaign contributions for years and Moroun companies even hired him as a consultant and lobbyist once he was termed limited out of the state Senate, something I wrote about in great detail HERE.
Bishop’s involvement in helping preserve Moroun’s bridge monopoly actually goes back to his time in the state Senate when he was the majority leader. At that time, he promised an up or down vote on a proposal for a publicly-funded bridge but later reneged on his promise. When that happened, Brian Masse, a member of the Canadian Parliament, called Bishop’s decision an “international betrayal“:
Some of the leading proponents of the Detroit International River Crossing held a press conference last week in an attempt to prompt Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop to keep his pervious promise and allow a vote on a proposal to build a new publicly owned span in the Delray area.
Bishop had promised several months ago to allow a vote on the proposal, but reneged after Republicans in November took firm control of both houses in the Legislature and the governor’s office.
Among those speaking at the press conference held outside Ste. Anne’s Church in southwest Detroit was Brian Masse, a member of the Canadian Parliament who represents part of Windsor.
Masse called Bishop’s flip-flop an “international betrayal.”
“I ask [Bishop] to live up to his word,” Masse told those at the sparsely attended event. “In Canada, when you shake hands on something, it means something.”
Last week, in an interview with WHMI, Bishop suddenly revised history, claiming he never promised a vote on the bridge his benefactor Matty Moroun has spent the past decade trying to stop:
So, I fought this thing back in 2005 because we simply couldn’t afford a new bridge. And that went all the way through my time as Senate Majority Leader. I never once promised a vote on that bridge.
Bishop’s revision of history is provably false. Gongwer News Service even had a headline at the time titled “Bishop promises up-or-down vote on D.R.I.C.”
It’s unclear why Bishop feels the need to lie about this. Perhaps its because his Democratic opponent Melissa Gilbert is calling him out on his shilling for Moroun and his flip-flop on the bridge vote is just more evidence that he’s been in Moroun’s pocket for years.
What IS clear is that Moroun is still very much politically active and intent on stopping the Gordie Howe International Bridge so he can build one of his own. He held a $25,000-a-plate fundraiser for former House Speaker John Boehner last September and he’s dumping tons of money into lobbying efforts:
The Morouns’ political spending — and the politicians who avail themselves of those contributions — haven’t gone unnoticed.
In 2012, a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), issued a report saying the Morouns’ political efforts — specifically those of Matty Moroun — to delay the new bridge had shown “how a single determined billionaire can wield disproportionate influence over the public agenda.”
“It does look like a tactic from the same playbook,” CREW’s executive director, Noah Bookbinder, said last week of the Boehner fund-raiser, adding that it’s a “concern when(ever) you have a powerful interest using money … to influence policy.”
But even Bookbinder acknowledged it’s difficult to know precisely what the Morouns are playing at, if anything, since “it’s not clear there’s an opportunity for Congress to take a significant effort to block” the new bridge from moving forward.
The bridge company’s lobbying reports indicate, however, it is still trying to get a measure written into law precluding any funding for a rival span. It is also still working on efforts to force Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation to sign off on permits for its own second span.
In fact, Moroun spent over a half million dollars lobbying members of Congress in the 2013-2014 cycle:
The Detroit International Bridge Co., controlled by the Moroun family, also spent $520,000 in 2013-14 to lobby interests in Washington, including efforts to facilitate a second span of the Ambassador Bridge and preclude funding for the Detroit River International Crossing, according to disclosure reports.
Messing with public policy and laws is something Moroun is quite familiar with. He sued the Coast Guard last year after they rejected a permit for his new bridge. However, the Coast Guard had a surprising change of heart recently and granted the permit.
Although nothing can be proven, some are asking if Bishop used his new position as a U.S. Congressman to persuade the Coast Guard to change their position after six years.
Meanwhile, on the Canada side, Moroun has purchased huge swaths of property that he has left moldering and vacant. There have recently been a rash of unexplained arson fires in his properties:
“The sooner the legal issues are resolved … that’ll be significant,” Bruce Montone told the Star Wednesday.
Later this month, Canada’s highest court will hear arguments on whether the City of Windsor has jurisdiction to order the owners of the Ambassador Bridge to fix more than 100 homes it bought up, emptied out, boarded up and then just let sit and rot. The bridge company argues its operation falls under federal jurisdiction and that Windsor has no say on its now-dilapidated residential holdings within the municipality’s boundaries.
Since 2013, Montone said there have been 14 deliberately set fires at abandoned homes in the immediate area around Indian Road, where most of the homes are owned by the bridge company and sit vacant and crumbling. Tuesday night, fire crews were sent scrambling to the latest call, a two-storey multi-unit at 768 Indian Rd. […]
The chief is pinning his hopes on a Supreme Court case that could force bridge billionaire Matty Moroun, if the municipality wins, to fix his west-side residential holdings so they’re not such magnets for mischief-makers. The properties have been acquired to accommodate the bridge company’s desire to twin its current international span, a plan the city fiercely opposes as a threat to Olde Sandwich.
Moroun has the dubious distinction of being a disgustingly greedy businessperson in two countries simultaneously and Mike Bishop has been there to support him all along the way.
In other news, Bishop had something surprising to say about education in our country in his WHMI interview. He wants to eliminate the Department of Education and all of the programs it funds:
[Bishop] also said that if it were up to him, he would “dissolve” the Department of Education and leave education decisions completely at the state level. That prompted a response from James Stretch, Campaign Manager for Melissa Gilbert, “Bishop’s position on education is out of step with Michigan values, and so extreme that not even John Kasich would support it. By calling to dissolve an entire department and the college student aid it provides, Bishop is in the same league as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.”
James Stretch, Campaign Manager for Melissa Gilbert, had this to say about Bishop’s shocking position on education:
Mike Bishop’s irresponsible, cut and slash education policy would make college even more unaffordable for thousands of college students in Michigan who rely on Pell Grants and other forms of student aid. Bishop’s position on education is out of step with Michigan values, and so extreme that not even John Kasich would support it. By calling to dissolve an entire department and the college student aid it provides, Bishop is in the same league as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
The idea of the Snyder administration making all education decisions for our children is shudder-worthy and something that should give every voter in the 8th Congressional District serious pause.
Thankfully, 8th Congressional District voters have an alternative in Melissa Gilbert. You can learn more about her campaign at GilbertForMichigan.com.