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Michigan Politicians For Sale

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fyi; If you need your politicians to work for you, I guess bribery is the thing to do.


Its been said that during the Bush The 2nd reign the United States was was victimized by more white collar crime than at any other time in history, and the beat goes on.


Crime is a logical extension of the sort of behavior that is often considered perfectly respectable in legitimate business.

- Robert Rice




Give the Ambassador Bridge folks this much: They're up-front about what they're doing.


A spokesman for the company says it has interests in a wide array of issues pending before Congress and the state Legislature. So bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun and his family have been busy writing checks to politicians in Lansing and Washington -- nearly $1.5 million worth in the most recent campaign cycle alone.


What's that money for? "Our contributions are based on having like minds on issues," the bridge company says.


The most depressing thing here is the likelihood that nothing the Moroun family has done violates Michigan's impotent campaign finance laws, which neither require timely disclosure of political contributions nor hold those on either end of those transactions accountable for evading what minimal reporting requirements exist. The Morouns are simply buying a system that's embarrassingly for sale.


They're following the laws, making their donations according to established limits and in a fashion that shows up -- eventually -- on campaign finance reports. And they're getting results, mostly in the form of legislative inertia that perpetuates their lucrative monopoly on tolls at North America's busiest border crossing.


The only losers, of course, are the people who tolerate a system that's drowning in so much private-interest money that it can't swim toward the public interest. Whether it's the Morouns, other corporations, labor unions or religious groups, there's always someone with a checkbook who can speak louder than unaffiliated taxpayers can.


On the bridge issue, the tactic has worked to perfection so far. Moroun spread enough cash around the Legislature to prevent legislation authorizing construction of a publicly owned bridge from even coming to a vote in the state Senate. In the last legislative session, the stall was led by then Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, who raked in $76,000 for his failed attorney general campaign but also used his political action committee to funnel bridge company money to other GOP candidates.


Moroun has made sure his voice continues to be heard in the newly elected Legislature by extending his largesse to lawmakers who sit on the committees that would have to approve any new bridge legislation.


Moroun's past adroitness at shaping public policy suggests that he is hardly the victim of overzealous government regulators he styles himself to be.


As Free Press reporters Dawson Bell and John Gallagher revealed earlier this week, the Ambassador Bridge company continues to exploit a tax exemption for fuel sold in the bridge's duty-free zone to undercut other gas retailers and net a 60-cent profit on every gallon of gas and diesel fuel sold at the busy crossing.


Economists estimate the exemption -- secured after years of legal and political infighting and enjoyed by only one other fuel retailer on the U.S.-Canadian border -- costs the state about $7.5 million a year when the forgone fuel tax revenues and federal highway funds contingent on those revenues are reckoned. That's a whopping taxpayer subsidy to the company Moroun insists is fighting government rivals with one hand tied behind its back.


The antidote to such hypocrisy and manipulation of public policy is clear: campaign finance disclosure rules that let the public learn before each election who's plying their would-be representatives, rather than after the consequences have become manifest in bad public policy and subsidies for self-interested donors.

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