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Guess Who's Supporting Detroit's Bridge Tyrant Now

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Billionaire business tycoons, take note: The Koch brothers and Sarah Palin don’t have sole domain over Tea Party groups’ agendas. You too can pay your way into a Tea Party-style intervention of a local issue on your own accord.

Today’s example is Matty Moroun, the Grosse Pointe-based owner of Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge, the city’s sole above-ground crossing to Windsor, which lies across the Detroit River.

For years now, city and state officials, as well as the Canadian government, have wanted to build a second bridge, for reasons that include growing traffic on the Ambassador (a huge portion of U.S.-Canada trucking goes through Detroit), a desire to plan for a future after the 82-year-old bridge, and anxiety to have a second bridge for redundancy’s sake — if a terrorist attack or natural disaster disabled the Ambassador, the effects would be far-reaching and regional economies would be crippled. Naturally, Moroun would prefer to keep his monopoly over Detroit-Windsor bridge traffic, so he and his family and employees have pumped millions of dollars into Michigan politicians’ coffers over the years, becoming the largest single sponsor of dozens of state legislators. And his largesse has paid off, affording him enough followers in Lansing to delay state approval of a new bridge up until now, even though Michigan’s political and business establishment, including the Republican governor, are pushing hard for it.

Now, the cavalry has come in for Moroun from an entirely new corner: Americans for Prosperity, the group that orchestrates Tea Party protests, yesterday canvassed the front doors of southwest Detroit’s Delray neighborhood, a riverside industrial enclave abandoned by all but a few aging holdouts, with mock eviction notices warning residents they could lose their homes if a publicly owned bridge is built.

Never mind that the state has already been in contact with all the homeowners who would be relocated via eminent domain, and is obligated to pay them 125% of market value to move out of their houses in one of Detroit’s worst neighborhoods. The whole point of groups like Americans for Prosperity is that their donors are secret, so it’s hard to say for sure whether Moroun is paying up, Koch Brothers-style, for the full Tea Party treatment against the international bridge. But it’s surely no coincidence that Moroun hired political advisor Dick Morris, the former Bill Clinton Svengali turned right-winger who now associates with Americans for Prosperity, just before that group waded into the bridge debate.

Which gets me thinking … Wall Street, if you’re reading, email me. I know a surefire way to get those Tea Partiers off your back for holding taxpayers hostage and ruining the economy.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.