Morouns give max to judges who backed bridge plan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Four members of the family of Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun gave the maximum allowable campaign contribution to two Republican Michigan Supreme Court justices who voted to put a proposal designed to block a competing bridge on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The Detroit Free Press reported Sunday that Moroun, his wife, Nora, his son Matthew and Matthew’s wife, Lindsay, gave a combined $27,200 in June to the campaigns of Justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra.

State law allows a maximum gift of $3,400 per person for each candidate.

Two employees of Moroun’s Centra Inc. gave $1,950 each to Markman and Zahra, the newspaper reported. That brings the total donated to the campaigns from Moroun’s interests to $31,100.

Zahra and Markman took part in a unanimous decision last Wednesday placing Moroun’s proposal to require a statewide vote on any new U.S.-Canada bridge on the ballot.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder backs a new Canadian-financed bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Moroun donations were legal and such “uncomfortable situations” will happen as long as judges are required to raise money for election campaigns, said Rich Robinson, executive director of the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Mickey Blashfield, a spokesman for Moroun and his ballot initiative, said there was no court challenge to the bridge ballot proposal when the donations were made in June and no reason to believe there would be one. If Moroun had a case pending before the Supreme Court at the time of the donations, Blashfield said he would have advised Moroun not to make the donations.

The Board of State Canvassers approved the wording on the Moroun bridge proposal in April. Backers submitted petitions with 596,533 signatures on July 9.

The group Taxpayers Against Monopolies filed a challenge, and the politically divided Board of State Canvassers failed to muster the votes to place it on the Nov. 6 ballot. That led the Moroun group to seek state Supreme Court intervention.

“There was no opposition (in June), and therefore no reason to suspect the Board of Canvassers wouldn’t do their job,” Blashfield said.


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