Moroun family, its firms spent $180K on Detroit council races
The family that owns the Ambassador Bridge spent an estimated $184,200 on the Detroit City Council elections last year, according to a new report.
The amount was more than double what any other affiliated group of businesses spent on the 2017 City Council elections, which has nine seats. The manner in which companies linked to the Morouns gave the political contributions made the money difficult to track back to the billionaire family and its businesses, said Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
"That means it doesn't allow the voters to get a sense who is supporting the candidates and why," said Mauger. The Lansing nonprofit and WJBK-TV (Channel 2) released the results this week.
The Morouns used direct contributions to candidates and three super political action committees, or Super PACS. Because of Michigan's disclosure requirements, the PACs didn't have to publicly report how much it spent until months after the elections. Moroun-affiliated companies "essentially bankrolled" three different Super PACS, Mauger said.
Dan Stamper, president of the Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co., said the family doesn't operate the PACs. "Once we write a check, that's in the committee's hands," Stamper told Fox 2 Detroit. He could not be reached by The Detroit News late Wednesday.
Even some of the council candidates that the Moroun-linked businesses supported said they didn't know it was the family who was behind the contributions. Councilman Roy McCalister Jr. said the Super PAC spent $31,493 on mailings for the candidate during the elections. The public record for the Super PAC contributions were not released until January. "I had no idea," that it was Moroun-related donations, McCalister told Fox 2.
The $184,200 contributions by the Moroun family and its businesses were more than the next three largest contributions combined, the investigation found. Employees of Quicken Loans Inc., and connected businesses spent an estimated $77,375; the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters spent an estimated $56,000; and the United Auto Workers spent an estimated $48,500, which is primarily trucking and logistics firms throughout the U.S. and internationally.
Manuel Moroun and his son, Matthew, control transportation and logistics firms, nationally and internationally. The family owns the Ambassador Bridge, the largest trade crossing between the United States and Canada.
The Morouns recently sold the former Michigan Central Depot in Corktown to Ford Motor Co., which aims to transform the empty building into a hub for its self-driving and electric vehicle research.