CREW hits Ambassador Bridge co for lobbying against state competition COMMENTARY
By Peter Samuel
A little leftist DC outfit with the gorgeous title Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) - who could possibly be against that? - credits Ambassador Bridge lobbyists and their political campaign contributions with singlehandedly stopping construction of a downriver New International Trade Crossing (NITC.) The CREW conveniently overlooks opinion polls that show the Michigan public opposed to the NITC by virtually two to one.
Might not that public skepticism about the NITC be a factor in the minds of some legislators?
Certainly there may be legislators "bought" by the bridge company's political contributions - put by CREW at $495,900 this year. Plus $250,000 they estimate was spent on lobbying.
The biggest bridge company spending was on TV ads - $4.7m, CREW says.
But there may also be legislators "bought" by supporters of the new bridge NITC. The CREW doesn't look at that, or at pro-NITC lobbyists who surely deserve some credit also. There are plenty of officials supporting the NITC, not least a Republican governor.
And since virtually every single reporter, editorial writer, radioman, columnist and TV person in the Detroit Windsor area pitches incessantly for NITC it gets plenty of 'donated' support. Might not some contrarian TV ads questioning the NITC be a healthy counter, and contribute to a more even-handed democratic debate?
Like other champions of the new bridge the CREW looks at everything except whether there is traffic to support it. And it never asks whether there mightn't be better ways of committing public money than taking traffic from three lightly used existing crossings.
The CREW picks up the NITC advocates' line that the Ambassador Bridge is a "monopoly," when in fact it has less than half the traffic Michigan-Ontario, 60% being split between the Detroit Windsor Tunnel and the Blue Water Bridge. As far as the CREW's readers are concerned those other two crossings just don't exist.
The evil-$ in politics
The group deplores the role of money in politics...well at least when money is used for causes the CREW doesn't favor.
National Review wrote well on the positive role of $s-in-politics in the context of the leftist charge that Wisconsin Governor Walker just got back because of the evil-$ in politics:
"It is both just and healthy for money to play a large role in politics, and those who attempt to taint campaign donations as being somehow shameful do so for reasons of narrow self-interest. As the Supreme Court has confirmed, the right to freedom of speech entails the right to make such arrangements as are necessary to bring that speech to the public: to make a television commercial, for instance, or to place an advertisement in a newspaper.
"This necessarily entails the right for people to act in association with one another to raise and spend money for the purpose of engaging in political speech. Those who seek to treat political contributions for the furtherance of speech as separate from speech itself would in effect reduce the First Amendment to a formality that protects nothing more consequential than standing on a soapbox on the town square. Ironically, The Federalist Papers, Tom Paine's pamphlets, and other famous instances of historically significant American political speech, being printed at private expense without full disclosure, would have been subject to rigorous restrictions under this interpretation of the meaning of free speech.
"It is in the Left's interest to minimize the ability of ordinary Americans to participate in the political process. The Left controls the most influential media outlets, the major educational institutions, the unions, the government bureaucracies, and other important institutions.
"While it is easy to count up the contributions that went to groups supporting Governor Walker in the recall, it is more difficult to put a price tag on the fact that his union critics were permitted to campaign inside high schools (putting fliers into students' backpacks, among other things) or that rank-and-file workers are dragooned by union bosses into the campaign brigades."
"What price tag should we attach to the friendly treatment the anti-Walker forces received from the New York Times or MSNBC? Allowing private citizens -- even, God help us, rich ones -- to participate in the political process by making donations to organizations supporting their causes is a way to level the playing field and to wrest control of the political process from entrenched elites. Those who seek to impose free-speech limitations decry the influence of 'the rich,' but we can assure you that the good people who own the New York Times and run the Teamsters are not paupers.
"Allowing citizens every possible opportunity to influence the political process is not the antithesis of democracy, as the Left would have us believe, but the fulfillment of it."
But here's the CREW piece: