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Published: Tuesday, 4/14/2009

Portable loyalties in Detroit

WHATEVER the rules are these days for elected officials' behavior, there is general agreement that a congressman's votes ought not to appear to be for sale. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, (D., Detroit), the mother of the city's disgraced mayor, doesn't appear to understand that.

Last week, it was discovered that Representative Kilpatrick was quietly attempting to slip a provision into the mammoth federal budget forbidding any funding "for continued planning, development, design, or construction," of the Detroit River International Crossing Project, or DRIC, a new, publicly owned bridge that would be jointly run by the United States and Canada.

What's going on here?

There is no doubt that a new span is needed; the only way to get billions of dollars in heavy freight across now is the creaky, vintage-1929 Ambassador Bridge, owned by reclusive billonaire Matty Moroun.

The DRIC bridge, which would be about a mile south of the Ambassador, has been endorsed by everyone from Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, a staunchly pro-business Republican, to the liberal mayor of Windsor. But Mr. Moroun doesn't want it built; he wants to build a new one next to his old one instead, though the Canadian government and Windsor residents clearly are opposed.

What Mr. Moroun does have going for him is deep pockets, and for Congressman Kilpatrick, the issue is clearly the $64,000 question. That's how much money Matty Moroun has given to her campaigns over the last decade, and she is likely to need more next year; she was nearly defeated in the Democratic primary last year by voters who have had it with the Kilpatrick family.

Ms. Kilpatrick has been accused of portable loyalties before. People who were surprised when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi turned up in Detroit to campaign for CCK last summer were a little less so when, after the election, Ms. Kilpatrick became the only Michigan congressman not to oppose the Pelosi-engineered coup to oust U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D., Dearborn) from his post as chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce committee.

Regardless of the merits of that, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick clearly does have a sense of entitlement; a study by the Kansas City Star found that despite the fact that her district is the poorest and physically smallest in the state, she still leased a Cadillac DeVille to tool around in - at taxpayer expense, naturally.

In an era where the nation is grappling with the worst financial crisis since the 1930s and our leaders are calling for shared sacrifices, Detroiters might ask themselves how much more of this they can stand.



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