The Koch-backed group Americans For Prosperity admitted to posting fake eviction notices on numerous Detroit homes Monday in order to "startle people" about a bridge project that the group opposes.
Bearing the words "Eviction Notice" in large type, the bogus notices told homeowners their properties could be taken by the Michigan Department of Transportation to make way for the New International Trade Crossing bridge project. The NITC is the subject of debate in Lansing, and Americans for Prosperity is lobbying heavily against it.
"It was meant to startle people," Scott Hagerstrom, AFP's Michigan director, said of the notices on Tuesday. "We really wanted people to take notice. This is the time that their opinions need to be heard. We wanted people to read it."
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder announced last week that the state would renew its push to build the bridge, which would connect Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. "Both economies are deeply connected and heavily reliant on the free flow of trade through the Detroit-Windsor corridor," he said. "Forty-nine percent of all Michigan exports are sold right across the border in Canada."
According to MLive.com, if the bridge is built, a number of residents of Detroit's Delray neighborhood would in fact lose their homes because of eminent domain, but would be compensated for 125% of their home's value.
But the bridge is opposed by Matty Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge, which currently connects the U.S. and Canada. Moroun has been trying to build a second bridge close to where the NITC bridge would be built.
AFP's Michigan branch jumped into the bridge fight in April, launching a statewide campaign that targeted key state legislators who remained undecided about the project. AFP's campaign included 100,000 direct mailings and more than 200 radio ads, according to a press release.
Some supporters of the bridge believe that Moroun and his Detroit International Bridge Company have been working with AFP, whose donors are anonymous, against the project. Both have refused to say whether the DIBC has given AFP any money, but Hagerstorm, of AFP, said the DIBC had nothing to do with the eviction notices.
Dan Stamper, president of the DIBC, similarly denied involvement, and denounced the tactic: "Let me be clear that the Detroit International Bridge Company had nothing to do with the bogus eviction notices posted at homes in southwest Detroit yesterday," he said in a statement. "Although we disagree with plans for a bridge that would disrupt the neighborhood and displace residents, we would never distribute misleading information to disturb or upset residents."
AFP is funded and was founded in part by Koch Industries Executive Vice President David Koch. The group has lobbied on behalf of conservative causes since its founding, and has in the past been an important organizer of tea party events, including multiple state Tax Day Tea Party rallies.