American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and its subcontractors have spent $230,648 in an effort to deprive voters in Baytown and Houston, Texas of a chance to decide whether red light cameras should be used in their city. On November 2, residents will likely have the chance to adopt charter amendments banning the use of automated ticketing machines, although ATS lawyers are working overtime to attempt to have the courts overturn the citizen-led petition drive. Earlier this month a similar ATS-funded legal attack failed in Mukilteo, Washington, but the company last year had some success finding a judge in College Station willing to overrule the public.
In Houston, ATS kicked off the fight by creating and funding the group “Keep Houston Safe” with $150,000 in cash payments. Signal Electric, a Washington-based contractor that installs red light cameras for ATS, kicked in $15,000. Horsepower Electric, a Florida-based installation company, kicked in $5000. Red Light Design of Missouri contributed $5000. ForceCon Services, a Texas-based red light camera installation subcontractor, gave $3500. No citizen contributed any money to the pro-camera cause.
Most of the funding went into the pockets of consultants and lawyers. Hired gun Jim McGrath was paid $35,592 to be the pro-camera spokesman. ATS paid polling firm Wilson Research $25,125 to conduct a push poll. Walker Entertainment Group was paid $19,500 for consulting and radio ads. Jessica Colon was paid $19,073 for consulting. Strategic Public Affairs received $5000 for consulting. RazorIT was paid $14,000 to create the appearance of support for red light cameras in online social networks. Advarion, the company hired to create identical websites for each anti-camera referendum, was paid $6702. Lawyer Roger Gordon received $15,160, Andy Taylor received $8343 and the law firm Baker and Botts $10,004. The front group spent $27,200 on radio ads in June.
Baytown’s filing was considerably more modest with red light camera installers Signal Electric contributing $12,000 and ForceCon Services $8000 in an attempt to claim the group “Safety Cameras for a Safer Baytown” is not funded by ATS. Yet the political action committee has turned to all of the same suspects as in Houston and last year in College Station: Wilson Research Strategies was paid for a $13,000 push poll that has not been released. Advarion received $2000 for the same template website used in College Station, Houston and Mukilteo, Washington.
Ultimately, ATS will focus on using the courts to block the public will. No photo enforcement program has ever survived a public vote.
A copy of the campaign report filings is available in a 720k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Specific Purpose Committee Campaign Finance Report (American Traffic Solutions in Houston, Baytown, 7/15/2010)