By on April 4, 2011

An Australian company has hired kingmakers from Chicago, Illinois to prevent Texas residents from being able to decide whether or not red light cameras should be used in their community. A “grassroots” group calling itself the Texas Traffic Safety coalition filed a lawsuit to stop the city of Port Lavaca, Texas from holding a referendum on the photo enforcement program run by Melbourne-based Redflex. Although no court order was issued in the case, the city council decided not to hold the election, despite the city charter’s instruction that the council must place a qualified petition on the ballot.

According to the March 3 Texas Secretary of State filing that created the Texas Traffic Safety Coalition, the group consists of three directors: David Goldenberg, Gregory Goldner and David Smolensky. All three are officers of Resolute Consulting, a public relations firm based in Chicago, Illinois. Redflex is one of the firm’s satisfied clients.

“Resolute has set a new bar for the industry,” Redflex executive vice president for marketing Christina Weekes wrote on a blurb provided for Resolute’s website. “Not only were you all laser focused on the issues but you made traction early.”

Redflex Traffic Systems is listed as part of a long list of “partners” in the coalition that disguises the company’s funding for the front group. Rival photo enforcement firm American Traffic Solutions is conspicuously absent from the list of group members.

Goldenberg, Goldner and Smolensky are key players in Chicago’s Democratic political machine. Goldner was a senior aide to former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and worked on the congressional campaign of current Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the campaign of former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Another Resolute front group known as For a Better Chicago raised $855,000 in anonymous campaign donations to dole out to favored city council candidates. The Windy City also happens to be the largest red light camera contract in the country for Redflex comprising 440 approaches that generate more than $50 million a year for the city.

Redflex wants to stop a referendum in Port Lavaca and other cities because Texas voters have rejected automated ticketing machines in Houston, Baytown and College Station. Photo enforcement has never survived a public vote.]

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17 Comments on “Chicago Camera Front Group Thwarts Texas Referendum...”

  • avatar

    Anonymous campaign donations. Love it.
    I’d rather go back to the goode ole fashioned way of bribing government officials outright. Heck, make it legal, even; at least the ordinary folks won’t have an impression of a corruption-free state.
    I don’t think a lot of industries have such a great lawyer/lobbyist/pr/bribe budget per revenue. This is bordering on racketeering in terms of profitability and the money spent maintaining control of the business. Actual running costs are next to nothing.

  • avatar

    Thank goodness corporations are people now, and can pour as much money as they have into campaigns! A victory for freedom!
    Wait, the same conservatives who staunchly support corporations’ right to pump vast amounts of bribescash into campaign funds, and hide the origins of that money, are upset when corporations use that influence to persuade government to increase intrusion into individuals’ lives?
    What to do… what to do…

    • 0 avatar

      What to do?  It’s obvious!  Remove government entirely and let corporations rule us like the benevolent hand of the market intended!

    • 0 avatar

      The same conservatives who defend the intent of the Bill of Rights continue to defend the intent of the Bill of Rights. What’s your guiding purpose?

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, this type of front group (usually under the IRS designation of a 527 or 501c) has been around for a long time, long before the supreme court ruling removing corporate speech restrictions.  These groups are set up by liberals (George Soros, the Tides Foundation) and conservatives (the Koch brothers, NRA) in similar numbers to create “grassroots” organizations for many types of interest groups.
      Since Resolute consulting is based in solidly Democratic Chicago and works with Rahm Emanual (Obama’s former chief of staff) and Chicago City Council candidates it would be hard to argue that they are carrying the water for any conservative ideology.  They are basically a group trying to funnel more of the public’s money into government coffers, with Redflex and their ilk taking a cut along the way; this is hardly something most conservatives support.
      If you are going to get on a political high horse, at least know what you are talking about.

    • 0 avatar

      @Toad I figured someone would come out with that. The point wasn’t that this particular case was affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling, but that the Court’s ruling makes it much easier for corporations to have this type of influence over politics.
      And @CJinSD – the point is about hypocrisy. Don’t complain about fake political organizations fronted by corporations, and about corporate influence on politics in general, if you’re also doing your level best to make it easier to buy that influence. I’m fine with people saying, “Hey, this is the price we pay; if we want restricted government we need to eat our own dog food”. But that’s not what I hear; I hear contradictions, and then (see below) knee-jerk blame on the left.
      And finally, @windswords below, re: “It’s called political free speech.” – free it may be, but your “it’s out in the open so people will find out on the internet” argument rings hollow. Disclosure is required now, too, and doesn’t prevent political donations from having a huge impact. Sure, it may be possible for an individual to find out what organization directly donated – but as in this case, a huge chain of entities can easily be created, enough to make it next to impossible to figure out what means what.
      There’s no reason that WeSupportKillingMiners, Inc. has to donate under its own name directly; it can donate a bunch of money to WeLoveMiners LLC, which can donate money to the IncreaseSafetyForMiners foundation – which lobbies to prevent new mining safety regulation.
      The proverbial Joe Sixpack, even if interested enough, will find it nearly impossible to follow the trail, and even if he can, doing it for the myriad issues that he’s interested in will be flat-out impossible. Your transparency isn’t because it can be worked around – and the more money is at stake, the more money that can be donated at once, the easier it will be to invest the amounts necessary to do a good job obfuscating the truth. That’s what the guys who created the astroturf campaign decried here are doing – except that with unrestricted spending, they’d have much freer reign to do so.
      Oh, and a final @cave – good job working Obama into this. But you lose style points for not mentioning his middle name or referring to him as “ODUMBA” or similar.

    • 0 avatar


      My point was and is that you don’t have a point. Conservatives defended free speech. Sometimes liberals defend free speech. There is a difference between speech and political corruption, just as there is a difference between speech and rape when the ACLU is defending various forms of pornography. Or are you saying that you accept that being a liberal means wanting NAMBLA to rape your own male children? You’re trying to inject ambiguity into topics where none exists. Good people don’t ever have reasons to do that.

  • avatar

    And who else, who is a crony capitalist par-excellance, is a product of this corrupt Chicago machine? Hmm, I’ve almost got it…

  • avatar

    The reason voters vote down red light cameras is because they recognize that these cameras are used to raise money for governments with a cut towards the companies installing the cameras. There is not a public outcry for cameras at intersections because there does not seem to be a rash of deadly accidents at intersections demanding attention. If the public is concerned over a deadly intersection caused by drivers running red lights, then there would be interest in doing something to make a deadly intersection safer. But that is not the case.

    Red light cameras are not a safety issue because if it was, it would be answering a question no one is asking. We are also discovering that red light cameras do not make an intersection safer, because drivers aware of these cameras are not behaving normally, causing accidents. The idea selling red light cameras is based on making driving safer. Since they do not do this, this idea is not accepted by the driving public.

    The public has been very accepting of adapting technologies into traffic. The public has been rather open to the possibilities of increased safety red light cameras presented. After a few years, they now recognize that red light cameras are not meeting the safety goals they initially claimed. The rejection of red light cameras is entirely logical and should be heeded.

    What we are seeing here is the corruption of a local government by a company interested in becoming successful with the sales of their red light camera systems and installations. Just as we have traditionally seen montly quotas placed on law enforcement officers in order to collect additional funds for governments, these red light companies are offering governments a new means of collecting additional funds.

    The corruption occurs when we discover that this amounts to a road toll collected by a company with a cut of the collections going towards governments. Does it go too far? Well, the verdict is in, and according to voters, it does.

    This company is abusing our government systems by hiring men to circumvent citizen empowerment through the judicial and legislative branches. This is definately a corrupt organization. It is dishonest in it’s presentation, and dishonest in the way it establishes it’s captive markets of unwilling customers from which to feed.

    There is a difference between a government with a dangerous intersection that needs addressing, and a company corrupting governments in order to become profitable, regardless of safety needs.

    Naturally, this organization comes from Chicago, one of our nation’s most corrupted, bankrupted city governments, located in one of our nation’s most corrupted, bankrupted state governments whose intimate acquaintences now run the White House. Being from Chicago, I am aware that the rot within that city should be quarantined within the Loop. The City has had a single party governing structure longer than the Soviet Union, and based on similar lies. 

    • 0 avatar

      We desire the removal of revenue generating law enforcement officers as well, for the exact same reasons.  Extreme fines and fees and insurance rates because we are stopped for exceeding a low-set speed limit.  I feel exactly the same about cops as I do about red light cameras.  Hatred for red light cameras?  Equal for law enforcement that does nothing to promote safety but instead simply generates revenue.  Why does the public accept one and not the other?
      I love Chicago.  I consider it home.  But there is no doubt it is one of the foulest, dirtiest, secretive cities in the USA.  The taxes and fees charged are over the top, mostly to line pockets and employ friends and relatives.  That I HATE.  But the worst is that I know that if this city were to clean up, reduce some taxes and fees, make it more economical to live and do business without having to pay your government masters, that it would develop into an even greater world city than it is now.  Most people love it.  But they don’t love what comes with it.  Do I think Rahm can clean the place up if he wanted to?  Yes.  Do I think he will?  No.  I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised….

  • avatar

    Ahem, gentlemen I would like to point out to those of you whining about campaign corruption and the “big evil” corporations that these guys in the article are all big time Democrats. Not Republicans and sure as hell not conservatives. Most anti-camera referendums are started and organized by conservatives.
    And what do conservatives really want? They want all candidates to collect as much money from anyone or any organization that wants to give them money. It’s called political free speech. But there’s one catch. It has to be public information. Who donated and how much. Available on the internet. Then you can know who they are beholden to. Liberals can avoid candidates that take donations from the NRA and the Tea Party and defense contractors. Conservatives can avoid candidates who take donations from PETA and George Soros and GE. And we can all know who “double dips” – corporations and organizations who give to both candidates so they can have influence no matter who wins. Under these circumstances, a candidate would have to think carefully before accepting some donations.
    Sunshine is the best anti-septic when it comes to politics.

    • 0 avatar

      And what do conservatives really want?

      About the same things liberals want, more or less.  The problem is that when you actually elect someone, it’s often just a matter of time before their principles become, effectively, for sale, regardless of their political stripe.

      Which is why the rallying cry of “This time it’ll be different because last time ______ wasn’t a real conservative/liberal/capitalist/communist/etc/etc” is really, really naive.

    • 0 avatar

      Let ’em all go to hell, except Cave 76!

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with you about politicians. But when I said what do conservatives really want it wasn’t in reference to politicians, but to a position on campaign donations. Give/accept as much as you want, but be prepared to answer questions about who gave to you and why.

    • 0 avatar

      Fair enough.  I’d like the same thing: to know who is getting what, when and why.  I wish I could believe I’m getting that information, though.
      My beef is that people sling the term “liberal” or “socialist” around without understanding that, just like “conservative”, it encompasses a whole spectrum from, eg, Mahatma Ghandi to Josef Stalin. I’ll give Americans a break on this because, frankly, there’s no anarcho-syndicalist/socialist tradition in the United States, and certainly not a hint of one since the Democratic party sold it’s soul.  As such, the anti-corporatist flag is waved by a few grassroots conservatives who, sadly, have been duped into seeing the opposite numbers (who they’re probably closer to, in real terms) as a worse option than the corporatists they support.
      I actually support cameras, but that has more to do with my not trusting police departments and the traffic law system than it does any love for the people who implement them.  I’d prefer a camera that I can test, audit and review than a police officer who lies in court and judge who rubber-stamps traffic convictions.

    • 0 avatar

      > Sunshine is the best anti-septic when it comes to politics.

      Now that’s a statement I can agree with.

      Democrats and Republicans – first-world prosperity for themselves, third-world prosperity for the rest of us…

  • avatar

    @Psarhjinian  You and I are polar opposites politically, but I think there may be a bit of common ground.  I share your distrust of power and authority. Whether you agree or disagree with traffic light enforcement via camera, one thing seems crystal clear.  The red light camera scam demonstrates perfectly the danger inherent in crony-capitalism: the government’s monopoly use of force to further constituent corporate interests, both stealing from the citizenry at the point of a gun.

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